Pages: 1 2
The 9/11 anniversary obliges us to consider the changes that have been thrust upon us since that terrible Tuesday morning. Most pixels, ink and airtime are being devoted to how 9/11 and its consequences affected our greatest city, our politics and freedoms, our international standing and self-perception, our view of the world—and understandably so. But 9/11 also left a lasting mark on the everyday stuff of Americana, especially television and movies.
Not only did 9/11 make those distracting news-tickers a permanent part of our TV screens, it also spawned and/or propelled an entire genre of TV shows and films centered around global terrorism.
“The Unit,” “24,” “Threat Matrix” and “E Ring” all focused expressly on counterterrorism—some more effectively and convincingly than others. Likewise, the 9/11 attacks heavily influenced the plotlines and story arcs of “The West Wing,” “CSI: New York” and “Rescue Me.” The glimpse at the apocalyptic that 9/11 gave us opened a window for programs such as “Jericho” to explore not just an assault on America, but a collapse of America.
At the other end of the spectrum, the short-lived sitcom “Arrested Development” used the war in Iraq as foil for several episodes, while the prime-time cartoon “American Dad” took cheap shots at the embattled CIA.
Several films wrestled with 9/11 and its consequences. A slew of war movies and counterterrorism movies—among them, “Body of Lies,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Jarhead,” “Rendition” and “Brothers”—dealt with the high costs and hard choices of what one historian has aptly called “the wars of 9/11.”
Likewise, the latest adaptation of the Batman franchise—with its terrorist villains, unappreciated hero, complicated moral dilemmas and grim remedies—seems a thinly-veiled parable for the post-9/11 world.
Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” stitched together facts, half-truths, opinions and conjecture to convince viewers that the Bush administration ginned up a post-9/11 panic to torch the Constitution. Given that Moore’s man in the White House is relying on military commissions set up by the Bush administration, has kept in place or expanded Bush’s post-9/11 intelligence orders, continues to employ Bush’s indefinite detention orders and has extended the hated PATRIOT Act, we can only wonder why Moore hasn’t yet produced a sequel. (Of course, we know the answer.)
For my money, there are four 9/11-related films that stand out from the rest.
Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” is solid. The film’s depiction of the hell that 9/11’s first-responders went through is as close to terrorism’s consequences as anyone would ever want to get. The heroism of everyday people, the triumph of the human spirit and the American spirit, the average American’s willingness to serve and help, and the amazing power of faith and family to sustain us, are conveyed in a bruising, exhausting but ultimately uplifting two hours.
Set in the 1970s, Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” uses Israel’s relentless hunt for those who perpetrated the terror attacks on the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 as something of a parable for America’s response to 9/11, offering a thinly veiled critique of a vengeance-focused policy.
At the conclusion of the film, after eliminating nearly a dozen people connected to the Munich attacks, the leader of the Israeli kill team has second thoughts and challenges his erstwhile boss. Meeting in a Manhattan park, they engage in a heated argument about justice and vengeance, murder and killing.
“Did we accomplish anything at all?” the assassin asks, pointing out that everyone he has killed has been replaced by another terrorist. “There’s no peace at the end of this,” he says, sliding into the violence-begets-violence trope.
Pages: 1 2