A Los Angeles Times article recently began by noting that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, the Tom Hanks post-9/11 film which opens on Christmas, is one of the very few Hollywood productions to try to come to grips with the impact of September 11, 2001 on our national psyche. The piece then went on to ponder the question, “Why so few Sept. 11 films?” and concluded that “the film industry has tiptoed around this national tragedy.” Indeed it has, but not for the reasons suggested in the Times article.
The Times points out that there have been plenty of documentaries about the day and its aftermath, but ten years after the terrorist attacks, only two major feature films — Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and Paul Greengrass’ United 93 – have specifically dealt with the day in question, and “neither film was a roaring commercial success.”
“If anything,” the article continues, “the film industry has used the tragedy as an excuse to deluge TV and the multiplex with political thrillers focusing on terrorism,” citing Showtime’s series Sleeper Cell and Homeland, the feature film The Kingdom, and the upcoming film by The Hurt Locker filmmakers about the killing of Osama bin Laden. An “excuse” to focus on terrorism? Sept. 11 was not some vague “tragedy”; it was a terrorist attack. The enemy pretty much did that focusing for us. In any case, none of those thrillers exactly set the box office or Nielsen ratings on fire either.
Among the sources offering their thoughts on the topic was novelist Amy Waldman, author of The Submission, a novel about a Muslim architect who wins a contest to design a Ground Zero Memorial. Waldman thinks that Hollywood has steered clear of addressing 9/11 because overexposure of that fateful morning has squeezed out any possibility for imaginative interpretation:
Has any event in history been so visually documented and seen from every possible angle by so many people? There’s not a ton of room for the imagination there.
Really? No room for the imagination? If anything, the attacks have spawned some of the wildest flights of filmmakers’ imaginations – namely, Michael Moore’s fact-challenged Fahrenheit 911 and the even more outlandish Loose Change, which posit that the collapse of the Twin Towers was an inside job carried out by the demonic George W. Bush and his cronies. “No room for the imagination” seems like an, well, unimaginative explanation.
Closer to the truth is film critic Marshall Fine, quoted as saying that 9/11
[has] been covered almost too carefully. [Hollywood’s] been so worried about offending somebody’s sensibilities that they’ve held off. There’s so much caution.
Hollywood has been afraid of offending sensibilities. Where it once led the propaganda charge against the Nazis and Japanese imperialists, Hollywood is now afraid of offending the very Islamists who have declared war on us, because it doesn’t want to incur their violent wrath. It’s even afraid of being called Islamophobic. Hollywood is much more comfortable clinging to the multiculturalist orthodoxy which faults the racist, imperialist, warmongering America and the West for all international conflict.
“The one thing the [9/11 attacks] did do,” says film professor David Irving in the Times,
was open our eyes to this world in the Middle East, and I think a lot of the movies that came out as a result of that, it’s been a way for us to understand why [9/11] happened, because it was not some random act.
Indeed it was not a random act. But ten years after that morning, have the movies that resulted from it been helpful for us “to understand why 9/11 happened”? Or were they merely efforts on the part of left-leaning filmmakers to spread their morally obfuscating, America-loathing, anti-war messages?
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