July 01, 2005

Hollywood and 9/11

John Podhoretz raises an interesting question in today's column at the New York Post - why has Hollywood not attempted to make any movies about the tragedy and heroism on 9/11?

Even so, the first hour of "War of the Worlds" is one of the staggering cinematic accomplishments of our time — in part because it does so meticulously capture the horror and power of that signal day. Think how much more powerful, and meaningful, it might have been had Spielberg actually bit the bullet, ditched the aliens and gone for a movie about 9/11 itself. But he didn't, and therein hangs a tale about this country's pop culture and its response to the current war. Think about it. We are nearly four years into the War on Terror, and Hollywood doesn't know what to do with the central struggle of our time. It can only deal with the attack on America by treating it metaphorically, which is what "War of the Worlds" does.

After all, dealing with 9/11 respectfully wouldn't be exploitative at all. There are some astounding stories from that day — like the tale of Wells Crowther, the 24-year-old "man in the red bandana" who led dozens to safety on the 78th floor before perishing himself. Where is the TV movie, or the theatrical feature, about Wells Crowther, the people he saved and the discovery his parents made months later that he had died a hero? No one would object to a full-scale recreation of 9/11 if it involved telling such an extraordinary story. The only real objections would come if a 9/11 film twisted the tale into one in which we Americans are the bad guys. That, I suspect, was the original impulse behind the idea of a miniseries based on the 9/11 Commission report — since the story told by the 9/11 Commission largely focuses on pre-attack failings in the U.S. government. So the villains wouldn't really be bin Laden and his monstrous followers, but American officials too blind or lazy or turf-conscious to stop them. Oh, such a movie is being made: "Syriana" stars George Clooney as a CIA agent who discovers (you guessed it) that we've gotten involved in the War on Terror because of "oil." Expect it to clean up at the Oscars. You can be sure it will have no competition from a movie that offers a positive portrait of U.S. foreign policy.

My two cents: Hollywood doesn't want do anything that might encourage support for the war our troops are currently fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hollywood, after all, is predominantly liberal and realizes that movies and television are powerful devices to sway public opinion.
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