Friday, September 11, 2009

Another day that will live in infamy.

Remember when terrorism used to be fun? Now please don’t think I’m trying to be purposely controversial or salacious. I’m genuinely asking, do you remember when terrorism was fun? Obviously terrorism existed long before I got here and it will exist long after I leave and no one will argue that it is a terrible thing, but if you’re like me, growing up terrorism was pretty darn entertaining. If it weren’t for terrorist we wouldn’t have movies like DIE HARD or RED DAWN or heck even BACK TO THE FUTURE (“IT’S THE LYBIANS”). The world as a whole, especially America has always needed a bad guy. They’ve always needed that dude in the black hat to fall back on so that the good guys, the noble heroes have someone to fight and overcome and we have someone to root against. For the majority of my life that’s exactly what terrorists were. They were something peripheral that wreaked havoc on other countries but mainly they served as whipping boys for the likes of Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and the Governator. To most Americans they were the boogeyman, something you could use to tell a fun story but over all about as dire of a concern as anything else that goes bump in the night. Eight years ago, on a clear, crisp New York morning all of that changed forever.

September 11th is the defining moment of not only my generation but perhaps generations to come. It is our Pearl Harbor, our Kennedy assassination, that singular moment in one’s life that you will remember in crystal clear detail for the rest of your time here on earth. To this day I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I saw that first plane hit the tower. It is something seared into my brain, an image and a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my existence. In one fail swoop a group of psychotic, genocidal $#!+-heads forever changed our country and the world as a whole. In doing so they also irrevocably changed the artistic landscape of our nation as well.

The impact of the 9/11 attacks on the world of art is undeniable. In one fail swoop EVERYTHING changed. Suddenly megalomaniacal terrorists and ingenious super-villains weren’t the thing of fiction, they were a cold hard reality, so much scarier and evil that anything our imaginations could ever conjure. As a writer I can tell you that never in a million years could I craft villains or scenario like that which were carried out eight years ago. In fact I think that’s why it took so long to register for some people. What we were watching looked like something straight out of a movie. A movie that I’m sure we all would have lined up for and scarfed popcorn to so long as some badass American came along avenged all those deaths in a spectacularly Don Simpson / Jerry Bruckheimer kind of way. Sadly though at the end of the day those were real planes, crashing into real buildings, killing real people, conceived and executed by an enemy that we couldn’t just send John McClain after, armed with nothing more than a catchphrase and an Uzi.

Suddenly our art, our entertainment had to take on a much more realistic, much more hard-edged bent simply because the scars of the greatest tragedy in American history wouldn’t allow for anything else. Unbeatable, larger than life movie Gods such as Rambo were replaced by the likes of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer. Heck even the venerable James Bond had to get a face lift because the runners of the franchise realized they’d get laughed out of the theatre if they went any further with their invisible cars and Denise Richards as physicists.

For the first time in my lifetime certain things became taboo, too hard to digest because of the fresh scars on our nation. Bill Maher got fired because of something he said, some psycho-loon fascist tried to have a list of several hundred songs and bands banned from radio play. Productions had to go back in reshoot, reedit or completely retool ideas simply because of the way they put fictional characters in jeopardy and all that was just the beginning.

What’s followed is the most unique, contentious eight years in perhaps the history of our country. Eight years in which we entered into a war that neither side could ever win. Eight years in which the rifts and divides amongst political party lines has grown so wide and vehemently opposed to one another that it’s completely changed the way our government is run. Eight years in which America has had to face the cold hard truths of reality that the rest of the world has known for years.

As is always the case these changes in our society, in our American mindset have been reflected through every form of media and art one can possibly imagine. This one singular event set the course that the artistic community has been following and most likely will be following for the next decade or so at least. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, 24, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, THE DARK KNIGHT, MUNICH, the Bourne series and the last two James Bond films, none of these classic would exist if it weren’t for the terrible events of that fateful day in September.

By the same turn as America has hit the bottom of the barrel and begun trying to claw it’s way back to the top we’ve been faced with no choice but destruction or optimism and hope, the later two emotions leading to current trends we’re seeing in the film industry. Films that are about fun. Films that are about dreams and striving to achieve greatness. Films like STAR TREK, UP and a whole slew of others that realize our only hope as a nation is to pull ourselves out of the quagmire of fear and pain that we’ve allowed our nation to spiral into.

Each of the above listed artistic endeavors and SO much more have mirrored the painful, ongoing and most likely never ending healing process that our nation has been going through over the past 8 years. For the most part there is not a single artist, a single creation that hasn’t been touched by that tragic day in some small way. Out of the terrible events of that day a nation’s resolve and the artistic community’s canvas were developed anew. Sadly such is the tragic way of history.


Adam Zanzie said...

I know what you mean. James Cameron had actually long planned to team up with Schwarzenegger for a sequel to True Lies, but it never happened. Asked why, Cameron explained, "Terrorism isn't funny anymore because of 9/11".

Which is true. The terrorists in True Lies are all basically hilarious (though quite violent) caricatures, and some of them are even likable. That's unheard of today!

Megan said...

You know, I still don't know if I can ever watch a 9/11 movie and it's been eight years...

Anonymous said...

I have yet to see this one and World Trade Center as well.