Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Commercializing 9/11?

A couple of weeks ago, Steve & I went to a movie (Inside Man, I think - pretty good but required a bit of a stretch to accept some of the situational details). Anyway, before the movie started there was a trailer for the upcoming film "Flight 93" (at least I think that's what it's called.) It's about the flight that the passengers overtook on 9/11 and crashed in Pennsylvania.

Watching the trailer, I got tears in my eyes and all I could think of was "this is SO wrong." It's too soon, I don't trust that it won't be sensationalized, I think it's insensitive to the families, I just don't like Hollywood taking something so recent and raw and turning it into a money-making endeavor.

Steve didn't agree, I think (but can't be sure), that he views it more as a way to share the story and bravery of those involved, and to honor the people who gave their lives for their country -- people who were not in the military or who maybe never, ever planned on doing anything heroic.

I tend to be cynical, though, and can't help but think that at the bottom of it all is the desire of some Hollywood mogul to make money on other people's grief. I also worry that seeing it as a movie so soon after it happened will make the event blur in people's minds to a certain extent. What's real and what's Hollywoodized? We obviously can't KNOW what happened on that plane, so now we will be treated to what the Hollywood types want us to think. And I don't want them thinking for me. I also worry that seeing it as a movie will desensitize people. Maybe in a way similar to what is happening with violence in video games. People can disconnect themselves from what is on the screen, and some things need to be real in people's lives - not just on the screen. I also recognize, though, that for some people, maybe seeing it as a movie is the only way they will ever think about it at all, or the only way to process it in their minds.

We saw the movie "Munich" last fall - a Hollywood version of the terrorist situation at the Munich Olympics. I was fine with that movie, and enjoyed it. I learned things I hadn't known about that situation, since I was pretty young when it actually happened. So does that make me a hypocrite? Or is the timing enough of a factor to make "Munich" OK while "Flight 93" is not?

I don't know if I will go see "Flight 93" or not. What do you think? Will you?


Mark and Carla said...

I personally would not see it--mostly because I think it would pander to the feelings and wishes of the families. If there were unflattering or unpopular elements, they'd be overlooked.

I don't think it's too soon, though. Sometimes I think it's good to reflect via art at different stages of the experience. It was 5 years ago and other events have occurred and to reflect on it now (and then again down the road) would provide an interesting record of public opinion and sentiment.

I admit my feelings were very different about this event than most people. Of course, I was horrified and deeply disturbed by every aspect of the attack. But the truth is, countries all over the world live in situations of impending or actual terror and fear all the time. Is our event so much worse because it happened to us? I think it really highlighted the overwhelming belief that we Americans should somehow be above anything like this. The resulting fallout of fearmongering by individuals and our national leaders, too, has tainted the event for me. We are neither more or less safe than we were on September 10th and the propaganda to me demeans the actual event.

So there's my 2 cents. I probably should've posted anonymously. Oh well, I'll keep it off my own blog (where I deal with real issues--like flashbacks to the 70s).

Calandria said...

I'm thinking about this: "People can disconnect themselves from what is on the screen, and some things need to be real in people's lives - not just on the screen." I think that's true to a large extent, and I ask myself if it is possible for us to become more desensitized then we already are. But then I am glad I saw "Hotel Rwanda," for example. I think it made it more real for me, but also less real at the same time. I don't know how to explain it.

Carla asks, "Is our event so much worse because it happened to us?" Maybe it is in a way. Certainly not because our lives and our safety are more valuable than those of God's children living in other parts of the world. The media often shows all of the bad that the U.S. symbolizes to the rest of the world. However, to many people of other countries, the U.S. still represents freedom, opportunity, safety, and strength. We don't hear about that so much but I know it is true because people of other nations have told me so! When the U.S. was attacked so devastatingly, there must have been people who felt a gloom descending on the world. Again, not because our lives are worth more, but because our way of life is something so many long for.

Does that make any sense at all? Maybe it's totally wrong.

Mark and Carla said...

They long for it, but I wonder if it's because they really don't understand life here. When I taught the ESL class last summer we asked students to compare their ideas of America with the reality. Two Somalian women said that they believed everyone was free and that everyone could be rich and successful. When they arrived they were shocked to find out how expensive it was here and how amazingly difficult it was to make a go of life in so many ways. Now, of course, no one's going back to Somalia, but I think (also based on talking to the Somalians I worked with at Marshall Field's)that the tradeoffs are not automatically better. Interestingly, most of the people I've met from Europe, particularly from Denmark,Germany, and Scandinavia don't understand what the big deal is about the US. And when they describe some of their job benefits and government programs, I wonder,too!

But you make a good point. I've not talked about 9/11 with anyone from outside the US to hear an outside perspective about what happened.

Movies will always distort the truth for the sake of art and time/money and perspective. But sometimes for most of us it will be the only way to gain any sense of what happened. "Hotel Rwanda" and the HBO movie "Sometimes in April" both distort the reality for those reasons, but it does provide some window into the horrors that occurred. How else could you begin to imagine the magnitude of what happened?

The danger comes when people opt to get their history lessons from Hollywood,rather than reputable sources. Oliver Stone's JFK and Nixon are prime examples. Recent films like Munich and Syriana,too--people see them and accept them as fact rather than understanding the distortions that occur.

OK, time to put away my soapbox. Karen, you've started something! Do you have a rebuttal?

Calandria said...

It has been really fascinating to talk with Mexican immigrants about the U.S. v. Mexico. Everyone I've talked with thinks life in the U.S. is a breeze compared to life in Mexico. Sometimes I'm surprised when I hear them talk about how comfortable everything is considering how hard they all work! One friend told me this: "One of my favorite things about living here is how open and friendly rich people are and how they don't treat me like I'm dirt. In Mexico a rich lady never would have even spoken to me because I'm poor. Here I make friends with people of all classes. I also like it that American women don't think they have to dress up to impress people all the time. They like to dress comfortable."

I had to laugh at the last comment!

What several friends have told me is that even with all the comforts of the U.S. they would like to return home to Mexico to be near family. The reason they don't is for their children. They say that here the educational and vocational opportunities for their children are too great to throw away.

That said, I do agree that there is an enormous difference between perception of life in the U.S. and reality. But in the U.S. people have a level of religious and political freedom that most of the world does not know. That's right--no one is running back to Somalia. Even with all of our excesses, (and Americans don't seem to be moderate in any possible way) people who come here don't want to go home. I think to become a better nation we need to see this good in ourselves and expand it.

Europeans rarely pass up an opportunity to speak ill of the U.S. Why is that? I'm not being facetious. I really want to know why they feel the need to make fun of us whenever they can. What have we done to them? I understand why THEY would not want to come live in the U.S. When I visited Europe last Spring I didn't want to come home. I would love to live in Europe! My aunt who lives in the Netherlands feels differently. She hates living there. But anyway, you would think that if western Europeans have it so nice they would shut up and enjoy it instead of kvetching about the U.S.

I am really having fun with this, if you couldn't tell. I don't think I want to put away my soapbox. :-)

Sorry Karen!

karpete said...

Wow, I hadn't looked at this for 36 hours and look at what is here! I have to go dry my hair and got to a PHF luncheon (with Calandria!) but will certainly come back and comment more about your comments.

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