Sunday, September 11, 2011

The 9/11 Post

I originally wanted to avoid writing this post. While yes, I was as affected by 9/11 just as much as everyone else, I didn't feel worthy enough to really comment on it. Being in South Jersey, I'm just insulated enough from New York to be spared a lot of the heartache. I am lucky enough to not really know anyone that died in the attack and my horizon line was not inundated with smoke and ash. But being a member of the generation that grew up watching the towers fall down, I can't help but still feel like a member of the grieving nation.

None of us have to be reminded.

I already told my 9/11 story in my Osama post. I was only 11 years old when it happened but I remember being at soccer practice that evening and we couldn't even bring our 6th grade selves to do warm up sprints. With the 24/7 news machine working, we as a population were reminded of the tragedy repeatedly. From that blood lust came war that we are still in today. I'm not here to debate the war, I'm only commenting on the fact that lives are still being affected by one morning ten years ago.

One respectable reflection on 9/11 has been Rescue Me. Although the show lost some focus during its seven seasons, Denis Leary showed real respect and admiration to the fire fighters and other people affected by 9/11. It's not like Remember Me, a 2010 Robert Pattinson vehicle that aspired to be like every other Nicolas Sparks story made for teenage girls. Instead, using the World Trade Center attacks as a plot device, it ended up reeking of explotation just to remind 16-year-old girls to fall in love with Pattinson.

Pattinson should stick with the Twilight movies.

For the most part, Hollywood has yet to touch on 9/11. The only two theatrical films dealing with attack are World Trade Center and Flight 93. This is for good reason. None of us need to be reminded. It's too early for dramatizations because the effects are still being felt by a whole population. We don't need Oliver Stone telling us how to feel because it is still fresh in our minds. No reminders needed, television documentaries and memories are enough. To make a movie about it now only screams of propaganda or excessive patriotism.

Sadly, an unnecessary film.

It's ironic that Stone was the one to make an unnecessary World Trade Center movie, because he was the one to really kick off movies made about Vietnam. One of the first real Vietnam movies was The Green Berets starring John Wayne. Released in 1968, the same year that both the Tet offensive happened and Walter Cronkite himself bemoaned Vietnam, The Green Berets tried its best to rally support for the already exhausting war. But even The Duke couldn't help rally a nation and, aside from Apocalypse Now in 1979 (a very noteworthy film), Vietnam wouldn't be touched again until 1986 with Platoon. Eleven years after the fall of Saigon, Stone told the story of his own experience during the conflict. Unflinching and dramatic, Platoon won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The following year saw the release of Full Metal Jacket and Hamburger Hill and in 1989, Stone returned to Vietnam with Born on the Fourth of July.

I'd mention 1989's Casualties of War but I hate Sean Penn too much to go in depth.

Just like with Vietnam, it will take a while to properly reflect on 9/11. It's too soon to really see what the effect is because we are still seeing the effect everyday. There is no proper epilogue yet to the story. While Bin Laden's death did help closure, it's not enough. Ten years from now we'll see real movies about a post-9/11 world that's not just about paranoia or patriotism. Because by then the dust from the towers will finally settle and the ones that grew up with the disaster will finally get their say on the matter. I am of course talking about my generation.

Just don't call us Millenials, I hate that phrase.

People my age may seem jaded by the 2001 attacks, but we've all reacted to it in different ways. Some have become conspiracy theorists or socialists. Others have followed Fox News and Sarah Palin. There is one factor I've noticed with everyone though. We've all acquired this kind of post-modern patriotism. It's not simply about humming Yankee Doodle Dandy anymore. For people my age, America Fuck Yeah (excuse the profanity) has become the rally call. From the creators of South Park, America Fuck Yeah was written for the puppet comedy Team America: World Police. And even if that movie falls into obscurity, the song will live on as a new anthem for current college-aged kids. Although a satire of jingoistic tunes, it is earnest enough to speak to us. And it has a sense of humor that cannot be found in Tobey Keith songs.

Profane but effective.

So, even though it is the tenth year anniversary of 9/11, it is still just one more day in a constant state of mourning that many feel. But we continue on and, floor by floor, we defiantly build in ground zero. One day we will all finally be able to look back at this period instead of feeling trapped within it.


  1. ummm... maybe you should have read my blog entry on Vietnam films. Before Platoon, there was Rambo II, Missing in Action, The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Hearts and Minds, Go Tell the Spartans, and a bunch more films that reminded us about Vietnam.

    I agree with you about 9/11 films though, and how its ironic (or maybe very telling?) that the man who made three of the best Vietnam films - Platoon, Born of the Forth of July, and Heaven and Earth was the first big name director to make a 9/11 film.

  2. Oliver Stone also basically made the first film about JFK assassination. I think he just tries to corner the market on those kind of films (while JFK came out decades after the assassination it was still like the first film to deal with it).

    Rambo and Missing in Action weren't really Nam films, just action vehicles that happened to be set in during the conflict. It was a setting in the most basic sense. Hearts and Minds is a documentary and Deer Hunter, while awesome and dealing with Vietnam, is more about a Polish town in Pennsylvania and a group of friends than about Vietnam.

    Platoon was the first movie really about Vietnam and not just the effects of it. Also it kicked off the explosion on Vietnam movies afterwards (as I explained).

    Admittedly Go Tell the Spartans was one I missed.

  3. I don't think you can trivialize MIA and Rambo like that. The idea of the POW/MIA affair is a really polarizing issue in the US, so much so that even though a committee consisting of John Kerry and John McCain said there is no reason to believe there are any POW's left in Vietnam, to this day the POW flag still flys in front of firehalls, police stations, and libraries across America. Both of these films helped to exacerbate the situation, Ronald Reagan admitted to watching Rambo and used it in the context of a future conflict.

    Hearts and Minds is a documentary, and a great one at that, not one that I think can easily just be glossed over. The Deer Hunter criticism I can accept if you are using strict rules, but then, on that ground, Apocalypse Now shouldn't count either since it is a fantasy film that could have really been set in any mindless war scenario. In the late 1970's, with Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, and Apocalypse Now all being release within a year of each other, the film industry really hyped up the idea of a Vietnam film. Oliver Stone's Platoon did, as you say, launch a second wave of Vietnam films, distinct from the first. His film gained a lot of attention due to him being a Vietnam Veteran, therefore in theory bringing an element of realism to the genre.

    On a final note, Full Metal Jacket went into writing as early as 1982, and had nothing to do with the Vietnam explosion of films at this time. Kubrick was admittedly pissed off that he was further flooding an already saturated market, and, later, when Spielberg announced Shindler's list, he dropped his Holocaust film to avoid the same sort of issue.

    I don't mean to be a prick about this or anything - my thesis is on the historical memory of Vietnam, and, as a result, I've been reading a number of books about it, including two so far on the films.