Tragedies as Cash Cows? Or Simply Paying Homage?

Last night, I was watching United 93 and sobbing like a little kid with a skinned knee when I thought back to the day in 8th grade that I was forced to watch The Perfect Storm. And despite me falling asleep during the first 20 minutes, it was after the fact that I decided the movie was a failure as an adaptation of a tragedy.

So, fast forward several years to last night, where I'm still crying as the passengers rush the terrorists to try and take control of the cockpit. This movie is a hard one for me to define. As a movie, it's fantastic. The characters are real people, just innocent bystanders waiting to get home to their families. I really enjoyed that there weren't any big names in the film. I think it made it a little more genuine to not have Brad Pitt or friggin' Lindsay "please oh please go the hell away because no one wants to see you act or sing or breathe" Lohan taking up the screen. And after the terrorists make themselves known, it's just a jumble of fear, confusion, and helplessness. It's well done, as far as a film goes.

But what about the subject matter? The fact is, I'm still reeling from 9/11. I watched the second plane hit, and the first building go down. I sometimes have dreams where I'm on United 93, talking on the phone to my mother and telling her that I love her and not to worry, because we have a plan.

9/11 was a fucked-up day for all of us. It was the day that America was emasculated, the day that my parents didn't have answers for me, the day I was dismissed from school because we feared Boston was next. Every time I heard an airplane -- which, living next to an airport, was like every 10 minutes -- my heart would skip a beat. Even today, when I see a low-flying plane, I sometimes think this is it.

I remember when they were making United 93. In fact, they made two adaptations: Flight 93, which was made for TV, and United 93. The country was divided on making them: one side believed it was too soon, that these people had finally been put to rest and suddenly their final hours were going to be paraded on screens across America for profit. The other side felt these heroes' story needed to be told.

I, too, was divided. How could you make a movie about an event where no one survived and no one really knew what took place? We have snippets of phone conversations and last goodbyes to loved ones, the famous "Let's roll", and whatever was gleaned from the black box. But no one knows how it went down. Just that the normal, innocent passengers stood up together in an attempt to stop the hijack. That's it. And as far as remaining true to the event, that's hardly enough to go on.

It's the same with The Perfect Storm, as disappointing as the movie was. No one knew what happened.

So, what is it? It is paying homage to a tragedy, or is it exploitation? A little of both?



Ultimate Grey's Fan said...

I absolutely remember feeling the same way when I heard they were making this movie. I'm still a little apprehensive to rent a movie about the tragedy of 9/11 since there are about a million of them. And that's sort of what sways me to believe that Hollywood banks on remakes of national and international tragedies. They know people are invested in the subject matter. They know people will go see the movie. I mean, why wouldn't they? But essentially, I think Hollywood is doing a disservice to the heroes of that day by glorifying the entire event on the silver screen.