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THE SUM OF IT ALL
A Social Commentary
by Terry Baker
Lately, I've been starting to wonder if old glory's fifteen minutes have come and gone. Next time you are out and about, just take a look at the decline in the gesture of proudly displaying american pride. The red, white and blue once clung to every car antenna that you came across. The attack of September 11 gave America a taste of horror that has not touched our collective lips since Pearl Harbor. If anything positive can be dug out of the ashes of the fallen towers, it could arguably be the renewed sense of patriotism that has blanketed the nation. In the following weeks and months, we donned our hearts on our sleeves and our flag on just about wherever we could hang it. Now, eight months later, our sleeves seem to be a little less decorated.
Now, you are probably wondering what in the blue hell this has to do wth movies. Perhaps not much. A thought, however, recently crossed my mind the other day as I was surveying a crowded cineplex parking lot. As little as 4 months ago, that lot would have looked like a veterans cemetary on Memorial Day. Lines of American flags would have littered every SUV, mini van, and subcompact. This day however, I saw only a trace of stars and bars proudly aloft a random antenna. Walking into the theatre, I passed the glossy edited one sheet for Spider Man, absent the once mighty trade towers reflected in Spidey's mirrored peeper. Personally, I did not understand said edit. Its not as if seeing them would dig up and rekindle the emotions I fought that September morning. Granted, having been released not long after 9-11, the edit was justifiable, and probably a wise ad campaign move. At any rate, the movie Spider Man was a wonderful escape from from my X-Men disappointment. I left the theatre in awe after seeing my childhood comic hero come to life and do battle with that pesky Goblin. For the duration of the film, there was no thought of reality. Work woes, bills, Patrick Swayze, and all other daily annoyances took a back seat to the action onscreen. I just sat there watching Spidey tangle it up with the Goblin, marveling at the explosions, and wishing I had a zoom button to get a better look at Kirsten Dunst in a rain soaked shirt. Like the poster that hung in the lobby, the World Trade Towers were nowhere to be found in my giddy little head. Nowhere to be found that is, till I walked back by that poster on the way out. Then I remembered the thoughts I had when I arrived. There were a few less cars in the parking lot and even less of old glory.
Now seriously, what do American flags have to do with movies? Perhaps it has something to do with the word, "hypersensivity". If you recall, after September 11, Hollywood was scrambling to delay any film release that was violent in nature. Conequently, the box office numbers showed that America chose to laugh instead of witness fictionalized mayhem on the silver screen. Media and entertainment pundits concurred that such fiction was damaging to an already traumatized psyche. Undoubtedly, the wheels in Hollywood shared the same trauma and emotions as the rest of us, but Hollywood is ultimately a business. Hence, projects were delayed, some shelved. Spider Man one sheets were edited. All of this due to America's hypersensitivity. Nevermind the fact that we all had to be home in time for the evening news and further have those images of planes smashing into buildings etched into our subconscious minds. Moviegoers had no want for fictionalized mayhem and Hollywood was quick to serve. All in the name of hypersensitivity, folks. This is the reaction that made our regularly scheduled program be preempted in order to show a a feel good Disney classic. This is the same kneejerk reaction that had "Driven", Stallone's lemon of an auto-action movie condemned for being released so soon after Dale Earnhart's NASCAR mishap. And perhaps, this is the same hypersensitivity that compelled us to don the flag on our antenna. And now this knee jerk reaction seems to be a flickering memory on our subconscious silver screen. How long did it take the moviegoer to grab his popcorn and watch the fictionalized retelling of the conflict in Somalia, "BlackHawk Down"? How many stood in line and to watch an action packed war movie, "Behind Enemy Lines"? Ok, not many, but point made. And like me, how many of us loved watching the Green Goblin rain on the parade, zooming atop his glider, and destroying the city? It would make you believe that era of hypersensitivity is behind us. I say this with a resounding "yes" after seeing the trailer for Clancy's latest, "Sum of all Fears". Amidst our weekly terrorism warnings and muffled fear and speculation of a "dirty bomb", we have Ben Affleck, attempting his best Harrison Ford impression, trying to save America from Arab terrorists planning to use a nuclear bomb to blow up the Super Bowl! Affleck imitates Ford, art imitates life.
So, I guess it's all settled. Eight months later, America is ready for the action packed violence and mayhem film that Hollywood is glad to dish out. After the attack left us trembling, our leaders urged us not to change our ways, as if we did, the terrorists won. We were to continue our daily lives, and do as we normally do. We all know that was easier said than done, and the hypsersensitive nature of us made it all that harder. Obviously, we did alter our lives. Although, an edited one sheet and the delay of films can hardly be scored as a victory for even the dumbest Muslim radical. We grieved together. We were hypersensitive together.
Now take that American Flag off your antenna and lets go watch Ben Harrison Ford Affleck in the sum of all our fictional fears, and possible future terrorist born reality....together
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