My school's first grade field trip was to the St. Louis Zoo. I was a wide-eyed 6-year-old fascinated by the idea of seeing gorillas and polar bears in the same day. However, my true excitement lay elsewhere. I was anxious to see poisonous snakes. I wanted to see, with my own eyes, how powerful they really were.
I got my wish.
Behind thick protective glass was a resting cobra. His scales flexed and shined under a heat lamp and his presence was enough to make a boy conscious of his own mortality.
And then we locked eyes. They were a shade of black pearl with the consistency of tinted glass, both reflecting and absorbing whatever looked into them. My heart raced and I forgot there was a barrier between us.
So did the cobra. The snake snapped to attention, flared its hood and showed its fangs. I ran away, rightfully frightened for my own life.
When a peer asked me what it was like, adrenaline still intoxicating my young brain, I said, “That was really cool.”
Obviously I had not learned my lesson.
The reason for telling this story is because Americans, whether they know it or not, may have had a similar experience. Media giants have utilized a protective glass barrier near and dear to our hearts to create a freakish mix between Hollywood blockbuster and reality television.
Watch one of the major news networks – CNN, MSNBC, FOX News – a few minutes and you'll understand where I'm coming from. Personalities like Bill O'Reilly, Wolf Blitzer and John Gibson act more like directors on a DVD commentary than objective pundits. Our senses are overridden by glossy graphics, random clips of tanks rolling through Baghdad and bunker-busting bombs slamming into the mountains of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, we are reminded that terrorists are still lurking in the shadows with dirty bombs and airplane tickets. The message is lost, to say the least, when pictures of terrorists are stamped on a deck of playing cards or portrayed by actors.
After all, it only took movie executives five years to exploit the action-thriller nature of September 11.
The film “United 93” is a perfect example. Directed by Paul Greengrass – the same man who brought us the spy thriller “Bourne Identity” – the movie is about the fourth hijacked plane on 9/11 that crashed in Pennsylvania. It is gut wrenching and difficult to watch, but that is also the point. Americans get to be horrified by this action flick from the safety of their own living rooms.
While we are reminded to “never forget,” movies shot in New York months before September 11 digitally removed the Twin Towers. The ending of the first “Spiderman” had to be re-shot because the original finale took place on top of the World Trade Center. DVDs of films such as “Air Force One,” a 1997 release that is centered on the president's plane being hijacked, were pulled from shelves because of their sensitive subject matter.
While doing research for this column, I dusted off my copy of the blockbuster starring Harrison Ford. After an elaborate series of events, a dangerous mid-air rescue of the president and the first family is accomplished. They fly away safely while a plane full of dead terrorists and traitors crashes into the sea.
Later that night, a friend who had never seen the movie asked me if it was any good. With adrenaline and testosterone still intoxicating my brain I said, “It was really badass.”
Obviously I had not learned my lesson.Tweet
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