Sunday, September 12, 2010

Did it Change Us?

So we've marked the ninth anniversary of 9/11.  God be with America.

After watching Life as a House I noticed that it was released in November of '01.  Since it was obviously filmed and edited before the attacks, it has to be one of the last family dramas of the pre-"post-9/11" time period.

I hear that a lot, this phrase, post-9/11.  What does that really mean?

Plopping those words together predicates that a change has occurred.  According to that logic, the events of September 11th, 2001 didn't just happened, they are happening.  Tremors of the day are still reverberating.

When looking at the American family, at least on the big screen, I think we can find evidences that this notion of a post-9/11 world is indeed a reality.

American Beauty won a buttload of awards for its 1999 movie season, and assuredly rightfully so.  But when I watch it now, I can't ever quite shake that the world its characters inhabit is not my own.  Not anymore.  I think the film is a brilliant response of its boomboom 90s time period.

In the late nineties, the closest thing America had to a war was a far-off skirmish our military jostled with in a place called Kosovo, that sounded about as real as Narnia to us SoCallers.  Gay rights activism wasn't yet hitting state elections.  The dotcom era gave the country a high, and the exhilaration was doubled every six months with every new, faster, sleeker computer model.  And the country's biggest problem appeared to be the libido of Bill Clinton.

Enter American Beauty (or, if you prefer, substitute The Ice Storm).  The films characters believe that they should be living in the renaissance of the American Leave It to Beaver era.  They believe perfection not only can be obtained, but that it is always just a Hallmark moment away from realization.  From this then, we are brought to inciting incident; a turn of events that causes our protagonist to realize how deep in the quicksand not only he and his family are in, but ultimately, the whole world.

The formula is as such: 
1) The veneer of the perfect household is torn asunder, 
2) our characters wallow in the filth, seeking unscrupulous means of finding a way out, and ultimately, 
3) the family finds some form of redemption.  

Rinse and repeat.

That was the past.  No longer can we make claim to any sort of slick varnish for our family cultures.  No, the family drama of the post-9/11 drama, the likes of films such as The Squid and the Whale, are now built on the foundation of dissolution.  There's no need for the illusion of happiness and togetherness to be dismantled.  In this world, the illusion has been explained to us.  Our characters can be perhaps nostalgic for the good ol' days, but there is no mask.  From minute one we know the world is fucked up.  There's no hiding it.  The result of this is that we are given more screen time watching our heros battling to seek out redemption for their broken lives, or we see them obstruct their road to peace so far that they begin to become unreachable beings of distaste.  They fall away entirely... into the static.

I do believe that such a thing as a cultural consciousness exists.  And I think that watching the two largest skyscrapers of our largest American city be annihilated crushed our perceived innocence.  It tore us down to the bone.  It left us dry.

But it is better to start with nothing then to build on a false foundation.  May God protect and redeem the United States of America.  Amen.


  1. You have a very nice blog! Good reading.
    Drunknmunky - Pikavippivinkit

  2. Thank you kindly, good sir. You are always welcome here. (Forgive me if you are a lady. When I envision an inebriated ape, my mind automatically assumes a male gendered primate.)