The effects of 9/11 on popular culture
Many claim that the effects of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, could be felt everywhere, and the world of popular culture was certainly no exception.
From musicians being inspired to write songs and form chart-topping bands, to films that reflected the paranoia of the time, popular culture reflected what many artists felt – both for better and worse.
Scene & Heard takes a look at a few of the more notable pieces of popular culture that came in the wake of Sept. 11.
Pop cultural items ranging from “Spider-Man”trailers with robbers tangled between the Twin Towers to reruns of “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson”were pulled in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, but there was perhaps no worse place for unfortunate coincidences than in album covers.
Political hip-hop duo The Coup’s fourth full-length “Party Music”initially had cover art of the World Trade Center exploding as Boots Riley detonates the buildings with a guitar tuner. The artwork for the album, which was completed in the summer and planned for release in September, was eventually changed to a flaming cocktail glass.
Punk band Leftover Crack would later try to court controversy with its 2004 album “F— World Trade,”which shows political figures like Dick Cheney blowing up the Twin Towers.
Post-rock group Explosions in the Sky had no such objectionable content on their album “Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live No Forever,”but raised some eyebrows due to the band and album’s names and its Sept. 4, 2001, release. The band even found itself in the headlines again after a marquee for a Boise, Idaho concert yesterday read: “Explosions in the Sky Concert Sept. 11.”
By 2002, rock stalwart Bruce Springsteen hadn’t recorded an album in seven years, let alone one with his loyal backing group The E Street Band. Eighteen years after the monumental “Born in the U.S.A.,” Springsteen got back together with the band to record “The Rising.”
Springsteen said in 2002 Rolling Stone interview that the album was inspired by the Sept. 11 attacks, but also after a stranger drove by Springsteen and yelled out the window, “We need you now.” “The Rising” was a critical and commercial success, but it also chronicled the tragedy and brief glimpses of joy that came in the wake of those September attacks.
Tracks like “Lonesome Day” offered hope, while others like “My City of Ruins” lament a fallen power. “The Fuse” was also used for the end credits of Spike Lee’s “25th Hour,” punctuating a film that delves into the paranoid and tense climate of a post-9/11 world.
Director Spike Lee has never shied away from addressing current events in his films quickly and effectively, from race riots in “Do the Right Thing”to Hurricane Katrina in “When the Levees Broke.”His 2002 film “25th Hour”was arguably the first major film to directly reference Sept. 11.
The film’s plot, which follows a drug dealer named Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) on his last day of freedom before prison, is not specifically about the terrorist attack or its aftermath. Yet, scenes like schoolteacher Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Wall Street broker Frank (Barry Pepper) arguing with ground zero wreckage in the background boldly confront the reality of a post-Sept. 11 New York.
The entire tone of “25th Hour”is one fraught with emotional vulnerability and tension, including a monologue to the mirror sequence where Monty rails against all of the city’s ethnic groups, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida before finally turning the blame on himself.
From Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four, New York City has long been home base for many of Marvel Comics’superheroes. Sadly, they weren’t there to save the day on 9/11. In November of 2001, Marvel Comics released issue #36 of “The Amazing Spider-Man,”which dealt directly with the attacks.
With a simple black cover, the standalone issue showed Spiderman and other New York City-based superheroes reacting to the attacks. The permeating theme of the issue is the heroes’utter helplessness despite their superhuman abilities.
In December of 2001, Marvel released “Heroes,”a tribute book dedicated to the firefighters, police officers, and other relief workers who came to action immediately after the attacks. The tagline on the cover read “The world’s greatest superhero creators honor the world’s greatest heroes.”
“Heroes” consisted mostly of simple illustrations of real-life 9/11 relief workers on ground zero working side by side with Marvel superheroes like the Hulk and Captain America. The superheroes were often shown looking in awe at the blue-collar everyman heroes digging through the wreckage – the real heroes of the tragedy.
Kevin Smith, Alan Moore and Frank Miller were among the big names in comics who contributed to the book, and a second installment called “A Moment of Silence” was released in February 2002.
My Chemical Romance
Ten years ago when the planes hit the towers on Sept. 11, Gerard Way was working as an intern for Cartoon Network when he witnessed the day’s events and decided he needed a change in what he considered an unfulfilled life.
He formed the band My Chemical Romance with his brother Mikey Way, Frank Iero, Ray Toro, and Matt Pelissier. In an interview with Spin concerning the band’s formation, Way said he told himself “I’ve gotta make a difference.”
The first written My Chemical Romance song was “Skylines and Turnstiles,” which Way wrote to help himself deal with the attack. The song represents hope, while the lyric, “This broken city sky,” refers to the towers.
– Brittany Mulligan
“United 93” and “World Trade Center”
The question always stood regarding when was the right time to make a film that dramatized the events of Sept. 11. Within five years of the attacks, audiences had their answers as both “United 93” and “World Trade Center” were released in theaters.
Both films attempted to find heroism in the tragic events that took place, but one was far more successful. “The Bourne Supremacy” director Paul Greengrass brought his cinema vritstyle of filmmaking to the passengers and crew of “United 93,” who in a heroic effort to stop their plane from being hijacked, lost their lives after rushing the terrorist-occupied cockpit.
A well-known contrarian, Oliver Stone decided to go a different route with the Nicolas Cage-starring “World Trade Center.” While Greengrass found a compelling and moving story in the actions of his characters, Stone turned the story of two police officers trapped in the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center into an exercise in producing overwrought and borderline offensive Hollywood treacle.
– Benjamin Wright