Remembering United 93

Slate’s discussion of the United 93 trailer raises some interesting points. I’ve already discussed the trailer at some length, but their discussion clarifies some questions I still want to think about, specifically in terms of what it means to produce a fictionalization of one major aspect of 9/11.

To frame the discussion, Meghan O’Rourke asks, “Should the trailer come with a short, typed notice announcing what it is, so people can look away (and plug their ears if they like)? Or is it really that a plurality of Americans simply aren’t ready for a fictionalization of 9/11?” I think the latter question is probably the hardest to answer, in part because I’m not sure whether it’s an issue of being “ready” as much as it is a question of a conflict over how the day’s events should be narrated or remembered. 9/11 still has an uneasy place in our cultural memory, and turning it into a story about “the day we faced fear,” to quote the trailer, may have the effect of limiting how the day’s events are remembered. In this sense, I think I’m relatively close to the position expressed by Michael Agger, who questions the film’s “faux authenticity,” the use of “technical prowess” to re-create history. And while I didn’t address this point in my previous entry, it does seem significant, as O’Rourke points out, that the first two fictionalizations have focused on United flight 93, including the A&E movie I mentioned earlier.

Like the Slate critics, I certainly don’t want to judge the film until I’ve seen it, but the trailer itself raises a number of significant questions about what it means to promote a film about a recent national trauma, particularly one that continues to elude incorporation into larger historical narratives.

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