Memory and Media

After Monday’s class discussion I found myself very entrenched in thinkING about the thread of conversation that several of my peers brought up regarding films and movies that had been altered after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Beth brought up how this directly ties into performances of memory and forgetting, and I wanted to explore this further as it really got me curious about the process of altering media after a communally disturbing or terrorizing event takes place. What we have read so far in Colson Whitehead’s novel, Zone One, centers, for the most part, around Mark Spitz’s experiences as a sweeper scouring for skels in the demolished ash and debris of post-plague lower Manhattan. Through this, Whitehead is evoking an eerily similar setting to that of post-9/11 New York City and consciously performs a remembering of this traumatic time. This is definitely quite contrasting to what I found when researching media that came about in the wake of 9/11.

In class several people brought up films such as Spider-Man (2002) and Lilo and Stitch (2002) and how they were changed in post-production to eliminate tawdry scenes and/or mentions and depictions of the World Trade Center as the nation was going through an incredibly traumatic experience of grief and loss. I was drawn to researching this because I too remembered hearing something about the particular Lilo and Stitch scene that was mentioned in class  that was changed after it was looked at again after the attacks and was decided to be in poor taste to still include it in the final version of the film. If you’re curious to see a side-by-side of the before and after of this chase scene you can check it out here.

Lilo and Stitch was a children’s movie that found itself being subjected to the discourse of the adult world at the time and was described in an article by The Huffington Post as,  “The animated hit features Hawaii’s beautiful scenery and explores themes of loss and unity ― which particularly resonated after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.” I can’t help but be  drawn back to Roach when thinking about how society reacted after this time as, “a contradictory push and pull develops as communities construct themselves by both expanding their boundaries and working back in from them.” (Roach, 39)

Many other blockbuster films that premiered and shows that aired on television soon after the attacks were altered to remove scenes that included visuals of the World Trade Center, such as Zoolander (premiered 9/28/01), Men In Black II (premiered 7/3/02), and Stuart Little 2 (premiered 7/19/02). This erasure was not strictly limited to film or television, as music was also significantly affected by dealing with the both/and of the ‘should we/shouldn’t we’ include 9/11 symbolism/depictions, or even destruction in general, in media being produced at the time. I definitely invite you to check out this Wikipedia article that gives a good list of entertainment affected by the 9/11/ attacks. There was definitely a period where the country was deciding what was acceptable or allowed to be portrayed or shown in the media and this concept really contributes to explicit performances of memory and forgetting.

Now bear with me as I take this blog post in a slightly different direction, but I was also inspired to write this post when I came across this picture on Twitter and then researched it online to verify that this was indeed a disclaimer that was being given on platforms such as Amazon Prime, iTunes, and DVD releases from Warner Bros.This disclaimer surfaces before old Warner Bros. cartoons, such as Tom and Jerry, which have been criticized for portraying an African-American female character in a demeaning stereotypical way. This disclaimer, however, uses powerful rhetoric to explain the studio’s choice to continue to keep these cartoons available for the public to consume. The idea that the studio wanted to stray from their previously revisionist history of lightening the skin and changing the voice of the aforementioned type-cast black character to seem more white is quite admirable and eliminates the possibility of a performance of forgetting that these stereotypes and prejudices really were commonplace in past times. I am definitely not trying to make any claims to equate the use of disclaimers such as this one portraying prejudices in media, to the presence of the World Trade Center in media, but it is interesting to compare the way that these subjects have been either kept or erased from the public eye.

I  don’t have any big ‘a-ha moment’ conclusion or answers to what should be done about keeping or excluding things like the twin towers in media or anything of that nature, but I really am interested in anyone else’s thoughts on this matter and how this ties in pretty deeply, in my opinion at least, to the core of our class concepts. I have really been drawn to evaluating performances of memory and forgetting this semester since we encountered the phrase from Roach early on,  and I think that looking at how it is done in media after crises or traumatic instances is definitely exploring what Roach would describe as, “how the voices of the dead may speak through the bodies of the living.” (Roach 34)

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