Daniel Mendelsohn on the 9/11 films

Daniel Mendelsohn is right in form in his review of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and Peter Greengrass’s United 93 in the New York Review of Books.

The pretty much exclusive emphasis thus far on the “good”—the heroism and the bravery of ordinary Americans—in these entertainments is noteworthy, because it reminds you of the unwillingness to grapple with and acknowledge the larger issues, the larger causes and effects that culminated in what happened on September 11, which has characterized much of the national response to this pivotal trauma. That both films, like so much we have seen on various screens over the past five years, clothe their fictions and their editorializing in the pious garment of reverence for authentic reality—a pose that will elicit tears, if not serious thinking—should be cause for alarm rather than applause.

That 9/11 is necessarily treated with reverence and solemnity without question has bothered me on nearly every occasion on which the subject has been publicly raised over the past five years. I remember being at Ground Zero on the second anniversary of 9/11 when the girl the picture below was surrounded by a screaming mob who proceeded to tear up her sign. That people continue to limit the scope of the discussion surrounding 9/11 in the name of respect and nationalism is, of course, contrary to the very values of free speech, dissent, and critical thought that made our country in the first place.

9-11 Girl with Sign

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