Parallel Lines

Parallel Lines: Post-9/11 American Cinema

GUY WESTWELL
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/west17202
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  • Book Info
    Parallel Lines
    Book Description:

    Parallel Lines describes how post-9/11 cinema, from Spike Lee's 25th Hour (2002) to Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty (2012), relates to different, and competing, versions of US national identity in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The book combines readings of individual films (World Trade Center, United 93, Fahrenheit 9/11, Loose Change) and cycles of films (depicting revenge, conspiracy, torture and war) with extended commentary on recurring themes, including the relationship between the US and the rest of the world, narratives of therapeutic recovery, questions of ethical obligation.The volume argues that post-9/11 cinema is varied and dynamic, registering shock and upheaval in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, displaying capacity for critique following the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal mid-decade, and seeking to reestablish consensus during Obama's troubled second term of office.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85072-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    On 11 September 2001, terrorists hijacked four passenger planes and used them as weapons against civilian targets in the US. Two of the planes were flown into each of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, another was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania. A total of 2,948 people were killed as a result of the attacks, including over 400 police officers and firefighters.¹ The attacks produced a series of spectacular and shocking images – the planes flying into the buildings, people jumping to their deaths, lower Manhattan disappearing into...

  5. Uncertainty
    (pp. 17-38)

    In the introduction I described a patriotic response to the events of 9/11 founded on a pre-existing ‘banal nationalism’. This response cultivated a sense of crisis, cast 9/11 in reductive Manichean terms and recalled US history in a partial way, especially through a jingoistic view of World War II. This avowedly patriotic response could be found in the mass media, in the speeches made by politicians and policymakers and across significant realms of popular culture, including the film industry, which used self-censorship and the reconfiguration of the release dates of a number of films to align itself with the prevailing...

  6. Unity
    (pp. 39-58)

    In a survey of the press coverage of the terrorist attacks and the language used in speeches by key politicians between 11 September and 13 September 2001, Martin Montgomery identifies a process of ‘discursive amplification’ whereby rhetoric was ‘scaled up’ in order to make sense of what had happened. He notes how the terrorists’ murderous acts became evil acts, then barbaric acts and then acts of war, and how the attack on New York quickly became an attack on the US and that this subsequently became an attack on civilisation (2005: 155–6). Montgomery argues that this ‘movement from concrete,...

  7. Conspiracy
    (pp. 59-81)

    This chapter explores a range of films – including political documentaries, web-based conspiracy films and big-budget Hollywood thrillers – that seek to reveal a more complex reality to be found by resisting, refusing and digging through the officially endorsed accounts of 9/11 described in the last chapter. This response can be understood as an extension of the critical and questioning perspectives found in the films described in chapter one. The chapter also indicates how, when faced with no outlet or opening in the wider culture, such a response became inward looking, suspicious, browbeaten and paranoid. As always, cultural production is here understood...

  8. The Return to Ground Zero
    (pp. 82-93)

    In his account of post-9/11 literature, Richard Gray criticises many 9/11 novels for their insular focus and the way in which they reduce ‘a turning point in national and international history to little more than a stage in a sentimental education’ (2009: 134). Against this, Gray celebrates, and calls for more, ‘immigrant fictions’, typified by Joseph O’Neill’sNetherland(2008), that explore difference and hybrid identity within US society. Responding to Gray’s work, Michael Rothberg argues that in addition to Gray’s model of literary multiculturalism, there is a need for novels in the mould of Mohsin Hamid’sThe Reluctant Fundamentalist(2007)...

  9. The End of the World
    (pp. 94-109)

    Describing 9/11 fiction, Kristiaan Versluys claims that ‘on the whole, the narratives shy away from the brute facts, the stark “donnee” of thousands of lives lost. As an event, 9/11 is limned as a silhouette, expressible only through allegory and indirection’ (2009: 14). As we have seen, however, this argument about the post-9/11 novel is not true of post-9/11 cinema, in which the attacks are directly depicted in a number of (albeit guarded) ways. Yet, like the post-9/11 novel, and asMan on FireandSyrianasuggest, some films may be read as indirect representations of, or informed by, 9/11...

  10. The September 11 Syndrome
    (pp. 110-124)

    In this chapter, I examine another discourse that gave shape to post-9/11 cinema, namely, the treatment of 9/11 as an event experienced as a psychological trauma. Reflecting on television news coverage in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Pat Aufderheide observed that alongside the jingoistic rallying cries to war ran a ‘therapeutic patriotism’, with news networks assuming ‘a therapeutic role as grief counsellor … nurturing insecure viewers who had been stripped of their adult self-assurance by the shock of the attacks’ and providing ‘emotional reassurance’ (2001). This therapeutic patriotism gave shape to news coverage of the cycles of funerals, eulogies...

  11. Torture
    (pp. 125-144)

    At a press conference held six days after 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney stated:

    We’ll have to work sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies ... it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal basically, to achieve our objectives (Ouoted in Froomkin 2005).

    The ‘dark side’ refers to the clandestine operations that...

  12. The Iraq War
    (pp. 145-161)

    On 14 September 2001, US congressmen and senators voted almost unanimously to grant George W. Bush the power to wage war in response to the 9/11 attacks, with the invasion of Afghanistan quickly following. The subsequent extension of the ‘war on terror’ to Iraq in 2003 was preceded by a public relations campaign that claimed Saddam Hussein’s regime was a threat to US security (through its development of chemical and nuclear weapons, as well as its relationship with al-Qaida). Arguably, the cycle of patriotic war films, includingWe Were Soldiers,Behind Enemy LinesandBlack Hawk Down, which were produced...

  13. History
    (pp. 162-180)

    A central thread through this book is the question of the place of 9/11 in history. Jacques Derrida observed that the term ‘9/11’ quickly become a way of marking the attacks as a ‘singular’ and ‘unprecedented’ event, thereby signifying that the attacks somehow existed outside of, or beyond, history (see Habermaset al. 2003: 85–6). In the same vein, David Simpson argues that 9/11 was ‘widely presented as an interruption of the deep rhythms of cultural time, a cataclysm simply erasing what was there rather than evolving from anything already in place, and threatening a yet more monstrous future’...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 181-186)
  15. Filmography
    (pp. 187-192)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-205)
  17. Index
    (pp. 206-208)