I won’t be seeing “United 93” in the theaters, but not for the reasons being discussed in the public square at the moment. Like most parents with younger children, I rarely see anything with a rating stronger than PG in the theaters. (My plan for this weekend: “Brokeback Mountain,” finally. I suspect the next movie we’ll be seeing in the dark with strangers will be “Akeelah and the Bee,” but never mind that.) I’m paying attention to the discussion of “United 93,” and as usual, I’m wondering why it seems only Ron Rosenbaum is paying attention:
Why is this the third film made about Flight 93? I’ve watched them all: There was last year’s Discovery Channel docudrama “The Flight That Fought Back.” Then there was this year’s A&E cable re-enactment, “Flight 93,” directed by one of George W. Bush’s college classmates (coincidence?). And now the major new Hollywood feature United 93, directed by Paul Greengrass. When the controversy over the trailer for the new film erupted recently, the question was, “Is it too soon?” I wonder if the question should be, “Are there too many?”
Yes, exactly. In fact, I watched the hijacking portion of “Flight 93” in, of all the grotesque places, the kitchen of a big fancy Grosse Pointe house, during an estate sale. Shoppers picked over the china and glassware while screams of panic erupted from the little TV on the counter. It was, how you say, a bit unsettling, especially since it appeared no one was paying attention to the show but me. (It’s hard for me to tune out TV; one of our household’s strictest rules is, if you’re not watching the TV, turn it off. I once interviewed a couple who’d recently won $9 million in the lottery. They seated me next to their ginormous new TV, which was left on throughout the interview, at considerable volume.)
Anyway, Rosenbaum is right. What’s all this “too soon” stuff? Doesn’t anyone pay attention to TV Guide anymore? Of course you can see why this is the latest, but most likely not the last — this story is as compelling, and as dreadful (as in “filled with dread”) as any in our history, and I suspect we’ll be chewing over it for generations.
I might watch when it comes around on cable, but based on the trailer, it might be a while before I can stomach even that. I still can’t look at 9/11 photos without feeling a lurch, and video of the second plane making impact still drops my jaw.
Actually, I don’t know how much I want to relive 9/11 and the aftermath. Writing this, I was just reminded of a column I read in the three-days-post time frame; I think it was by Mona Charen or Maggie Gallagher or one of those right-wing antifeminist lady scolds. The angle was, “Let’s hear it for men, because men aboard United 93 saved the Capitol,” and I think it went on to tie this all together with why women shouldn’t be in combat and blah blah blah. It even made a point of mentioning the detail about the stewardesses onboard Flight 93, who were said to be boiling water in the coffeepots to use as a weapon, and then dismissing it with a flip of the hand — well, that’s all very nice, but wouldn’t you rather be defended by a big strong man? I was a columnist and I remember 9/11, and I’m willing to forgive an awful lot of the crap that was said and written in the aftermath. We all went a little crazy. But I thought then, and I think now, that if you’re willing to climb to the top of a pile of 3,000 of your countrymen’s corpses to advance your stupid social agenda, you are beneath contempt.
For the record: I think a potful of boiling water to the face makes a fine weapon. It’s not like they were planning to hit the hijackers with their handbags, for god’s sake.
Anyway, the whole thing gets my stomach upset. So no “United 93” for me, not yet. Maybe later.