Entertainment Wars: Television Culture after 9/11



After the attacks of September 11, traditional forms of entertainment had to reinvent their place in U.S. life and culture. The de rigueur violence of mass media—both news and fiction—no longer seemed business as usual. While Hollywood usually defends its mass-destruction ethos with claims to “free speech,” constitutional rights, and industrywide discretion (a la ratings systems), in the weeks following September 11 the industry exhibited (whether for sincere or cynical reasons) a new will toward “tastefulness,” as potentially trauma-inducing films like Warner’s Collateral Damage were pulled from release. On television, violent movies also came under network scrutiny. USA cancelled its primetime run of The Siege (which deals with Arab terrorists who plot to bomb New York). At TBS, violence-packed films like Lethal Weapon were replaced with family fare like Look Who’s Talking. TNT replaced its 1970s retro lineup of Superman, King Kong, and Carrie with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Grease, and Jaws (although exactly why the bloodsucking shark in Jaws seemed less disturbing than the menstruating teen in Carrie already begs questions about exactly what constitutes “terror” in the minds of Hollywood executives).1


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© Dana Heller 2005

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