While it is true that Stone’s acknowledgments of the Muslim perpetrators are subtle, as befits the personal focus of the story, they are unquestionably present. Cage’s character comments that though authorities planned for biological warfare and many other kinds of attacks, “Nobody planned for this.” The marine tells his coworkers, “"I don't know if you guys know it yet, but this country's at war,” and later calls them to say he’s reenlisting because, “It’s going to take good people to avenge this.” Police officers watching the carnage on television repeatedly curse “the bastards,” under their breath. And a postscript informs the audience that said marine will go on to further serve his country in two tours of duty in Iraq.
Such elements make it clear that while our enemies frame the narrative, this is not their story. It is America’s. It is not a moment to decry Al Qaeda’s actions, but to celebrate ours.
Still, given the continuing national debate over how best to defeat terrorism, arguments that Stone doesn’t do enough to highlight Islamo-fascism are at least understandable. But what to make of criticisms that indicate a bit of the same brand of paranoia Stone is famous for?
Writes Crouse, “I can’t help but wonder if the movie’s respectful treatment of people of faith is just another of the numerous recent attempts to prove that conservatives don’t have a monopoly on respect for religion -- paving the way for left-wing political victories in 2006 and 2008?”
This assessment seems unfair (and more than a little overly-suspicious) given that political affiliation is never mentioned in the movie. But it’s not nearly as unfair as conservative critic Debbie Schussel’s suggestion that the film “[Scores] one for extremist Islam in Hollywood,” or her subsequent attack in which she accuses the real-life Jimeno, McLoughlin, and their wives of selling out the other 9/11 victims for “a quick buck and fifteen minutes on ‘Entertainment Tonight’.” She then equates their willingness to work with known liberals like Stone and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal with “slapping the faces of those who died, while they were lucky enough to live and become starstruck.”
Considering that these are the same two men who nearly lost their lives entering the burning towers to rescue their fellow citizens, don’t we at the very least owe them the benefit of the doubt as to their motives? What purpose can be served by excoriating two genuine heroes for participating in a movie that does nothing but present a proud, hopeful portrait of America? It pains me to say it, but in this case, who is it putting politics above patriotism?
What influence can the Right hope to have on popular culture if we respond to even the most uplifting projects with cynicism, derision, and petty fault-finding? We can’t complain about mainstream entertainment lacking reverence for our faith and values if we offer only knee-jerk condemnations to a respectful, well-crafted film that gives us both.
Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All
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