Does Art Imitate Life?

With the news cycle still intent on the celebration of Osama’s “execution”, it’s hard to think of anything else. I made my feelings perfectly clear on the entire issue in yesterday’s post and there’s little news that has come to light that has done anything to change my mind. Still, it is my personal belief that the next step in this American celebration of “victory”, a term I use somewhat ironically, is truly one of the most heinous non-violent atrocities the American people could commit at this time.

The Hollywood movie.

For those not entirely up to date with their entertainment news, Hollywood has stepped in to gather the support (financial more than anything else) of the American public. That’s right, folks. The next big trend in Hollywood filmmaking? The hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, whose previous Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker was dangerously timid, has decided to produce a project which follows a special ops team. After news of Bin Laden’s death, the plot has since been switched to one of a more topical nature.

This is where Hollywood begins to scare me. Making entertainment out of news is one thing. In fact, sometimes, it’s really the only way to ensure that some people get the news at all. But when discussing something like the death of Osama Bin Laden which has been covered by almost every news outlet, the purpose is no longer education’s sake. It’s sheer enjoyment.

By Bigelow making a film about it (which will inevitably end up taking the better part of a year, so we’re looking at a 2012 release date more than likely) not only is she tapping into the current American public consciousness and their enjoyment of Bin Laden’s death, but she’s prolonging it. Not only prolonging it, but by quickly exploiting an event that has unified much of America, she’s pretty much already guaranteed box office returns.

Once again, this returns us to the disturbing reaction of the American public to this news. I understand some people are hesitant to use words like “enjoyment” in describing their reaction to Bin Laden’s death and I respect that. I understand some people would characterize it more as “relief” or even the general “well, I won’t miss him…” and they are entitled to that. Just as I’m entitled to be upset by the way the media is handling the news, they are entitled to feel relief. I don’t hold that against anyone. I’m talking about the people that have actually used terms “enjoy” or even “rejoice” when discussing Osama’s death. Those people disturb me. I wish i could understand the exuberance they feel, but I will admit that it is lost on me.

Still, those folks aren’t nearly half as upsetting as Hollywood’s treatment of Bin Laden’s death. I’m sure Bigelow will come out and say that she’s doing it because it’s an important part of American history and that’s her reasoning. To that, I have to say, history implies that it’s over. We’re talking about a story that isn’t even 48 hours old. That’s not history. That’s called current events.

No, what Hollywood is guilty of is sheer exploitation. It’s the commodification of a human life, no matter its value. After 9/11 happened (not even remotely the same thing, but still an undeniable element in the joy over Osama’s death) United 93 came out nearly 5 years later. Even then, some people felt that the movie came out too soon. With news of Osama’s death, there is an alarming absence of tact. I understand why, especially considering the numerous crimes he was guilty of, but we’ll be hard pressed to wait a year before we got some Hollywood sensationalized depiction of Osama’s death.

I certainly know how I feel about Osama as a person. He was a sad excuse for a human being but he was a human being nonetheless. You can’t take that away from him, even in death. What I’m uncertain about is what it means for our country to turn him into a legend, yet another Middle eastern bad guy depicted on the silver screen, and even worse, an undeniable box office draw.


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