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"It's like a movie." This may have been the most-repeated reaction to last week's memory-scarring television footage of the September 11 attacks. Witnesses, both on the streets of Manhattan and from couches across America, had specific titles in mind when describing the horrors.

After he saw with his own eyes the devastation at the towers, Michael Specter of The New Yorker testifies, "I didn't feel that I was in any danger; I felt like an extra in a movie, waiting for Bruce Willis to come and save the day." "The movie comparisons came thick and fast," wrote Richard Littlejohn in Britain's The Sun. "Deep Impact, Armageddon, Airport, Air Force One, Die Hard, Con Air. Only this time there was no Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis or Nicolas Cage to save the day in the last reel. This was The Day The Earth Caught Fire."

The Chicago Tribune published a list of upcoming releases and television seasons slated for delays or cancellation due to the tragedies. This long but abbreviated list demonstrates a public ravenous for over-the-top violence, terrorism, and conspiracy-theories. It also shows just how central and symbolic New York's towers really were to the world. (Contrary to what previews have already promised, we won't see Spiderman webslinging between the WTC towers next summer.) All of this canceling and revising—Friends may even update its skyline for already-finished episodes—may well just be a momentary rush to save face. It may just be a temporary message that reads: "We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please be patient. We will return soon to our regularly scheduled program of hyperviolence and digitally animated devastation." But Greg Killday at The Hollywood Reporter remarks, "There are indications that in the wake ...

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September 2001

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