The Five Worst Pop-Culture Responses to 9/11

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This article soars on the wings of weeping eagles.

As we were putting together "The Five Best Pop-Culture Responses to 9/11," in honor of this weekend's anniversary, we were reminded of a depressing fact. In the wake of a national tragedy, some artists create thoughtful and interesting responses. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of others create exploitative, patriotic nonsense. These are the five worst pop-culture responses to 9/11. 

World Trade Center

1. World Trade Center, directed by Oliver Stone

Those who praised Oliver Stone's film acknowledged its clumsiness; those who hated it called it exploitative and grotesque. Either way, what could have been an honest look at the experiences of rescue workers on September 11 was instead a schmaltzy slog. It's dull, clichéd, and utterly hollow, and it cashed in on our memories of September 11 without giving us anything in return.


Toby Keith

2. "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)" by Toby Keith

Toby Keith's dreadful post-9/11 hit starts out reasonably enough, but by the time Keith reaches the refrain, patriotic fireworks have turned to nationalistic hellfire. "We'll put a boot in your ass/It's the American way" isn't just a laughably poor lyric: it's also a rather serious misunderstanding of what the phrase "American way" means. Keith has claimed writing the song took him twenty minutes, which, for a song this bad, seems a little long.


Darryl Worley

3. "Have You Forgotten?" by Darryl Worley

Another response to September 11 by an American country music star, Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" is both more sophisticated and more odious than "The Angry American." Toby Keith's knee-jerk militarism has been replaced by all-out advocacy for American war in the Middle East. The war's opponents, Worley argues, must have forgotten September 11 — as if that were the only possible reason to object to our sandy adventures abroad. This is a warmonger's guilt trip, and it was emblematic of the nation's toxic politics. (Oh, and Darryl, one tip: "forgotten" and "bin Laden" don't rhyme.)


Charlie Daniels Band

4. "This Ain't No Rag, It's A Flag" by The Charlie Daniels Band

The title of this Charlie Daniels single tells you everything you need to know. By the end of the first few verses, he's mocked the practice of wearing headscarves, explained that Americans "believe in God" (say what you will about Islamist terrorists, but they don't lack religion), and told "dirty" Arabs to crawl back into their "holes." As a response to 9/11, the song offers nothing that couldn't be gained from going down to the corner bar and listening to a bunch of drunk racists.


Remember Me

5. Remember Me, directed by Allen Coulter

Bad is when a movie ham-handedly manufactures pathos with a random third-act tragedy (remember Patch Adams?); worse is when that tragedy is September 11. I know that it's hard to get anyone over the age of fifteen to care about Robert Pattinson, but using September 11 as a cheap way to soup up your screenplay is reprehensible. Remember Me has nothing to say about September 11; it just exploits the events in an attempt to elevate teen melodrama into art.