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Alien terrorists: public discourse on 9/11 and the American science fiction film


Frank, Michael C (2011). Alien terrorists: public discourse on 9/11 and the American science fiction film. In: Hammond, Philip. Screens of terror: representations of war and terrorism in film and television since 9/11. Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk: abramis academic publishing, 149-169.

Abstract

When witnesses on the scene of the 11 September 2001 attacks in Manhattan stated that the event had seemed “like a movie,” Roland Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster "Independence Day" was among the most frequently mentioned films. The perceived analogy between the incidents of 9/11 and the alien invasion genre not only concerned the affected targets – American landmark buildings – but also the perpetrators, whose radical alterity was strongly emphasized in official discourse. The cinematic analogy soon extended to the domain of real politics: traces of science fiction may be detected in the very concept of the “alien terrorist” itself. Against this background, it is striking that one of the first high-budget Hollywood productions that was explicitly marketed as a 9/11-related film chose the alien invasion genre to reflect the anxieties of present-day America: Steven Spielberg’s "War of the Worlds" (2005) uses the figure of the sub-human invader as an allegorical substitute for real-life threats and foes, thereby shifting the focus away from both the actual perpetrators and the complex political prehistory of the attacks. When seen within the framework of alien invasion, the attacks remain as incomprehensible as their “alien” perpetrators.

Abstract

When witnesses on the scene of the 11 September 2001 attacks in Manhattan stated that the event had seemed “like a movie,” Roland Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster "Independence Day" was among the most frequently mentioned films. The perceived analogy between the incidents of 9/11 and the alien invasion genre not only concerned the affected targets – American landmark buildings – but also the perpetrators, whose radical alterity was strongly emphasized in official discourse. The cinematic analogy soon extended to the domain of real politics: traces of science fiction may be detected in the very concept of the “alien terrorist” itself. Against this background, it is striking that one of the first high-budget Hollywood productions that was explicitly marketed as a 9/11-related film chose the alien invasion genre to reflect the anxieties of present-day America: Steven Spielberg’s "War of the Worlds" (2005) uses the figure of the sub-human invader as an allegorical substitute for real-life threats and foes, thereby shifting the focus away from both the actual perpetrators and the complex political prehistory of the attacks. When seen within the framework of alien invasion, the attacks remain as incomprehensible as their “alien” perpetrators.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:5 September 2011
Deposited On:05 Aug 2019 08:34
Last Modified:07 Apr 2020 07:21
Publisher:abramis academic publishing
ISBN:978-1-84549-501-5
OA Status:Green
Related URLs:http://www.abramis.co.uk/books/bookdetails.php?id=184549501 (Publisher)

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