To Exploit or Commemorate: Film and the Challenge of 9/11
By Jessica Silliman
Leslie Connor graduated from Santa Clara University in the
mid 1990s and had been working with a large-scale production
company for nearly ten years when she began to see a trend develop:
films exploiting real world, recent tragedies. Her company was
very well established and highly regarded within the production
industry, but a recent move had bothered her: The company had
agreed to do a trailer for a film about September 11. Although
the film itself was nothing more than any other film about past
tragedy (Vietnam, World War II, etc.) Leslie felt it was too
soon to be capitalizing on the recent tragedy.
"Some people didn't want anything to do with it because
they thought it was too grotesque to gain financially from a
loss that was so recent," said Leslie. Leslie struggled
with the choice of the company, but she didn't know whether
to question the company and its choices, or question the industry
as a whole and its motivations. She felt that either way her
voice would not be heard.
Plus, some of her colleagues agreed with the decision to make
the trailer. They felt that the film was not only necessary
for the country, but artistically relevant. The movie was helping
to advance the country's perception and to expose the realities
of the attacks. It was as commemorative as informative and allowed
those not living in New York to understand the nature of the
"Most people today wouldn't object to a film made about
WWII," said Leslie. "In that case they wouldn't accuse
filmmakers of capitalizing on people's pain and suffering."
But how soon is too soon? Leslie wasn't sure.
- What do you think are some differences between movies and
TV shows that exploit a tragedy and movies and TV shows that
appropriately deal with a tragedy?
- Do you agree or disagree with Leslie's decision not to share
her concerns with her colleagues in the company? What, if
anything, could she have said?
- Is this a legitimate claim to take to her boss or is this
something Leslie should lean to accept within the company
- Given Leslie's disagreement with her company's decision,
should she have resigned? Why or why not?
Jessica Silliman was a 2006-07 Hackworth Fellow at The Markkula
Center for Applied Ethics.