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date: 11 April 2021


  • Jeffrey Melnick


Almost immediately after four hijacked planes crashed on 11 September 2001 conversations started about how the tragedy should be understood in the context of popular culture. Discussions about violence and popular culture also arose, seemingly fed not only by the basic truth that 11 September was a day of terrible carnage but also by the notion that the mode of attack was inextricablae from visual codes developed by Hollywood. During the first weeks after 9/11, numerous commentators insisted that Americans would be shaken out of their consumer habits and refuse to pay to see violent movies: it quickly became clear that music would play a special role as a cultural first responder on this new landscape.

Along with widely-circulated photographs and the New York Times series of impressionistic biographical life stories (“Portraits of Grief”) popular song became the most widely-accepted “authentic” vehicle for commemorating American loss and expressing the grief and confusion that ensued after the attacks. For months and years after 9/11 popular musicians in the United States attempted to provide efficient articulations of American attitudes in the wake of the attacks. Two key television programs in the months following 9/11 capture the general outlines of the cultural industries’ responses to the tragedy. On ...

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