The 9 Most Offensive 9/11 References in Pop Culture
Sept. 11, 2001 scarred our national psyche. Even today, it provokes impassioned responses across the political spectrum. It's important to treat this sensitive subject with delicacy and restraint, and we promise to do so, just as soon as we get finished showing you all these people who most certainly did not.
Towers Shrinking to Dodge Planes in European Ad
This is an ad for a French newsmagazine. The tagline is "Learn to anticipate."
The visual seems to suggest that the easiest way to prevent 9/11 would have been to construct the WTC towers shorter. We shouldn't have increased airport security, or paid more attention to our foreign intelligence, or maybe not trained and funded Osama bin Laden in the late 1970s; it all could have been avoided if we'd just quit at the 80th story.
What possible defense is there for this? "We, the French, were simply unaware that the planes were piloted by terrorists! We thought your planes just could not fly high enough to overcome your mighty buildings!"
"This is why we build plane-holes into our towers."
This ad is clearly implying that, had the buildings been shorter, the terrorists would have simply continued their flights unabated, like they stole the planes in the first place only to fulfill their long-held dreams of attending flight school. We don't want to make fun of all French people here, because this is just an isolated incident by a really stupid company, and also because we actually have a lot of respect for their military prowess and innovative whoremongering.
But this ad demonstrates a very shaky grasp of aeronautics, engineering, tact and even the loosest definition of sanity. Or maybe it's simply suggesting that we should have had the foresight to build magical squishy buildings -- ones that could comically shrink to duck under missiles. You know, looking back now, it's easy to come up with a solution like that, France. Everything seems clearer in hindsight. But the world was a much simpler place back then; we didn't know how bad we needed the squishiness. We just ... we didn't know.
If only we'd invested more money in Gak development.
WWF Sets Off 9/11 Times 100
The WWF (the World Wildlife Fund, though we will never read that and not think of wrestling) likes to point out that the 2004 Asian tsunami killed 100 times as many people as 9/11 did. And apparently it likes to do so with all the tact and dignity of a professional wrestler whose entire gimmick was eating children. The WWF suggests that we should respect nature more, which we guess seems reasonable. But it concludes that, in this particular case, the best way to respect nature is by donating money to save panda bears from extinction -- despite the fact that nature has expressed in no uncertain terms that it wants pandas dead like yesterday.
And at no point does th WWF's panda-saving initiative connect the tsunami to 9/11, planes, cities or indeed, any single aspect of this ad. It's like somebody built a dartboard with all the major tragedies of the past couple centuries written on it, closed his eyes, threw the darts and then built a Photoshop image out of whatever terms he hit. We're just lucky we didn't end up with a poster of Princess Di's corpse starting the Great Chicago Fire while they canceled Arrested Development in the background.
"Ooh! Let's also have vampire-JFK nailing zombie-Di from behind. That'll save a shit-stack of pandas."
Obviously, the ad caused considerable controversy when it leaked. The WWF admitted it commissioned the ads, but insisted it would never have approved it to run, even though it was later discovered that the ad had actually been printed, once, in a small Sao Paulo paper so the advertising firm responsible for it could submit it to advertising competitions. That's right -- someone published this image not in a crass attempt to catch the eye of the average consumer ... but because he thought it was so damn good he wanted critical acclaim for it.
The only way they could have been more aggressively misguided is if they'd made a live action version and screened it at the most prestigious film festival in the world. Which they totally did, screening the following ad at the Cannes film festival.
"Sacre Bleu! There are not enough awards in existence, to give us all we should win for this!"
The 10th Anniversary 9/11 Collector's Coin
If you don't immediately register a pop-up 9/11 collector's coin as tasteless and insulting, then you're probably only skimming this article in an Internet Explorer window crowded by tabs featuring Juice Tigers, chemtrail conspiracy forums and half a dozen TMZ stories. But somehow, it actually gets worse: The whole thing is also a massive scam. The coin makers even received an official censure from the U.S. mint after it came out, because they were charging $30 for about 25 cents worth of metal, and they donated absolutely none of their profits to relief or reconstruction efforts. The advertisements also claim that the coin is legal tender, endorsed by the government, which is true ... in Liberia.
And what is more American than Liberia?
9/11 Pig Roast Flier
A Saskatchewan politician wanted to hold a fundraising pig roast. But not just any pig roast! This would be a classy affair, one you'd be proud to take your morbidly obese mother to on her Formal Rascal.
We're just kidding. Canada doesn't allow fat people -- the Mounties have orders to harpoon on sight.
The man had everything planned out: the food, the entertainment -- he'd even arranged for an actual 9/11 firefighter to speak at the dinner. Now, after going to all this work, he understandably wanted to advertise the event. It also seemed appropriate to somehow mention the presence of the heroic firefighter and the tragedy he'd survived. While separately, these both seem like reasonable enough desires, the way he combined them wound up raising a few eyebrows:
Please notice two things: One, that this is the second annual 9/11 pig roast, and two, that the words "pig roast" are tactfully placed just above the flames that would eventually kill several heroic firefighters ... and policemen.
Ground Zero in Pokemon Black and White
Pokemon Black and White introduces a new game environment, a bustling metropolis based on New York City. That's not just us saying that: "[D]irector Junichi Masuda revealed that Unova (Isshu) was modeled after New York City; the games' Castelia City takes the place of Lower Manhattan and the Sky Arrow Bridge serves as a stand in for the Brooklyn Bridge."
Neat, huh? Let's take a look at the map! So there's the Brooklyn Bridge, and there's Central Park, and there's Manhattan, and right below is ...
So, how does Pokemon choose to depict the sensitive, emotionally charged setting of Ground Zero, a literal scar on our greatest city, left by our nation's most profound contemporary tragedy?
This is still closer to a tasteful memorial than every Toby Keith song combined.
Obviously, they can't say the devastation was caused by terrorists. So they concocted a story about a falling meteor -- an object of unspeakable power that was quarantined by the government and is now being coveted by Team Plasma. Even weirder, another meteor dropped this Pokemon near the city.
Why do we bring him up? Take a look at his Wiki article. His official height is given as 9 feet 11 inches.
So, hey kids, gotta catch 'em all! Especially that new, super-rare Pokemon that is both the very embodiment of and directly responsible for 9/11.
Cigarette companies have a long, morally dubious history of using manipulative images to make their products stand out. And they've suffered the shit storms for it throughout the years, so it's great to see that the anti-smoking lobby has finally caught up in the tasteless exploitation race.
It's so obvious when you think about it: two cigarettes, parallel, both lit. Cigarettes kill people, and 9/11 killed people -- the perfect connection! It sends a clear and concise message: "If you smoke, you're a 9/11!"
We're not certain, but we think the patch qualifies you as a Flight 93.
We're not surprised that somebody got it in his head to exploit a national tragedy, and we're sadly not even surprised that it's the anti-smoking lobby. We are pretty surprised, however, that somebody thought this was a good enough idea to run ... in two separate campaigns.
The Official FEMA 9/11 Coloring Book
Therapy is essential in helping everybody, but especially children, process traumatic experiences. It's simple: Returning to a disturbing memory in a safe context helps you come to terms with it. Presumably that's what FEMA was going for when it produced the accurately titled children's book, A Scary Thing Happened. But while the theory is sound, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Like, for example, maybe they didn't have to make it a coloring book:
Notice that the artist crams not one, not two, but three 9/11s into a single image -- the fabled Triple Giuliani! At no point in the making of this thing -- from the brainstorming to the writing to the actual artistry - did somebody ever stop for one second and consider the implications of asking children to hand-color in images of the flames that burned many actual, real people alive:
Understandably, some people had a problem with the picture, and FEMA eventually took it down. Which is a shame, because if our children can't smear crayons over squiggly depictions of national tragedies, then haven't the terrorists won already?
Remember Me is the first romantic dramadey featuring Twilight guy and teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson, wherein he broke from the fantasy roles that made him a star to give a daring performance ... as teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson. It was a pretty conventional movie. Here we have a sexy shower scene where even the characters complain how cliche it is:
And here we have the father/suitor showdown:
Standard stuff: Handsome male lead, quirky but pretty female lead, a few selections from the bittersweet indie romantic comedy playbook, love conquers all ... and then the film's climax makes a sharp left turn into tactless absurdity:
Just keep with it -- it's only a minute long. Done?
We'd like to reiterate, at this point, that up until the last minute of run-time, the movie never alluded to, nor even hinted at, a connection to 9/11. An hour or so of heartfelt romantic comedy, and then BAM!
Not pictured: Tact.
You got 9/11'ed.
But really, it's the only logical culmination of the Nicholas Sparks "last-minute tragic twist" romance formula. What's more tragic than Alzheimer's disease? Cancer. And what's more tragic than cancer? September goddamn 11th! Way to step up your game, guy who previously directed nine episodes of Sex and the City. Nobody can mock your shallow storytelling and callous, superficial characters now that you've 9/11'ed the shit out of Robert Pattinson. That's probably deep somehow!
Nothing shows solemn respect like CGI.
9/11 Candy Toys
You know those big bags of candy you find in dollar stores, filled up with off-brand Smarties and little plastic objects that seem more likely to simultaneously asphyxiate and poison children than to amuse them? In the summer of 2004, Lisy Corp. had to recall a whole bunch of those inane, chintzy little doodads because they supposedly included two politically insensitive toys. The first one was a little plastic airplane suspended between two purple skyscrapers:
Honestly, after what we've seen in this article, that's not that bad. It was probably just another misunderstanding that people got touchy about, one of those things that only looks bad in context. It could honestly just be a plane flying through a city. Now, here's the other toy included in the package:
"Oh, that? What? It's a ... uh ... bearded, turban-wearing King Kong! No? Well, shit: You're reduced to buying dollar-store candy, so we just figured you'd be with us on this whole death-to-America thing."
Fletcher is a freelance writer. His book Trigger, a memoir of video games, bad sex and crippling mental illness, is due this fall from St. Martin's Thomas Dunne imprint.
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For more inappropriate advertising, check out As Seen on TV: The 10 Most Laughably Misleading Ads and 12 'Sexy' Ads That Will Give You Nightmares.
And stop by Linkstorm to see more mind-boggling inappropriateness.
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