15 Weirdest Ways 9/11 Popped Up in Pop Culture
The September 11 terrorist attacks were one of the most important cultural events in our lifetime, so it makes sense that it’s found its way into countless movies, books, and very special episodes. That doesn’t mean it belongs everywhere, though. Over the last 20 years, people have jammed those towers into some strange places.
8:46 lets you experience the attacks from inside the towers, if that’s something you wanna do for some reason. The virtual reality indie game is a minute-by-minute recreation from the perspective of an anonymous office worker who watches their coworker tearfully call their mom while another worker jumps from a window but somehow ends up feeling “like a particularly bizarre Call of Duty tutorial level.”
Spider-Man’s “Black Issue”
Two months after the attacks, Marvel released The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2, Issue 36, with a blank black cover and a story about all the Marvel heroes and even villains convening at Ground Zero, mostly to lament. Magneto lifts steel beams. Dr. Doom cries. It’s a lot.
In the 2011 episode “Back to the Pilot,” Family Guy sends its talking baby and dog back in time, inadvertently preventing the attacks to catastrophic results and therefore boldly arguing that 9/11 and the Bush administration were Good, Actually. After going forward, they find an apocalyptic wasteland in 2016, which is accurate enough, just not for the reasons they show.
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In a very special 2012 Veterans Day episode, an unknown 9/11 victim must be identified by the scientists, which mostly serves as an excuse for overwrought speeches. In one scene, the show’s only Muslim character delivers a furious lecture to a suddenly ignorant colleague, and then everyone agrees that all work must stop until they all dramatically share where they were that day, to the victim’s complete lack of benefit.
Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
The first Harold & Kumar film was about two stoners’ journey to their favorite fast food restaurant, so naturally, the sequel takes them to Guantanamo Bay, that notorious site of lighthearted hijinks, after they’re accused of being in cahoots with Al-Qaeda. Things get wacky, by which we mean sexual assaulty.
Song of Susannah
The sixth book of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is weird in a lot of ways (see: artificial succubus insemination), including some characters’ decision to store a magical object in a locker in the World Trade Center in 1999, which is, of course, later lost forever. Two other characters also meet Stephen King. Like we said, weird.
Yep, there was a Disney Channel Original Movie about September 11. Tiger Cruise is mostly about how much it sucks to be a military brat until it takes a hard left halfway through, when the passengers aboard a military family cruise find out about the terrorist attacks and Hayden Panettiere finds out her dad is actually pretty cool. Isn’t that what 9/11 is all about? Bringing families together?
If you’re only aware of Euphoria as a collection of reaction gifs, just know that the series begins with an in-uterus shot of Zendaya as a baby being born and then cuts straight to footage of the plane hitting the South Tower as some kind of deeply confusing metaphor. Zendaya then explains that she was born three days after September 11, as if that is supposed to mean anything, and suggests that immediately postpartum women watch CNN. It does not get less bizarre from there.
Having never really developed a strategy beyond “look how shocking we are,” Slayer released a song in 2006 called “Jihad” from the perspective of a September 11 terrorist that even included quotes from one of the hijackers. Pretty much everyone was unimpressed.
Blue Man Group
As part of their 2003 album, the little blue aliens released a spoken-word song and video called “Exhibit 13” based on scraps of paper that blew into Brooklyn after September 11. That’s nice and all, but was anyone begging for the Blue Man take?
Speaking of unnecessary takes, Uwe Boll adapted the video game Postal into a film in 2007. It featured scenes of the hijackers crashing into the North Tower by accident and Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush holding hands and skipping through a field, offending just about everyone.
The West Wing
If any TV show was equipped to handle September 11, it was The West Wing, but the episode “Isaac and Ishmael,” according to critics, was not it, as the kids say. The show’s characters spend much of the episode lecturing at the audience -- sorry, at the high school kids trapped at the White House -- because even in the face of historic tragedy, Sorkin gonna Sorkin.
The Osama Bin Laden Elephant
After an elephant killed 27 people between 2004 and 2006, the people of Assam began calling it Osama bin Laden. In fact, it became a running joke to name every murderous elephant after the terrorist leader, which is just insulting to elephants. Getting an elephant named after you should be an honor, no matter how much of an asshole they are. Was Pachymurderm taken?
Of course, 2006’s United 93 was based on real events, but one huge departure from history was the portrayal of the German businessman as cowardly to the point of treason, apparently just because his widow didn’t feel like reliving her experience for the producers. There’s no evidence the man acted against the other passengers, but there was also no one around to argue, and this plot needed more conflict, dammit.
The 2010 Robert Pattinson heartthrobber Remember Me is an otherwise run-of-the-mill romantic drama with a surprise 9/11 twist after Pattinson’s character is suddenly killed at the end in the attacks. After all, everyone knows declarations of love mean more if they’re immediately followed by a September 11.
Top image: Summit Entertainment