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Opinion | Hollywood may have overstepped several boundaries with Zero Dark Thirty

Nicole's NOtes

Columnist

Published: Monday, January 14, 2013

Updated: Monday, January 14, 2013 22:01

As I sat in the dark, crowded theater watching the new film Zero Dark Thirty play before me this past Friday, I felt uneasy and unsure about something. The controversial film depicts the “true” story of how the infamous Osama Bin Laden was found and killed by American forces back in May of 2011. As my fellow moviegoers cheered when the screen showed U.S. forces raiding the compound at which Osama Bin Laden was hiding, I could not help but think to myself, is this actually benefiting our country?

The scenes of the CIA water-boarding prisoners were hard enough to watch, but what was harder to watch was the way the movie was filmed and told. It was filmed documentary style, showing the director’s point of view of what life is like in Pakistan and Afghanistan when U.S. forces and the CIA were present. Most people sat there complacent, accepting this view face value. Many people, including myself, do not know what life is really like there. Some would rather just accept this view even though it may not be accurate. Original phone calls from the Sept. 11 attacks were played, and a wave of sadness and unrest hit me and the rest of the room suddenly. This is when I realized that Zero Dark Thirty might become a catalyst for hatred and further violence involving racism on both the American side and the Middle East.

My thoughts raced as I remembered how the Middle East reacted to the anti-Islam film in September. Zero Dark Thirty could upset the Middle East with its graphic scenes of their men and women being killed by U.S. soldiers. We are often so quick to buy into the hype of movies that are “based on a true story” that we don’t often question the consequences of their wide spread popularity unless it directly affects us. To Americans, seeing people being murdered or killed is quite the norm in Hollywood movies, but to more conservative countries this may not be the case.

Many Americans who will watch this movie will possibly feel hatred towards those who attacked us as they listen to the frantic 911 calls from those trapped in the towers on 9/11. I did; it was impossible not to. Is it actually healthy for our country to essentially rehash what happened in a graphic, documentary style movie? We should always remember what happened and honor the victims and families of 9/11 and those who fought in the Iraq war, but Hollywood should be careful not to cross a fine line. Where I just felt angry and sad during the movie, another normal citizen may act upon their perpetuated hatred and take it out on innocent people, as events have shown quite recently in the United States.

Hollywood is not the reason violence occurs, but we cannot deny it may be a catalyst. When something as delicate as the relationship, or lack of, between Americans and people of the Middle East is depicted in Hollywood, there is of course going to be discussion on either side or possibly violence.

I have consistently heard those around me call people who may look or act like they are from the Middle East derogatory names or worse, say they are probably “terrorists”. Zero Dark Thirty may possibly reinforce this racism, because it is in fact racism. Some will leave the movie feeling hopeful for the future and others will be leaving with more hatred for the Middle East and Al Qaeda than ever before.

To fix the perception of average Americans from a Middle East standpoint, and to fix the perception of the Middle East from an American standpoint since 9/11 may be impossible. However, movies, literature and television can educate both sides and stop reinforcing biases. Not every person from the Middle East is in Al Qaeda and agrees with terrorism, which many Americans do not understand. Imagine someone with this ideology being essentially armed with a Hollywood movie like Zero Dark Thirty; it is a recipe for further discrimination and hatred.

There is also a clear difference between a documentary, and a movie filmed like it is a documentary. Though the filmmakers were in contact with the CIA, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is completely accurate. Mike Morell, acting director of the CIA, released a statement on the agency’s website stating that the “CIA interacted with the filmmakers through our Office of Public Affairs but, as is true with any entertainment project with which we interact, we do not control the final product,” according to a TIME Magazine article.

Movies like Zero Dark Thirty will not stop being produced, but what Americans can do is research and educate themselves on such topics beforehand to decrease discrimination and realize what is true and what isn’t. As citizens, it is our responsibility what we do with the media that is presented to us. By asking questions and doing formative research this may help eliminate biases, discrimination, and essentially inform consumers of what they should expect from the media and what they shouldn’t.

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