A few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, TIME Magazine predicted the age of irony, in which "the good folks in charge of America's intellectual life have insisted that nothing was to be believed in or taken seriously," had finally come to an end. "In the age of irony, even the most serious things were not to be taken seriously. Movies featuring characters who 'see dead people' or TV hosts who talk to the 'other side' suggested that death was not to be seen as real."
And in the immediate aftermath, there was definitely a feeling in that we had to get serious. Serious in politics; serious in relationships; serious in finding purpose in our lives. But irreverence was far from dead.
The truth is, we don't take our cues from politicians, terrorists or, if we're being perfectly honest, from journalists. We take our cues from culture. After an indescribably agonizing experience, we looked to Saturday Night Live to let us know it was okay to start laughing again. During the Concert For New York City and the Concert For America, we looked to our pop icons to know it was okay to cheer again. Movies like Reign Over Me reassured us that it was okay to maybe not be fully recovered years after the event took place, and documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11 reassured us that it was okay to question how things might have happened differently.
But art also has a funny habit of imitating life: Chandler and Joey's fridge had an American flag sticker in Friends episodes filmed after the attacks; the country entered a war on terrorism without directly addressing the 9/11 attacks on the West Wing; and the FX show Rescue Me (which saw its final episode air this past week) dramatized the post-traumatic lives of New York firefighters.
The entertainment industry changed after 9/11, for better or worse, if only to realize how essential irreverence actually was in our lives: It helps us cope; it helps us escape; it helps us laugh; and it helps us think.
Right after the attacks, though, Hollywood changed specific projects, revamping movies incorporating images of the World Trade Center, involving terrorist plots or simply taking place in New York.
Altered: The original trailer for Spider-Man was pulled from movie theaters because it showed the title character capturing a helicopter between the Twin Towers.
The Sopranos edited images of the World Trade Center out of their opening credits. Sex and the City modified the credits and used different shots of the WTC.
Zoolander, Kissing Jessica Stein and Serendipity were re-edited to downplay or remove images of the World Trade Center altogether.
Men In Black II's original climax took place at the World Trade Center. It was re-shot and changed to the Statue of Liberty.
Images of the Twin Towers were edited out of the poster for Sidewalks of New York, but the shots remained in the film.
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The original version of the Married...with Children episode "Get Outta Dodge" included a a scene of two Arabs with a ticking bomb asking Al Bundy if they could buy his car for $40 and get directions to the Sears (now Willis) Tower. After 9/11, the scene was edited out.
Added: Law & Order SVU inserted a new voice-over for the first couple of episodes of its third season that dedicated the season to 9/11 victims and their families.
Pulled From Syndication: The Simpsons: "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson," which was partially set at the World Trade Center, was pulled for a while in some areas.
Canceled: Nosebleed, a Jackie Chan movie about a World Trade Center window washer who discovers a terrorist plot to bomb the Statue of Liberty.