By Anna

A few weeks ago I found out the ending to Robert Pattinson’s recent blockbuster Remember Me. (Spoiler alert, for all you Pattinson acolytes). Sad to say, the film ends with RPattz aboard one of the 9/11 planes! Exclamation point indeed, because I couldn’t unpack my shock. What is a film like “Remember Me” doing with a 9/11 ending?

I told friends, co-workers, and people in the grocery store check out lane the horrifying news, but no one seemed nearly as disturbed as I was. Thankfully, Rolling Stones’ Peter Travers reiterated my annoyance in his 50-word review deeming the film’s ending “offensive.” Alas, someone on my side.

I’ll be honest up front, I never saw the film, and really should before this essay goes much further. But the point I hope to make goes beyond the plot of Remember Me.

How do we portray the pain of others without exploitation?

Initially my answer was that only artists have the right to horrific events, but who’s going to stop the Pattinsons and Picoults of this world from expressing titillating experiences? Who am I to stamp them as non-artists? Thus, I must first establish why the masses need these events portrayed, and then I will be able to take these “artists” to the chopping block.

We can’t help but be a “society of spectacle” because we have been attracted to mutilated bodies, war, and devastation since Plato’s era. In The Republic Plato writes about Leonitus’ attraction to freshly executed bodies:

“He struggled for some time and covered his eyes, but the desire was too much     for him. Opening his eyes wide, he ran up to the bodies and cried, ‘There you are,        curse you, feast yourself on this lovely sight.’”[1]

I love, in a grotesque and putrid way, the 9/11 footage and the depictions of the sinking Titanic because it gives me sense of adrenaline and urgency for something I will never experience. What would it be like to be aboard that ship? Could I take down a hijacked plane for the survival of others?

Susan Sontag, in her book Regarding the Pain of Others said, “There is the satisfaction with being able to look at the image without flinching. There is the pleasure of flinching.”[2] Humans crave the physical pleasure shock and awe films, novels, and TV give, but it is the job of films, novels, and TV to improve actual events in part because they need to make money and therefore must entertain us for X amount of time, but also because in order to understand the event’s impact on the world an emotional hyperbole must take place through an embellishment of reality. The job of the filmmaker is also to not exploit the sentiment of reality through mindless, mechanical reenactment.

Sontag understands the need for replaying horrifying experiences because “people want to weep. Pathos, in the form of narrative, does not wear out.”[3] But with her endorsement comes caution for the sake of those a part of the event and for those watching. With every re-creation of a horrible spectacle comes a further numbing of society.

For what it’s worth, Remember Me didn’t do too well at the box office, and few critics were fond of the ending, but we live in a society constantly tipping on the edge of exploitation and Remember Me is as close to exploiting 9/11 as the media has come in awhile; luckily, few Americans took the bate.

Quick reviews from the movies I saw this week:

The African Queen

The African Queen depicts the absurdity of missionary ignorance in the mid-20th century. It’s a classic Hepburn comedy, but less quippy than most of her previous films. However, if you like Hepburn and are interested in a strange Bogart role, this film is for you.

The Hurt Locker

From Mark Boal’s experiences embedded in Iraq comes the first Iraq war film worth watching. Director Katheryn Bigelow creates empathetic suspense that is just as suspenseful upon the second viewing. Everyone should see this film with an understanding of war’s addictive capabilities. I love the close shots, the company’s bickering dialogue, and the soundtrack.


[1] Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Picador. 2003. Print. P. 96-7.

[2] P.41.

[3] P. 83.

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