Not Everything Is About 9/11

I am not privileged to live on the East Coast of the United States. When I say, “privileged,” I use that word sincerely. New York seems like a beautiful place. Art and culture thrive there. The buildings are old, historic and architecturally significant. It sounds like a real paradise for an intelligent, socially aware individual such as myself. It’s so great and I’m so jealous that I might jump out of my 4th floor loft in Downtown Los Angeles and put myself out of my misery.

Let me clarify that if I went ahead and performed the act I just described, I would not be referencing or disrespecting the memory of September 11th, 2001. It would have absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 or the “Falling Man” who leapt from the doomed World Trade Center. I would be acting purely out of crippling depression over my inability to live in New York and be more relevant to my intellectual peers.

I feel terrible about what happened on 9/11. I remember vividly the moment when I learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center. I imagined I was floating in a large vat of barbeque sauce. Why barbeque sauce? Barbeque sauce is tangy and if I was floating in a vat of it, it would get in my eyes, sting them all to hell and make me cry just as much as I cried on 9/11.

When 9/11 happened, I was not thinking about a movie, TV show, album, painting, poem, book, pornographic DVD or religious doctrine. I am sure you are very curious as to what I was actually thinking about on 9/11.

I was thinking this:

“I am going to get drafted and I am going to die in combat.”

Conversely, when I see the new advertisement for the 5th season of popular television drama Mad Men, I do not think about 9/11, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, United 93, “Let’s Roll,” Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush or getting drafted and dying.

I think of Christina Hendricks.

I think about Christina Hendricks a lot. She is a gorgeous woman with a very unique and memorable body. Her character on Mad Men is laudable for portraying a convincing, strong and attractive career woman in the mid-1960s. I would like a wife very much like Joan Harris.

Joan Harris is Christina Hendricks’s character on Mad Men.

When I see the teaser poster for Season 5 of Mad Men, I get excited. The little falling man on the poster doesn’t remind me of the “Falling Man” from 9/11. He reminds me of the awesome opening credits of Mad Men. He reminds me of the pleasure I get from spending 47 minutes of my short, miserable existence as a sentient being on this insignificant planet consuming a trivial, mostly absurd television soap opera about hot people doing sexy things in vintage clothes.

There was nothing trivial or sexy or vintage about 9/11.

I believe we can all accept the preceding statement as true and not up for debate of any kind. This reality renders me incapable of accepting the sort of nonsensical “leaps of logic” (pun not intended, I assure you) taken by the same East Coast intellectuals I so wish I could share cocktail recipes with.

According to Tom Junod of Esquire Magazine: “Was the image a reference to [Richard] Drew’s photograph [of the Falling Man]? Absolutely. Did the entire show exist within the peculiar set of quotation marks that 9/11 furnished, and travel back 50 years in order to reckon obliquely with the last ten? It did, which accounts for the almost forensic nature of our fascination with it.”

The falling man in the opening credits of this television soap opera is about 9/11. It is “absolutely” about 9/11. There is no question, according to Junod and a consensus of intellectuals. It is not just a stylistic allusion to the work of Saul Bass. It is not particularly related to Don Draper’s rapidly deteriorating sense of identity within the television series.

No. It is about 9/11. “Absolutely.”

My conception of art is that art is something that stirs up questions, that forces a person to reevaluate their preconceived notions. Art is not “Falling Man = 9/11” or “Everything = 9/11.”

Mad Men is as much about 9/11 as Glenn Close Oscar bait vehicle Albert Nobbs is about 9/11. As in, “it is if you squint hard enough.”

As a corollary to the famous Infinite Monkey theorem that states “a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare,” I would say that a cultural critic given an infinite amount of time will almost surely find a connection between September 11th, 2001 and literally any piece of art made in the last 10 years.

Just because you can squeeze tenuous meaning out of a symbol, a gesture, a word, a sentence, a picture or a grunt does not mean that the meaning is absolute. If meaning were absolute in a piece of art, it ceases to have a necessary element of art. It does not give a person the chance to decide for themselves.

The next time you are at a McDonald’s, please order a Big Mac. Take that Big Mac and sit at the nearest table to the cash register. Please take a bite out of said Big Mac, chew for 10-15 seconds, but do not swallow. Then, get up from your seat, walk to the register and spit in the face of the cashier. As they attempt to make sense of your sociopathic behavior, mutter under your breath that the burger “reminded you of 9/11, because you had a Big Mac on 9/11.”

See if they apologize for offending you. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • Tune

    This post is so ranty and annoying. Leave this shit out of thoughtcatalog.

    • David Schilling

      Not sure how this is a ‘rant.’

      • Rowland Andrewj

        I think what he meant to say was that he “respectfully disagrees” but it came out as “asodilghakfgeaofheaf”.

        I grew up in DC an experienced 9/11 while here and now work for the DoD. I can say pretty much every aspect about my career is a direct result of 9/11. I definitely agree though that the parallels people draw between 9/11 and just about every fascet (sp?) of our culture is ridiculous. Mad Men, for starters, is about wondering if all people from that era were attractive and if so, just what the hell happened to Mom and Dad.

      • David Schilling

        I have no problem with respectful disagreement. I welcome it, actually.

        I think Mad Men is ultimately a diversion from reality, rather than a reflection of it. The dictates of television and mass media require a stylized, exciting product. It’s not real. It’s a funhouse mirror. Let’s enjoy it for what it is rather than trying to make it more grandiose. It’s ‘Dynasty’ in skinny ties.

    • Sunxofxnothing


    • Lilym

      omg stop it you are dishonoring the memory of 9/11.

      • Tune

        how am i dishonoring the memory of 9/11? look at the post above that you commented on.

      • David Schilling

        She’s being sarcastic…

      • Lilym


  • Mecarriere

    Thank you! This should also go for people who equate songs from forty years ago as being some sort of prophetic ballad of 9/11.

    • David Schilling

      Someone out there thinks ‘Waterloo’ by ABBA is about 9/11.

      • Rose

        Wait, it’s not???

      • Anonymous

        OK. It is…

      • Rose

        It’s also pretty obvious that Elton John wrote “The Bitch is Back” about capturing Osama Bin Laden. You know, as a follow-up.

      • Anonymous

        What a great time in music that was.

  • Anonymous

    Ew. McDonalds.

  • newyorker

    This piece is incoherent. If there is a logical point in there it’s completely lost.

    • David Schilling

      The point is that you’re wrong about everything.

  • fwwwwan

    this is whiny and bratty. give empathy a try.


    • David Schilling

      What does empathy have to do with my thesis?

  • Jndkd

    “I am not privileged to live on the East Coast of the United States. When I say, “east coast” of course I mean new york”

    Roll my eyes, let it go

    “I’m so jealous I might jump out of my fourth story window. Not to disrespect the victims who had to do the same thing on 9/11″… Not to be punny, but there are very few people who would read “jump out of my window” and leap to the conclusion that you must be talking about 9/11. Couldn’t make it past that.

    • David Schilling

      I couldn’t make it past the point in your comment where you misquoted me.

      • RunningWilde

        You’re good at taking criticism and recognizing paraphrasing. It was pretty obvious that those phrases weren’t intended to be direct quotes, though maybe ‘these’ would have been better.

      • David Schilling

        I like [these] or {these} or these or

      • David Schilling

        Also I am good at a lot of things.

  • Scott

    One time in college, we put together a huge party with like 20 live bands playing on both sides of a townhouse duplex.  It was on 9/11/2008 and we called it Never Forget Fest and everyone wore ironic ultraAmerican clothing and got really drunk on Budweiser and we chanted U-S-A a lot and we called one side of the duplex Tower 1 and the other Tower 2.  Other folks in the college town have continued the tradition since then and its always wild.

    What I’m saying is that 9/11 is really fun for me.

    • Guestropod


      • Scott

         lol there was a shitty party across the street that we called building 7.

      • Anonymous

        Why was it called ‘Building 7’?

      • Scott

        that was the other building that collapsed besides the two towers.

      • Anonymous

        But why was it #7?

      • Scott

         oh shit. were there 4 more? besides those other two?

  • BB

    I’m glad someone had the balls to say this.  

    Your argument that these posters are not about 9/11 does not trivialize or disrespect what happened on that day.  If anything, the incessant barrage of 9/11 parallels does the day a disservice–dilution via regurgitation.  It’s hardly an insult for these posters to not be about 9/11. 

    I agree with you completely.

  • rebecca

    I have never watched that show, but now I want too….I will have to tivo it or watch it on hulu.

    • Anonymous

      It’s on Netflix. All 4 seasons.

  • Joseph Brillantes

     “Just because you can squeeze tenuous meaning out of a symbol, a gesture,
    a word, a sentence, a picture or a grunt does not mean that the meaning
    is absolute. If meaning were absolute in a piece of art, it ceases to
    have a necessary element of art.” -> But don’t the meaning-makers acknowledge that the “tenuous meaning” they extract from art IS subjective? There is no “absolute” meaning in art.

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