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.