Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, artisans and entertainers on both a local and national level have been trying to determine whether their work is appropriate.
Barely 24 hours after the attacks, announcements of rescheduled events or release dates were in the news. The Emmys have been postponed twice. Several films have been moved from their original release dates. Many projects under development were permanently held because their content either mirrored the attacks or could possibly offend a more sensitive America.
The most prophetic of which was the cover of Party Music, the forthcoming album by hip-hop group The Coup. Originally designed in May, the cover, which depicts the group's roster detonating the World Trade Center, was at the printer Sept. 11. That following weekend, a new cover was designed. The album's content was not changed.
Toni Isabella, the manager of The Coup's label, 75 Ark Entertainment, said the cover's original intent was to critique capitalism, but Sept. 11 recontextualized its meaning too significantly to ignore. "No one would be able to see past the image to understand its point," she said. "There wouldn't have been any point to try to keep the image because people would not be able to get the point."
Isabella said the label is adamant about its roster's artistic freedom, but the attacks pushed the label into a uncharted territory. "Pretty much groups on our label can do what they want, but it's easy to say they can do what they want until they can't," she said.
The coincidences don't stop there. "Queen and Country," an espionage comic published monthly by Oni Press, was focusing its next three issues on the Taliban. The story focuses on the Taliban's treatment of women and funding the group has received from the United States. Writer Greg Rucka turned in the script for the story line's first installment in June and the final one Sept. 5.
Shortly after the attacks, Rucka and the Oni staff decided to run the story line as planned. "(The Taliban) was already a heavy issue, but with all that's going on, I think now, more than ever, we all need to be aware of what is really happening over there," said Jamie Rich, Oni's president. "These are not good people. It's a shame that it took what it did to get that fact out there a little more."
Decisions like those made by Isabella and Rich are occurring across the nation, and local artists have been placed in similar dilemmas. Deep Dish Theater's "Cat's Paw," which premiered prior to the attacks, focused on the minds of two terrorists. Although the Sept. 3 show was canceled, artistic director Paul Frellick decided to continue the play through its Sept. 22 conclusion.
While he said the play didn't provide the escapism many wanted from the arts soon after Sept. 11, Frellick added that "Cat's Paw" also provided its audience understanding regarding the complexities of terrorism.
"That was one of those messages being swamped by anger and resentment and fear," he said.
The debate even reached UNC. WXYC staff discussed whether to remove certain songs from its playlist but decided to make no administrative decision. Each of the station's DJs was left to determine what was appropriate to play on-air, said Isaac Trogdon, WXYC's station manger.
Even works unrelated to the attacks were almost postponed. PlayMakers Repertory Company's "The Laramie Project," a play about the aftermath of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard, was almost rescheduled.
David Hammond, PlayMaker's artistic director, said he initially felt audiences didn't want to see a work that focused on the death of one person after the attack's mass destruction. "I believed in the play always, but I wondered if people wanted to see a very specific story about a very specific place," he said. But ultimately, Hammond decided continue the production.
In the chaos of determining what will and will not hold, the larger implications of the attacks --
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