Thursday, June 30, 2005

It’s not War. It’s Extermination.

Various critics of the new War of the Worlds have interpreted it as an allegory of 9/11, citing in particular the way that the alien’s death ray turns human flesh into fine white ash. That observation may be fair enough, since Spielberg is an American and Americans understand everything that happens in terms of their own experience. If I were an Iraqi, however, I might venture a quite different take on the movie. The U.S. Army moves in hummers and tanks rather than in giant tripods and our air force doesn’t employ ray guns as far as we know, but we are the ones with the terrifying, invincible weaponry. Our drone aircraft and cruise missile can blow anybody to atoms, anywhere, at any time at the command of a distant operator. Our fuel-oil bombs can take out several city blocks at one time. I don’t know if it is more horrible to be vaporized by non-humans or burned to death by napalm. I do know, however, that the former monstrousness is in the realm of special effects while the later is a reality for whomever we chose to attack. So how do you suppose War of the Worlds will play in Tehran or Cairo?