In the wake of this week's tragic events, entertainment may be just about the last thing on our minds. The innocence of our luxuries--laughing heartily in a movie theater, dining out with friends or curling up with a good book--seems somehow adulterated. Obsessing over celebrity gossip, prognosticating about the fall film season and indulging other pastimes in the sphere of soft news stand naked in their triviality. The horrors of the past week have immobilized our great nation in a surreal freeze frame, and the entertainment community is no exception.
One needn't look any further than the streets of Manhattan for evidence. On New York City's most famous thoroughfare, the chorus of Broadway hibernated in silence. The city's famous theater community canceled all productions Tuesday and Wednesday. The daily spectacles of Times Square have all but vanished, and the hordes of screaming fans so common below MTV studios contrast strikingly with indelible images of fleeing civilians.
In Los Angeles, the television community postponed this Sunday's annual Emmy Awards celebration. In Miami, the music industry canceled the Latin Grammys, which had been scheduled for the fateful evening of September 11. Disney theme parks in California and Florida closed their gates, and tourist traps from Seattle's Space Needle to Philadelphia's Liberty Bell suspended operations.
While the nation digs itself out from the rubble of recent horrors, the redefined landscape of New York and beyond--both physical and otherwise--grows increasingly apparent. Aware of heightened sensitivity in the new climate, Hollywood studios have postponed release of two upcoming motion pictures featuring topics eerily reminiscent of recent events. Arnold Schwarzenegger's upcoming action thriller Collateral Damage--which includes scenes of a skyscraper bombing--and Tim Allen's Big Trouble--which depicts an explosive airline crisis--will no longer debut in theaters as planned this fall.
Undoubtedly, New York's significance in the entertainment industry is considerable. Home to thriving media and artistic communities, the city is a veritable nerve center of musical, theatrical and cinematic production. Additionally, New York ranks as the nation's most popular location shoot for television and film productions. Tragically, one witness of Tuesday's catastrophe recounted his initial assumption that the high-rise horrors in Manhattan's skies were part of an elaborate cinematic staging, a kind of "special effect."
But the hollow verisimilitude of big-screen blockbusters and Hollywood imagery has done little to prepare us for our current national reality. Perhaps we've been laughing too hard, unaware and unappreciative of our privileged position. Yet suddenly our world has changed: Today we can't walk out of the theater.