Timothy Barnard, visiting assistant professor of film studies at the College of William & Mary, recalls not only the imbroglio over the “Spider-Man” poster, but a tweak made to the film post-9/11. The filmmaker added a scene in which New Yorkers rally around their favorite wall-crawler.
“You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us,” a fiery New Yorker tells the Green Goblin, the film’s supervillain.
That epitomized the industry’s way of incorporating 9/11 into its content, what Mr. Barnard calls “stealth rah-rah.”
Films like “Master and Commander,” plus more recent films like the “Transformers” trilogy and “Battle: Los Angeles” integrated elements of good vs. evil without making the connections overt.
It’s not exactly what presidential adviser Karl Rove had in mind when he approached Jack Valenti, then head of the Motion Picture Association of America, in November 2001. Mr. Rove hoped to gin up a repeat of Hollywood’s response to World War II, but the effort never gained traction.
Steve Holzer, executive producer and show runner of original programs at Reelz Channel, says one reason for Hollywood’s uneasy reaction to 9/11 boils down to the new revenue paradigm.
“We are a completely global entertainment medium now,” Mr. Holzer says. “That made it very difficult for Hollywood to make movies that support any sort of war effort.”
During World War II, entertainment producers could get away with using derogatory words to define the enemy. That no longer is possible, he says.
“You have to be careful,” he says. “Don’t infuse or spark anger or riot against someone who is not responsible.”
Jason Apuzzo, conservative filmmaker and editor of Libertas Film Magazine, says politics clearly played a role in Hollywood’s initial reaction to 9/11.
“Their primary response [to 9/11] was to ignore it,” Mr. Apuzzo says. But that appears to be changing, witness the upcoming film on Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of Navy SEALs due for release next year, as well as director Peter Berg’s adaptation of “Lone Survivor,” a film detailing the hunt for a Taliban leader.
“As the baby boomers start to retire off the scene in Hollywood, it’s becoming less of a factor,” Mr. Apuzzo says of the industry’s politically charged greenlighting process. “Younger people are not as hesitant about dealing with this issue.”