Lia Paradis and Brian Crim met at Rutgers University in the late ’90s as graduate students in the History Ph.D. program. She studied all things British Empire and Brian went even darker by focusing on 20th century Germany and the Holocaust. While they loved talking history and politics, Lia and Brian discovered a shared love of pop culture – film, good television, sometimes bad television. Unsurprisingly, their favorites tackled historical subjects. Is the representation accurate? Does it need to be? What does said film or TV show tell us about our own period, ourselves? These conversations were pleasant distractions from the grind of grad school. But, duty called and pop culture took a back seat to dissertations, careers, etc . . .
Twenty years later Lia had the bright idea to revisit this shared love and make a podcast just about history and pop culture. Why can’t two established historians with decades of teaching and research experience speak confidently about the intersection of history and cultural representation? That’s for you to decide, but we are having fun.
Hollywood has probably never made a movie or TV show with a historic setting that wasn’t really talking about the time when it was made. MASH – the movie and the TV show – was set in the Korean War, which was history by then, so that they could talk about the Vietnam War – which was a current event.
So we decided that in this first season of Lies Agreed Upon, we would look at how another event that had a huge impact on the American psyche – 9/11 – was processed through film and TV. Even two decades later, the influence of 9/11 can be found on screens big and small. It might seem as if it’s about the Spartans and the Persians, but 300 is really about 9/11. It might seem like Steven Spielberg is telling the story of how Israel avenged the murder of their athletes at the 1972 Olympics, but Munich is really about – you guessed it – 9/11.
It makes a lot of sense that writers and directors would want to steer clear of directly taking on 9/11. For a long time, the industry didn’t really know how to deal with it.
The truth is, history is seldom anything people agree upon and that is certainly the case with 9/11. For years, anything explicitly about 9/11 was criticized for being “too soon”, so that was one reason to try and find an indirect way to talk about it. Also, some writers and directors wanted to criticize American society and the government whose behavior and policies contributed to the event, but they didn’t want to be criticized as un-American, or ‘providing aid and comfort to the enemy’. And of course, other creative types wanted to capitalize on the huge box office potential of post-9/11 flagwaving, but they didn’t want to be branded as racists and militarists.
All of the movies and tv shows that we’re going to look at fit into these categories somehow. So let’s get started.