9/11 in Popular Culture

When asking “What does 9/11 mean to you?” to an American, it is obvious that a person would receive a hundred different responses with a hundred different emotions. Because Americans have suffered the same blow to their system and conflicted with the same enemy, it is times like these that we turn to pop culture to understand the world through criticism, music, film, and art to have the normalizing guarantee that they are not alone. When responding to the tragedy of 9/11, several musicians, filmmakers, artists, and photographers gave the general public their perspectives as Americans using their vocation. Given similar responses to 9/11, filmmaker Michael Moore and musician Eminem show what 9/11 means using works they created.

At the time that 9/11 first occurred, it seemed as if many artists considered silence the only supportive and loyal response. But, after this silence then came anger and sadness with a need to voice this tragedy, like Michael Moore did. Moore is an American filmmaker and director of the 2004 documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11. The title of the film refers to the date of the terrorist attack and Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, which paints the United States as a dystopia. While “The Temperature at Which Freedom Burns” is the film’s tagline, the date of the attacks is also added to the title. The basic summary of this film is about the Bush Administration’s actions before and after September 11. It begins with the 2000 election and depicts how George Bush stripped the votes of African Americans, stole the election, and had relationships with the Saudi Arabian government, bin Laden family, and the Taliban. Moore then gives brief information about the September 11 attack, Bush’s reaction, and how he took action. Later, Moore focuses on the topics such as Bush’s Air National Guard service record, ulterior motives for the Afghanistan War, and the signing of the U.S.A Patriot Act.

Moore introduces 9/11 by showing live recordings of New York citizens’ devastating reactions while watching the planes crash into the World Trade Center. Moore continues to present 9/11 being the world’s largest terrorist attack happening on American soil. He completely bashed President Bush by stating that he was on vacation 42% of the time, did not take immediate action when told the terrorist attack news, and simply not devoting his time to this issue. While watching this film, you can easily infer Moore’s tone toward 9/11 happening, and President Bush was very angry immediately since the beginning. Since Moore was a critic of Bush himself, other critics received this film positively by stating that the film was extremely one-sided in its accusations regarding the Bush administration and believed it was definitely worth watching. The overall sentiment clearly left American watchers shocked, angered, and devastated for their country because of all the factual evidence and sensitive footage Moore obtained.

Marshall Bruce Mathers III, mostly known by his stage name Eminem, is

one of the most iconic and famous artists of our time. He has never been afraid to voice his opinions on topics. Eminem was often in the tabloids being criticized for his controversial views. He released the song “Mosh” in October 2004 before the American presidential election as a protest to sway voters from voting for George Bush and as a voice for the American citizens. The song starts off with children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, specifically referring to “One Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all” is brought to attention since Eminem believes the complete opposite is happening in his country.

In Eminem’s music video, he first presents 9/11 in the video by a plane crashing into a building as he is showing George Bush reading to a group of kids, in reference to the day of the terrorist attacks. Then continues the video with angry soldiers, which shows that he wanted to create anti-Bush and anti-war feelings in Americans. Eminem wanted listeners to reflect and harness their anger and direct it properly by coming together and going against violence. The critical reception of the public led people to believe that Eminem was a narcissist who wanted to lead Americans to liberation, the voting booth, and away from Bush’s violent tactics. In the song, Eminem hints that the government has been hiding information, which is why people should follow his idea and fight for their rights.

Generally, both Moore and Eminem wish to motivate Americans to stand up for their rights and inform how corrupt the system really is. The two artists are against the Bush administration, Bush’s poor control of the Iraq war, and how the Americans were not in control of their lives. Overall, their message is to advise their meaning of 9/11 and how other people should deserve to be informed as well as have a voice.


Corliss, R., Philadephia, D., Ressner, J., Baker, J., Rubiner, B., Dickerson, J. F., & Zagorin, A. (2004). THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MICHAEL. (Cover story). Time, 164(2), 62–70.

O’Rourke, Meghan. (2004) “Eminem Drops his Shady Act”. TheSlateGroup. 1–42.