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#The Zero Dark Thirty Controversy, Explained

#The Zero Dark Thirty Controversy, Explained

“Zero Dark Thirty” was immediately a lightning rod for controversy, inspiring a litany of examinations from critics and editorialists as to its accuracy, and, more importantly, its attitude about the war. The film was made, after all, during the Obama administration which oversaw the May 2nd, 2011 Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden. For many, this was the end of the conflict. A simple narrative formed: A bad man attacked America, we used some dodgy means of finding him, but find him we did, and he was executed by our military. Going back and delving into those dodgy means was not something everyone was so interested in, and the Toby Keiths of the world were validated.

During the length of the conflict, however, one might have noticed more and more images of torture leaking into popular entertainment, to the point where it was almost normalized. Hit shows like “24” (which debuted in November of 2001) regularly argued that torture was a swift and efficient way to obtain information. In 2004, the torture pictures from Abu Ghraib were released to the public, and it’s a timely coincidence that the “Saw” film series began only a few months later. The bulk of the 2000s was inundated with a new horror genre, nicknamed torture porn, and images and conversations about the manner and ubiquity of torture proliferated through our cynical, tired-out minds, leaving a sticky residue of outrage and resentment.

This normalization of torture images was tolerated for two reasons: One, seeing in a horror context it helped to remind us that we, as a nation, were involved in something shocking and that it shouldn’t become easy-to-consume action movie fodder. And two, many Americans felt this was the Only Way to get what we needed. It was sold as a dark necessity, and popular entertainments were serving as an apology for the nation’s latest sine qua non.

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