How Osama Bin Laden's Death Has Already Impacted Culture

How Osama Bin Laden's Death Has Already Impacted Culture

For nearly ten years, the tale of 9/11 was punctuated by a giant question mark: Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. After his death at the hands of the Navy SEALs' legendary SEAL Team 6 on Sunday, cultural projects dealing with the events of the last decade are now being retooled as they create their own interpretations of the terrorist leader's demise.

The September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero will feature a special tribute to the team of Navy SEALs that killed Bin Laden. "This is an important chapter in the story," Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the museum, told reporters, according to CBS News. "I can guarantee you 100 percent the story of tracking down and killing Bin Laden will absolutely be part of this museum."


The institution will not be able to honor the SEAL who fired the fatal shot by name, since Navy policy forbids releasing the names of the elite squad's members. But who are these guys, generally speaking? According to retired Navy SEALs founder Richard Marcinko, quoted by ABC News, members of the elite team are men with "gazelle legs, no waist, and a huge upper body configuration, and almost a mental block that says 'I will not fail.'" How do they get that way?


In the course of their training, the New York Times reports, there is a "hell week" during which "recruits get a total of four hours of sleep during five and a half days of nonstop running, swimming in the cold surf and rolling in mud"; to advance to the elite Team 6, candidates are trained to "parachute from 30,000 feet with oxygen masks and gain control of a hijacked cruise liner at sea." For their mission in Pakistan, the SEALs probably used "modified grooming standards," ABC News reports, meaning that the men who killed Bin Laden likely grew beards and wore their hair longer so that they would blend in.

If this sounds like the stuff of Hollywood movies… well, it is. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who collaborated on "The Hurt Locker," have been working on a film about the hunt for Osama based on a book called "Kill Bin Laden." The book, purportedly a memoir by a member of the counter-terrorism team Delta Force, tells of the failed December 2001 attempt to capture Bin Laden in the mountainous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. An anonymous source close to the project told the L.A. Times that the film will no longer be called "Kill Bin Laden" and that it will include new context and (obviously) a better ending. Casting for the male lead is currently underway, and, according to the source, shooting will start this summer as planned.

Since Bigelow's film has not begun production yet, it is not clear if it will still be able to capitalize on the public's current fascination with Bin Laden. Now that the ending of the story is already known, an element of suspense has been removed, perhaps signaling a shift of emphasis to storytelling and character development. One studio marketing executive told the LA Times that "you need a big star and a lot of action, something the audience can cheer for," while veteran filmmaker Bryan Singer thought that the project would work best as an investigative drama, tracking "moments of intelligence and how agents followed the trail."

The death of Bin Laden made for an especially exciting installment of 365 Days of Print, a blog curated by Maya Joseph-Goteiner in which six to 10 artists per month make an artwork a day, inspired by that day's newspaper headlines. On May 2, some artists added text to photos of Bin Laden, reflecting on the meaning of his death both personally and nationally. Amy Wilson's piece declared "I don't know how to feel" alongside a picture of Osama with dotted lines crossing out his face; Jolene Frances made a digital collage with the headline "Celebrating murder, regardless of the circumstances, just doesn't sit right with me"; and Laurindo Feliciano created a postmodern collage featuring an elegant early 20th-century woman watching a 1950s TV that displays the phrase "A new holiday in America" over a flag that drips blood.

Heavy stuff. But it's not every day that an almost 10-year national drama comes to an end with the death of its villain.