The Death of Bin Laden in 3 Acts

masque théatre grèce antique.jpgMost screenplays use a three-act structure. Historically originating in ancient Greek drama, the three-act structure became standard in American theater in the early twentieth century and was later adapted for films. In Act One, characters and conflict are introduced. The conflict deepens in Act Two until it reaches a climax or breaking point. In Act Three, the conflict is resolved leading to a denouement or conclusion.

The above description gives a fitting template for the death of Osama bin Laden. In Act I, September 11 takes place and the War on Terror declared. The Axis of Evil becomes personified in the figure of Osama bin Laden, and President Bush declares him wanted dead or alive. The central plot of characters and conflict has been established. The United States was violated, 3000 people dead. The central hero changes in 2008 with some hesitation about the capacity of the new lead to continue to follow the script line by line. The posse prepares; the coalition of the willing joins forces, the people cry out for vengeance and justice. Men and women armed with guns and drones go off to hunt the killer in far off lands.

Act II was anticlimactic, much too long for the audience. The failure to kill bin Laden, even when close at Tora Bora, dulls the howling crowd. Revelations of torture from rendition to Guantanamo prison are unsettling given the lack of results. The people cry for action, calling the new leader weak on security and national defense. The Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq do not go well, with an obvious lack of cooperation from the locals who start complaining about collateral damage. Characters and the nature of the conflict lose clear definitions. People are worried about jobs, tsunamis and radiation. As time goes on, the fervor post September 11 ("We are all Americans") begins to dim. The screenplay is not going to win an Oscar; ticket sales are down and the DVD sales predicted to be a bust. A new lead is even envisaged in 2012.

And then, surprisingly, out of the blue, Act III bursts on the screen. A somber Barack Obama announces the conclusion of the search for bin Laden. Almost ten long years of tracking, millions of dollars in expenses; finally there is a shootout in Pakistan; the villain is dead. But, the final script has some glitches: Was it really a shootout or an assassination? We wanted OK Corral, not just blowing him away; even bad guys should have a chance, although we wish and know he will die. Do we have real evidence that the man is dead? And, finally and most importantly, have the bad guys been run out of town and peace and order restored to the Wild West? Bin Laden's cohorts are still on the loose and threatening their own revenge.

Reviews of the script and production are mixed. In the US, people stand and applaud at the end, chanting "USA, USA". The rest of the world is less enthusiastic, with some reviewers daring to say that important aspects of the operation were illegal. In US theatres, to great surprise, special ushers accompany the audience out of the theatres and straight to their homes in the name of increased security. People around the world ask if the show is really over. The writers/producers are busily altering parts of the ending to boost ticket sales. The leader visits Ground Zero and troops in Kentucky to raise domestic ratings in spite of new threats and harping by disgruntled civil liberties types. The hero sounds presidential, mission accomplished.

May 7, 2011




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