In wartime, a conflicted Hollywood

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It was too much for me to watch. Earlier this week, I tuned in to CNN for a war update - complete with a cockpit view of a fighter plane, the rat-tat-tat sounds of weapons, and the heroic rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Later, I flipped to Fox's "24," a serial in which US President Palmer was poised to attack the Middle East after a terrorist detonated a nuclear bomb on US soil. I lasted about five minutes - I'd seen enough drama for one night.

The line between news and entertainment has become ever more blurred, with images from shows like "24" and ABC's "Alias" looking eerily similar to war footage streaming over the same networks. But even as some in Hollywood opt to leave such violent plots intact, others are backing off, just as they did after Sept. 11, when Warner Bros. delayed releasing "Collateral Damage," and Sony airbrushed the twin towers out of "Spider-Man."

This week, Warner Bros. replaced an ad for the film "What a Girl Wants," to avoid making an antiwar statement. Amanda Bynes was flashing a peace sign. Madonna, surprising many, halted the release of a new music video set to debut Friday. In it, she dons military fatigues and lobs a grenade at a President Bush lookalike.

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But collectively, the entertainment industry seems conflicted, with one studio concerned about offending people with a simple peace sign and others airing war plotlines, or releasing vigilante fare like "A Man Apart." Meanwhile, rapper 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," with graphic lyrics about shooting and killing people, remains the top-selling album in the US. Maybe some Americans can handle it. ("24," after all, has a loyal following.) As for me, I have an appointment with Jane Austen this weekend.

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