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The Eiffel Tower: Hollywood's favorite architectural target for destruction

August 8, 2009 |  1:30 pm

In the trailer for "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," above, the Eiffel Tower meets its untimely demise via a warhead that infects the 19th century structure with a green ooze, causing it to disintegrate and collapse in spectacular slow-motion onto the poor pedestrians below.

Quelle horreur! Designed by French engineer Gustave Eiffel, the Tower is a perennial top spot for tourists in Paris, but at the movies, we like seeing it go down in flames, man.

The Eiffel Tower has long been Hollywood's architectural monument of choice for obliteration -- an action-movie cliche, even. Here are just a few notable flicks in which the tower was either destroyed or targeted for annihilation: "Superman II," "Team America: World Police," "Armageddon," "Independence Day," "Mars Attacks!" and "The War of the Worlds" (the original version).

The tower is also featured in the cross hairs (sometimes literally) of countless video games and animated TV shows.

It's worth noting that you don't see London's Big Ben or Pisa's Leaning Tower -- or any other European architectural icon for that matter -- singled out as frequently as the Eiffel Tower. All of them are architectural symbols of a kind of old-world European grandeur (snottiness?) that American pop culture loves to mock. Theoretically, they should all be fair game.

Could it be that Hollywood still has a bone to pick with the French? (The French film industry has historically positioned itself as the antithesis of everything Hollywood-ian, though that's in the process of changing.)  Or perhaps it's a veiled form of American flag-waving geared at firing up red-state ticket buyers?

Culture Monster hopes that a doctoral student somewhere is parsing the subtleties of this trend. Meanwhile, we're going to watch the trailer again -- and try to stifle our laughter.

-- David Ng