'24' confirms conservatives' worldview
Some dramatic TV shows become popular because they reflect a world we wish we lived in. In regards to a TV show like "24," that's hard to imagine. But some political types apparently would have no problem with it. I'm not a regular watcher of "24...
Some dramatic TV shows become popular because they reflect a world we wish we lived in.
In regards to a TV show like "24," that's hard to imagine. But some political types apparently would have no problem with it.
I'm not a regular watcher of "24," the TV series that purports to follow the superhuman Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in real time as he saves the country from terrorist attacks on a constant basis. To fully invest in the mythology of "24," you have to accept that Bauer has saved the nation at least five times so far. Each time he did it, everything happened in the course of a single day.
Busy guy, that Jack.
Of course, it is fiction. And it's well-produced fiction, making use of split screens, crackling dialogue and tightly plotted scripts that maintain continuity over the course of the season. It's also Rush Limbaugh's and Dick Cheney's favorite show, which suggests there may be something more than just television going on here.
After I watched Sunday's season premiere -- it concluded Monday night -- it was apparent to me the appeal of "24" is similar to that of another top-rated series that became the favorite of political types.
Essentially, "24" is to conservatives what "The West Wing" was to liberals.
"The West Wing" was often considered a fantasy version of the Clinton presidency, as faux president Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) represented the best of Clinton's intellectual optimism without the nagging intern problem.
"24" is an alternate version of President Bush's America, a place besieged by imminent attacks but ultimately saved by the existence of a crack homeland security operative like Bauer who is unencumbered by rules or regulations.
Basically, "24" imagines an America so anxious about the next terrorist attack that ordinary citizens don't have to be manipulated by disingenuous color alerts or presidential warnings of doom and gloom. It's in their faces, all the time.
The show's popularity with some political typeswas highlighted in June during a forum on terrorism in Washington, D.C., by the conservative Heritage Foundation that featured Limbaugh as moderator.
The forum, called " '24' and America's Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction or Does It Matter?" included Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and various think-tank experts. According to Entertainment Weekly magazine, radio host Laura Ingraham and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomasalso attended.
Some speculate one reason "24" is such a favorite of the Bush crowd is that Bauer is presented as a guy with no qualms about torturing his prisoners in order to get information as quickly as possible. In light of criticism the Bush administration gets for its torture policies, it doesn't take a think-tank expert to see why some hail the show as a breath of clean air.
It seems to me living in the world of "24" would be a depressing and paranoid existence. To be fair, if New Jersey were really populated by some of the cretins in "The Sopranos" -- my favorite TV drama -- I wouldn't want to live there, either.
With the loss of Congress, conservatives need something to hold onto these days. By ramping up the terrorism threat to excruciating levels, shows like "24" serve a purpose for those who never want the rest of us to forget how close we may remain to disaster.
Except, of course, instead of Jack Bauer we've got that other guy.
Eugene Kane is a columnist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.