Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"24" as a metaphor (and it rhymes)













Dr. Strauss on Stop The Spirit Of Zossen ponders the relationship between our popular culture and foreign policy with a special focus on "United 93" and "24" after watching Agent Bauer hijack a plane:
All the more reason to be jarred then to come home and watch a recording of last night's “24”. There, Jack Bauer stowed aboard an airplane, attacked the federal marshal and stole his gun. Bauer then stormed the passenger section, pointing the gun at terrified passengers promising he would shoot them. All the more reason to be stunned when Bauer grabs a stewardess and hauls her terrified down an aisle. In the name of national security and the “good guys”.
An interesting bookend to the earlier experience. Here was mass American entertainment clearly comfortable depicting and inverting the United 93 scenario into a transgressive Bauer moment. At first the thought arose immediately and unbidden, 'is this somehow right?' The emotions from United 93 were still raw and present.
And then, the Stiftung smiled and took solace. Events on board Flight 93 deserve a sacred place in our memory. Indeed, one can not see that movie and not confront that small, quiet internal question — “would I have the courage and dignity to rise to the challenge as they did?” We would all like to think so.
Yet the passengers took action for life. Their refusal to go meekly — even as they knew there was little chance for themselves — was a message about valuing and treasuring life. “24” and the dramatic fiction of Jack Bauer seizing an airplane to uncover bad guys is part of that tapestry. If we can honor and remember what transpired on that airplane without burdening it and ourselves with overwrought emotional or even worse, political baggage, all the better.
We took away from last night's juxtaposition this simple lesson. Honor events on United 93. And enjoy and value the life they thought so important to fight for.

I actually think that this season's "24" is in a way of metaphor for interesting trends on American public opinion. In previous "24" the Bad Guys were foreigners working together with American "moles." This time the villain is the President of the United States working together with foreign terrorists with British accents and under the control of The Man (a bald short guy with big glasses) representing (I think) the dark forces of the Military-Industrial Complex. That the producers of this show are taking a chance with this Oliver-Stone-like plot (which implies that The Man was perhaps behind 9/11) says a lot about the post-Iraq-War/anti-government mood in this country that is starting to feel like the Vietnam-war era, but more moving in the direction George Wallance than that of George McGovern (and there is no free sex..). Hey, thanks, W. for dis-crediting the Office of the Presidency.

And check-out who wants to make a deal with Iran?. "Communiterian" guru Amitai Etzioni wants the mullahs to give-up their nuclear program in exchange for a cmmitment by the Bushies not to do a "regime change" in Tehran. The problem is that the mullahs know that the Bushies cannot oust them while they can go ahead with their nuclear program. This is how Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is thinking: I'll (politically) outlive George W. Bush. I'll still be in power in January 2009. (Not unlike Khemeini who was still around when Jimmy Carter left office).

1 comment:

Dr Leo Strauss said...

You are right, I think. Interestingly, the ratings on "24" are up by a couple million this year as well. So this metaphor appears to resonate deeply.

An interesting pedagogical aspect to the show's narrative is playing out as well. Initially, the plot's canard was the President as spineless dupe manipulated by others with the Agenda. This gave way to presidential duplicity and mendacious self-serving.

Talk radio seems to mirror this in real life. Even on talk radio, it is striking how many call ins have abandoned the line of "he is amiable and well intentioned if not bright", etc.

Fox and the writers could not have anticipated Katrina etc. when scripts were written last year. But the synchronicity is almost Jungian.

Perhaps next season Bauer will fight in Beijing to restore low interest home mortgages. I don't think Sutherland has it in him to wink at the camera ala Roger Moore and make the segue to camp. So for good or for ill, they will just have to play it straight up.