We’ve arrived at the
perennial point in the TV series “24,” in which the terrorist-fighting
protagonist, Jack Bauer, is once again chained by his “colleagues,” and
“escorted” to the Los Angeles Counter Terrorist Unit’s “holding cells.”
These hermetic chambers are used mostly to confine and torture America’s
enemies, which include some of CTU’s finest. Or agents who’ve been
tortured by the enemy and must now be counter-tortured by CTU. Assets
have to be utilized to the full.
The last to receive The Treatment was poor Audrey
Raines, an “Inter-Agency Liaison” assigned to CTU, who’d fallen into the
clutches of the Chinese. China is 24’s new bugaboo. Could it be that
delving into the Muslim threat got too realistic for Hollywood? It so
happens that the People's Republic of China funds our government’s debt.
It could easily damage our economy by dumping dollars. Yet it doesn’t.
While America is becoming more militaristic; China is growing
increasingly capitalistic. As America’s middle-class dwindles due to
government’s wastrel ways, China’s middle class is 200-million strong
and growing. The Chinese have money
on their minds; murder,
not so much.
In any event, for her loyal, long-suffering service to
the US, Raines is abandoned—first to the diabolical devices of the
Chinese, and then to CTU’s resident Mengele, who can’t wait to plunge
his syringes into her collapsed veins. The buccaneering Bauer rushes to
Raines’ rescue. For this, the government locks him up in one of those “holding
cells”—the state uses, abuses, but never trusts Bauer.
Bauer himself is fresh from the Chinese dungeons, where
he languished for two years. The American government had forsaken the
CTU agent to the Chinese, but quickly sprung him when a new terrorist
threat appeared on the horizon: Abu Fayed. Fayed had promised to stop
unleashing suicide-bombers on American cities in exchange for Bauer, who
killed his brother in better times.
Certain themes in the cult
series never change. One is Bauer’s eternal
willingness to be chewed and spat out by the successive governments he
serves. As Bauer’s
Chinese jailers hand him over to his American handlers, the latter chain
him like a dog to a fence. But Bauer is accustomed to being manacled by
his owners. The Top Dogs just don’t trust their lapdog, despite his
Or is Bauer’s a zombie’s obedience? As a reader put it,
“Jack Bauer is the unstoppable, undead agent who has actually been
killed and brought back to life, in service—and thrall—to the state.
Instead of the ‘brains’ that 'regular' zombies devour, the Federal Zombie
feeds on ‘intelligence.’” Jack’s response to his mistreatment is to
mutter about his approaching meaningful end—the prospect of giving his
life for the Greater Good. Some
Hollywood themes: In
real life, the typical Islamic organization—take the Council on
American-Islamic Relations—is staffed by media-savvy mouthpieces for
militant Islam. “24,” however, has created a chimerical CAIR full of
American patriots. One of the central heroes—was it Karen Hayes?—even
laments that we are alienating the very community upon which we depend
to fight terrorism. On the other hand, suburban Americans are depicted
as rabid Islamophobes, wont to turn on their Muslim neighbors at the
drop of a hat. In one vignette two such mouth breathers break down the
front door of a Muslim family’s home and beat the son up.
Reading from a script Jimmy Carter would have approved,
Jack becomes attached to Hamri Al-Assad, a reformed terrorist wanting to
“enter the political process.” Jack wrangles immunity and a pardon from
the president for his pet terrorist. Curtis Manning, director of Fields
Operations and a former Green Beret, opposes the pardon for good
reasons. During Operation Desert Storm, Assad had captured and
personally beheaded two of Curtis’ men. Curtis decides that son of sixty
dogs needs killing. Jack goes into Zombie mode, and kills his pal Curtis
Manning to save Assad.
Many of the villains in “24” are American
businessmen—terrorist plots invariably lead to American business. Jack
comes close to killing his businessman brother, who apparently richly deserved it:
Graem “Gray” Bauer sold nerve gas to terrorists and was instrumental in
the murder of President David Palmer. When Jack fails to finish him off,
Father Bauer steps in to do the deed, for reasons less “noble.”
Fraternizing with terrorists, fratricide,
and filicide—these are all in a day’s work for your average,
dysfunctional, American family, at least as Hollywood sees it.
©2007 By Ilana Mercer