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 devotion.
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 individualist.
Other abiding 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