24 Is Sketchy

3 March, 2009

I love 24. I have watched every episode of all seven seasons (except for half of the first). But, its morals have become even more questionable than normal. Yes, it’s always been about torture, the ends justify the means, and so on, but it’s sort of taken a step up.

At the beginning of Day Seven, Jack Bauer is essentially being tried for his methods: torture, murder, etc. Then, he gets called out to help with a national emergency. One thing leads to another, and of course he is right there torturing and murdering, yet again. This, to me, is fine. I’m used to it. However, the opinions of the characters around him are what I have difficulty with. A stand-up FBI agent, as well as the president and her advisor essentially, by the end of the 12th episode, decide that what he’s doing is right. They decide that, because of their experience, the ends really do justify the means. Furthermore, we follow Jack, we sympathize with him, because he is the main character. That means we sympathize with him (or are supposed to) when he is arguing that what he does is right.

So, I dunno, I’m not articulating this clearly. I think it’s less the portrayal of Jack, but rather the portrayal of those who disagree with him. They are regarded as stubborn, dense, slaves to protocol… What the show is saying is that torture and killing are okay, that the people standing up for, you know, rights, morals, and so on, are the really evil ones. That no one should stand in the way of doing whatever it takes to get a result, and whoever does is as bad as the terrorists. I (paraphrase) quote: As the upstanding FBI agent resigns to helping Jack find the terrorists (by threatening the family of a corrupt secret service agent) “Jack!” Pause, as Jack turns around after having walked away. “Jack, the rules are what make us better!” Jack responds “Not today.” Which is, well, a terrible notion.

I’m not saying I’ll stop watching the show. I still love it. But it’s just gotten a little… weird. (That’s a cover for saying it’s gotten even more immoral and condoning violence than it usually does.)

Luckily, my favorite character is still a good person. Bill Buchanan, the former director of CTU (the agency Jack worked for) was behind him all the way while he was doing his thing. But when Jack was jailed (for torturing a guy), and he pleaded with Bill for Bill to go torture the same guy some more to get the needed information, Bill didn’t do it. “That’s not me.” He’s one of the few who has stood up to Jack, and, as a result, is essentially one of the few moral people in the series. Well, most of the presidents are pretty moral too. But yeah, Buchanan is cool.


One comment

  1. yeah. Never watched 24 but I think someone somewhere, or some reviewer, once called it a ‘neo-con wet-dream.’ However well-filmed and well-characterized the show is, that made me laugh.

    On a similar note, are you up to speed on BSG? I was feeling a little bit of questionable moral portrayal during the little insurrection plot line. I just don’t know if they treated certain people’s concerns fairly, and if they unduly glorified military hierarchy as the ultimate moral compass.

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