Monday, May 08, 2006

Why I Don't Watch 24

Another Monday night, another exciting episode of 24. I know, everyone loves this show. Steve spends each Monday sternly reminding everyone he encounters that it's Jack Bauer Appreciation Day. I spend a small portion of my class time (my instructional time) on Mondays trying to get my students to stop talking about what's going to happen on 24, and a much larger chunk of that class time on Tuesdays trying to get the kids to shut up about what did happen on 24. Every Monday they ask me, "Are you gonna watch 24 tonight?" and every Monday I tell them, "A) I don't own a television and B) I want no part of 24." Every Tuesday they ask me, "Did you see 24 last night?" and every Tuesday some kid who actually pays attention in class says, "Dude, she doesn't have a TV!" and some other kid adds, "Yeah, and she doesn't even like that show."

The thing is, I used to. Like everyone else, I used to love 24. I was a devoted fan throughout seasons 1-3. I've spent more than a few Tuesday mornings at the proverbial water cooler animatedly discussing the events of the previous night's episode of 24 as if it bore some resemblance to real life and the characters were actually my close personal friends. I've even attended a season finale party or two. I see the appeal: the gripping suspense, those bad guys you love to hate, the fate of the world hanging in the balance, that hottie Keifer Sutherland. But in season 4 something changed for me. . .24 began to seem irresponsible.

I became more and more concerned about how expendable people are on 24, not just bad guys but good guys too. I started to keep a running body count. A lot of people died in each episode, most of them not-so-nicely. And we're talking episodes that are only supposed to represent an hour of real-life time.

Then there's the torture thing. The good guys frequently torture the bad guys to get information out of them, which I guess is supposed to be okay because the good guys need that information in order to save everyone from the bad guys. This is a serious moral question that deserves serious attention and contemplation. Instead, 24 portrays each instance of torture as if it's some sort of Machiavellian necessity not worth dwelling on.

And there's, of course, the stereotyping. Almost all the terrorists on 24 (at least in seasons 1-4) are Muslims who hate America simply because they are crazy Muslims. Nothing new here. Likewise, those who don't hate the terrorists must by definition hate America and therefore be on the side of the enemies. Hell, in season 4 the Secretary of State had his own son tortured because he had maybe gone home with some chick who knew some guy who had maybe been involved with planning season 4's attack.

I know it's only a TV show, but is this sort of thing really constructive? Do we really need to glorify such callous disregard for human life and fan the flames of bigotry and intolerance? See, there's no gray area on 24. There's good guys and there's bad guys and it's us against them. You are, as our simpleton of a president once said, "either with us, or you are with the terrorists." This is an incredibly dangerous mentality, which is why I've sworn off 24 and why I attempt to convince anyone who will listen (which, frankly, isn't a very large group) that 24 is perhaps more harmful than all of Rupert Murdoch's other enterprises combined.

To be honest, I haven't made much headway, but I'm hoping I'll win a few converts now that Tom Tomorrow's come out in support of me:

(From Working for Change)


Melissa said...

This season, the terrorists are American and Russian and the US Prez is the one behind it all. So they've changed that much at least.

Brian said...

You think 24 is bad? What about that newest one; The Unit. As if the show itself isn't bad enough, one of the main characters is the guy that played President Palmer on 24 before they killed him off...that dude can't act for shit, but the content of these shows is what really pisses me off.

Brainwashing as entertainment; it's a wonder your kids aren't graduating high school and signing up for the Marine Corps or the CIA or some other 'terrorist fighting organization'.

Ooorah! We're Americans and we're going to kick the shit out of anything 'un-American'...just because we can!

We totally fucking rock.

Steve said...

From Sarah Vowell re: 24 -