Monday, January 15, 2007

24

Those who know me will attest that I don't exactly ride the crest of the wave of popular culture. I get to some things late. One of these is the apparently wildly popular TV series 24. I ran across some reruns a couple of months ago while channel-surfing (my wonted mealtime habit), and was riveted. A couple of days after Christmas I used some gift card credits to buy the first season on DVD, which I then spent an inordinate amount of time watching completely over about a two week period. Then, last night, I was in front of the set for the premiere two hours of season six, and ... well, by this time, you can figure out how I'll be spending this evening (Monday).

The dialogue is occasionally less than stellar (remember, I'm a fan of The West Wing), and some of the plot details are not plausible. (I don't think I've ever seen Jack Bauer put a bite of food into his mouth. And I'm familiar enough with the urban geography of southern California to know that it takes a lot longer to get around than one would infer from CTU's exploits.) But the concept ("real time") is intriguing, the suspense is magnetic, and the main character has an heroic dimension that is irresistible.

Without straying too far into armchair psychology, which is beyond my competence, I'll make two observations about the possible cultural significance of 24:
  • The whole enterprise--virtually every scene of every episode--would be completely impossible without cell phones. The elements of suspense and rapid plot development could not be successfully executed without this now ubiquitous technology. And the internet is only a nose-length behind in terms of integral necessity. Does this not say something about our growing expectation of instantaneous gratification of our most mundane desires? We have no tolerance for mere infrastructure getting in the way of what we want. One can only wonder how this bodes for the Christian virtue and spiritual fruit known as Patience. Spiritual directors of the world, take note.
  • 24 forces us, through the experience and behavior of Jack Bauer, to explore some morally shadowy territory that, in our direct conscious awareness, we avoid assiduously. A popular book in the early 1980s explored the theme of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Agent Bauer draws us into the questions that arise when such "good people" are forced to do "bad things." Most of us will never be in the position of needing to choose between lopping off someone's fingers with garden shears one by one to get information or sitting back to enjoy a nuclear holocaust. We just pay others to be in that position on our behalf. 24 makes us take ownership of the behavior of our contract employees.

2 comments:

Ann said...

You like West Wing? Ever complicating my idea of who you are.

Dan Martins said...

Yes, Ann, I own all but season six on DVD, and I've watched Leo McGarry enough to feel like I could step into the Situation Room and know exactly what to do. And get this--I'm a Republican! And still like TWW. Go figure. Hey, I'm glad to be able to keep you off balance about "who I am"!