jumping ship on “24”

A while ago, I wrote something here on how conflicted I felt about enjoying the television show “24”. I can’t remember the specifics, but I think I said something like, “Yeah, it’s torture-porn, but I can watch it without being affected.” I was wrong. I knew I was wrong at the time, but I didn’t want to stop watching. I liked seeing Jack Bauer saw people’s heads off in order to save our country. Of course, that’s bullshit. I was being affected by it, and it was desensitizing me to torture. If I had any doubt about it, this interview with co-creator Joel Surnow in “The New Yorker” has just erased it. From now on, I’m not going to be in the audience… Here’s a clip:

…Although he is a supporter of President Bush–he told me that “America is in its glory days”–Surnow is critical of the way the war in Iraq has been conducted. An “isolationist” with “no faith in nation-building,” he thinks that “we could have been out of this thing three years ago.” After deposing Saddam Hussein, he argued, America should have “just handed it to the Baathists and . . . put in some other monster who’s going to keep these people in line but who’s not going to be aggressive to us.” In his view, America “is sort of the parent of the world, so we have to be stern but fair to people who are rebellious to us. We don’t spoil them. That’s not to say you abuse them, either. But you have to know who the adult in the room is.”

Surnow’s rightward turn was encouraged by one of his best friends, Cyrus Nowrasteh, a hard-core conservative who, in 2006, wrote and produced “The Path to 9/11,” a controversial ABC miniseries that presented President Clinton as having largely ignored the threat posed by Al Qaeda. (The show was denounced as defamatory by Democrats and by members of the 9/11 Commission; their complaints led ABC to call the program a “dramatization,” not a “documentary.”) Surnow and Nowrasteh met in 1985, when they worked together on “The Equalizer.” Nowrasteh, the son of a deposed adviser to the Shah of Iran, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where, like Surnow, he was alienated by the radicalism around him. He told me that he and Surnow, in addition to sharing an admiration for Reagan, found “L.A. a stultifying, stifling place because everyone thinks alike.” Nowrasteh said that he and Surnow regard “24” as a kind of wish fulfillment for America. “Every American wishes we had someone out there quietly taking care of business,” he said. “It’s a deep, dark ugly world out there. Maybe this is what Ollie North was trying to do. It would be nice to have a secret government that can get the answers and take care of business–even kill people. Jack Bauer fulfills that fantasy”…

So, yeah, I decided that I no longer wanted to be a part of that “I wish there was a secret government that killed people without concern for the rule of law” demographic. (Thanks to Jules for sending me the link to “The New Yorker” with a note kindly pointing out, in much nicer words, that I was a hypocritical asshole for liking the show in spite of how I felt about torture.)

So, now I just need to form a support group that meets on Monday nights.

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18 Comments

  1. mark
    Posted February 14, 2007 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    The image is inspird by the “Odyssey.” It’s of Ulysses, lashed to the mast, enjoying the call of the Sirens. I thought that it was somehow appropriate.

  2. mark
    Posted February 14, 2007 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    You might also be interested in this Media Matters piece on how “24” is being used by concervatives to push certain policies.

  3. ol' e cross
    Posted February 14, 2007 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure it’s been pointed out by the culture-police a million times, but this hypocrisy of mass media is persuasive to me: that they simultaneously tell the public their programming doesn’t influence behavior while telling advertisers their commercials influences behavior.

    I’d be wary of Mark’s Monday night group. You might want to wait a few weeks before joining until he’s safely past withdrawal, otherwise, he might go Jack Bauer on your ass. (If you do dare to meet Mark on a Monday night, just be sure to bring a Sprite and/or Snickers to distract him for his thirst for world-saving torture with that delicious limon/cocoa flavor.)

  4. danandkitty
    Posted February 15, 2007 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Start watching Heroes Mark. It’s geeky, but the good guys don’t really do the killing in it.

  5. Dr. Cherry
    Posted February 15, 2007 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Blow up your TV and throw away your papers.

  6. edweird
    Posted February 15, 2007 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I haven’t paid for cable in eleven years. My house here in Ypsi doesn’t even have coax runs in it. Not one. This is your next step Mark. You don’t have to kill it. Just program it instead of allowing it to program you.

    I concur, though, that Heroes is cool. Don’t ask me how I get to watch it. That would be telling. Shh.

  7. egpenet
    Posted February 15, 2007 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Email me with your episodic questions. Gives the phrase “Cold Turkey” a new, more secular meaning. And we usually eat dinner and/or have buttered popcorn, while Jack reams’em out. But, just write and I’ll fill you in.

    And there’s always NetFlix … this season will be available in Decmber.

    HooHaw … lock and load, gentlemen.

  8. egpenet
    Posted February 15, 2007 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I once rescued some canoers who had capsized on the Huron … but they didn’t look as beautiful as these.

  9. rnolan
    Posted February 15, 2007 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    The fact that it is so dreadfully cornball and full of bad acting should be enough reason not to watch that overrated show. The Wire is the only drama besides the Sopranos worth watching. Pay-tv that is actually worth the price of admission. Better than anything I’ve seen at a theater in years too.

  10. egpenet
    Posted February 15, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    24 is shlocky fantasy, yes. Poor writing and acting. But the Sopranos is too real for me. I grew up in Grosse Pointe Park/Grosse Pointe and I KNOW some of those guys and their kids!

    Trick-Or-Treating at mafia houses was a big highlight of my year … not canolis … but Hershey candy bars, .50 pieces, huge oranges … no TV from off a truck, but it was great. Anyway, I know those guys and it is very real.

  11. terrygilmer
    Posted February 15, 2007 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    I stopped watching “24” after the second or third season. I kept rolling my eyes and saying “Oh, please!” after every scene. Nowadays I watch Heroes, Comedy Central and Squidbillies.

  12. t.d. glass
    Posted February 16, 2007 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    They should make a sissy version where Jack hugs the terrorists into talking and gives them back rubs.

  13. dorothy
    Posted February 16, 2007 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    i agree! heros is the greatest show on tv. we never miss it (by we, i mean my 11 yr . old grandson and me.
    apropo of nothing, i just got back from a vacation/veterinary conference in the carribean(tax dodge). when we arrived, the hotel had badges made up for each of us. i guess it’s acceptable if you realize english was their second language, but every badge read–name-penis. we finally found out that penis stood for Pennsylvania Internation Studies, but it was hilarious for a long time. so for the whole conference i was known as dorothy penis.

  14. It's Skinner Again
    Posted February 16, 2007 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Mark, there’s no reason you should shovel dogshit like this into your soul. If you’re starved for entertainment, read a book; watch old cartoons on YouTube; play a board game with Clementine. Shower Mark with entertainment ideas, readers, help deprogram him from torture porn!

    I’ve lived for decades without a TV. I can’t understand now why I ever had one.

  15. egpenet
    Posted February 16, 2007 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Write me, Mark … you have my email.

    As Jack would say, “Mark, you don’t have to DO this! TRUST me! I’ve been trained for this!”

  16. paulg
    Posted February 18, 2007 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Mark, if you’re having trouble giving up the idiot box, try watching some Red Wings games. Detroit’s about the best team in the NHL right now.

    Sports is one of the few legitimate uses for TV, IMO…

  17. oliva
    Posted March 15, 2007 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    To help him enter the mindset of a torturer [for his role in “Catch a Fire”], [Tim] Robbins was assigned to Hentie Botha, a former special branch officer in the apartheid years. Botha taught him how to enact some of the gruesome techniques used by the South African police and gave Robbins a tour of the farm where he used to take prisoners.

    Listening to Botha’s harrowing reminiscences, Robbins was able to think the unthinkable: to empathise with the torturer. “He’s not an ogre, he’s not a nasty man, he’s a religious man – and I started thinking about it not in the politics of it or opinions I might have had, but rather what it is to be a soldier and a policeman. You have to throw away any ideology.”

    from UK Guardian, 16 March 2007,
    http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,,2034788,00.html

  18. mark
    Posted March 15, 2007 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    If Tim Robbins is susceptible, then I suppose anyone is.

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