Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rehabilitating the leftist politics of 24

On its surface, 24 seems to abide by rightist politics: the authorities (i.e. JACK "POWER" BAUER) gain the benefit of the doubt in dire and urgent circumstances, rules by damned. The leftist critique of 24's methods came to a head in season 4 and is more or less summarized by Slavoj Zizek's article on the extreme use of torture; and while the primary narrative of 24 indeed has a long legacy of right wing tactics (remember the reporter in season 2 who knew some nasty details about the stolen nuclear whosits?), to ultimately call 24 right wing could be mistaken, especially in light of the season 4 finale.

The last season closed with Jack effectively dead as a legal entity precisely as a result of his at-all-costs methods. Although some might think of this gambit to avoid extradition, another way to approach the final scene is to interpret his "death" as punishment, especially since his loved ones believe that his death is genuine. So in spite of what Zizek claims in the above article, Jack is metaphysically less human for all of the sins in his past. The overriding moral of 24: Rely too much on torture, or brush aside one regulation too many, and you might find yourself in a situation where you'll have to fake your own death as well.

Nevertheless, it's easy to see why most leftist commentators see the show as -- BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT AS SMART AS THEY THINK THEY ARE, THOSE SMUG ELITISTS. And also, the counfounding logical lapses and puerile characterizations lead many of them to dismiss 24's ability to offer more subtle contexts.

Indie rating: Köhn - "Wabbit Regghae"

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