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« Something wicked | Main | Republicanism vs. Conservativism at the movies »


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TV, generally. Jack Bauer, specifically.


Good generalizations. For reasons of cultural immunization, I'm watching DVDs of Season Two of "24," the post-9/11 season with a nuclear bomb going off near Los Angeles to terrorize the plebes. Filled with scene after scene of "terrorists" being tortured to save innocent American citizens, I haven't seen such transparent propaganda since Leni Riefenstahl was making "Triumph of the Will." It was softening up everybody for what was to come in the New World Order. Plus, it's ridiculous enough in a throw-in-the-kitchen-sink kind of way that it becomes a new genre, Terrorist Camp.

Linkmeister is right. From "Cold Case" to "CSI" to whatever other piece of crap Mr. Bruckheimer and friends are using to terrify the general populace, TV in general and Jack Bauer in particular really are creepy and frightening.

As for the pushing of Total Consumer Values as the way to goodness and happiness over the last couple of decades, Hollywood moviemaking really does have a lot to answer for. The effect has been pernicious on the entire world.

Shakespeare's Sister

Spot on, Mannion.

One of the notable exceptions to this, which you've mentioned (and I've written about, too) are the recent reimaginings of comic heroes, most notably Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man ("With great power comes great responsibility") and Christian Bale's Batman ("It's not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me"), both of whom wrestled with their identities specifically within respective code of ethics modeled for them by men they felt the need to live up to. They each face an option between virtue and apathy - which is, in some way, even more interesting (in its realism) than good vs. evil.

A similar example is the world of the X-Men, which is also not a straight good vs. evil (or an us vs. them) scenario. It could easily have been mutants pitted against non-mutants, but instead, it's mutants (aligned in some cases with sympathetic non-mutants) against other mutants - and each has a clearly defined agenda. And, yet, on some occasions, the opposing mutant groups (X's and Magneto's) have allied themselves together to work against a non-mutant threat to all mutants. It's a complicated and interesting world that relies on ethics and politics - and, as an aside, happens to be one of the rare examples of a network of characters that also features mulitple good and bad female characters.

The Heretik

Jack Bauer violates the Fourth Amendment before the first spoonful of Cheerios every morning. We eat this breakfast of champions McKrap TM every day as part of a "normal" American diet.


What's interesting is that while our modern drek-meister movie directors insist on pretending they are great scholars of film history, the modern action-adventure movie is actually the moral reverse of action-oriented movies of classic Hollywood (since there were technically no purely action movies within classic Hollywood, the actual genres were Westerns, mysteries, gangster/crime, etc.)

Even in the most brutal movies of classic Hollywood - Westerns that involved the hero fighting against Indians - there were never any heroes near as abysmal as the ones regularly featured in modern action movies. The old Western heroes might have been Indian-killers, but they were rarely sadistically brutal, violent for the sake of violence, or as ludicrously anti-social and psychotic as most modern action heroes.

The modern action hero is a highly disturbing construct - the character conception is that his might (whether in Dirty Harry's large pistols or Schwarzenegger or Stallone's bulging biceps) makes right. Dirty Harry, really the first harbinger of the modern action genre, was an intentional antithesis of classical Hollywood's police officer. Classical Hollywood's archetypal police officer hero is actually a true conservative: kind and polite to non-criminals (and great pains were taken to show that he respected all economic classes of people, something egregiously violated today), a close follower of laws and rules, a man with an ordered existance of office, duty, family and religion, well-dressed and well-mannered, a citizen within an ordered and right community. Right was made right by the law and the rightness of the American regime standing behind those laws. The classic cop hero might use violence when forced to, but his existance is defined by the same modes and orders as any other citizen.

Our modern cop hero is a "nothing man", one without community, family, religion, propriety or even laws. He only comes into being with violence. It's notable that many modern cop heroes are actually unable to talk except within violent settings. We're not talking about laconic (which is in some sense a heightening of communication), we're talking about "heroes" essentially unable to communicate anything. They deal with fellow humans only in the frame of violence. The modern cop movie will depict an environment of no community, randomized individuals who come together as a group only to cheer the "hero" after he has emerged from murdering his opponents - i.e. the rabble cheering the concept of "might makes right" and their bloody-handed natural leaders, great blond beasts, taking command over them.


Good comments, SFMike, but I see that your examples are comic book heroes. They're not real men. Is there some message there? Are the creators of superheroes (of the graphic variety) a different breed of writer?

And, does it frighten anyone else that 24 is as popular as it is? And have you noticed that what started out as a fun kind of comic book show (Alias) has turned into a bunch of thugs who kill anyone in sight. (Yes, I know, the premise of Alias was that Sydney left the bad spies and went to the CIA - the good spies - but I accepted that as a way into an enjoyable, friend-oriented send-up of spy shows in general.) But, alas, no longer.


Lance, I'm really liking this series of posts. Lots to think about here.

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