Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"The Lesson of 24"

For an interesting, insightful but not altogether satisfying read about three of our SWNIDish obsessions--partisan and global politics, the ethics of warfare, and Jack Bauer--one can turn today to Time magazine (motto: Our circulation is so bad, we pandered to what audience we had left by making every reader "Person of the Year"). James Poniewozik there offers "The Evolution of Jack Bauer."

The article asks whether 24, so beloved by notable conservatives is in fact conservative political propaganda. Poniewozik notes that some leading 24's production are avowedly conservative, while others are not. More than that, he notes that some plot lines are problematic if viewed as political propaganda, notably Jack's evolution from torturer to tortured.

But we'll argue that Poniewozik commits the sin against which he rails as he ends his review with this remark:
That may be the biggest lesson of 24 in the Iraq era: don't stubbornly hang on to your preconceptions when the facts on the ground change.

We'll say differently. The biggest lesson of 24 in the Iraq era is to remember that 24, like every other popular TV drama and movie, is fiction. The producers are trying to tell a good story and keep viewers coming back. If they make what seems to be a political point, it's only a means to that end. The fact that it's embedded in narrative makes it no more valid than if it's argued inductively.

When fiction contains lessons, it's only because it mimics reality. When we try to parse fiction to prove political positions, we really beg the question of the narrative's connection to anything real. That adds one more layer to the problem of interpretation, which is hard enough as it is.

So we adjure all to stop making political hay out of 24 or The West Wing or Syriana or any other fictional narrative that captures the imagination. Just eat some snacks and watch the show.

1 comment:

rustypants said...

JW said:
"Just eat some snacks and watch the show."

Rustypants says:
"oooh!! how about OREOS!?!"