Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Somewhat Less Entertaining

I don't want to make light of a serious situation, or make a light one seem more significant -- but, given recent events, I'm finding the current plotline on 24 to be, well, not very entertaining.

Let's review:  There's this Bad Guy.  Who has an evil bio-engineered virus that kills people really quickly.  It's an ugly, painful death -- and there's apparently no known antidote for the virus.  (But if you ask nice, maybe someone will give you a suicide pill to save on the suffering.)  So, the Bad Guy releases the virus in a hotel, killing hundreds of people.

Now there's the Good Guy (played by Kiefer Sutherland).  Kiefer works for some anti-terrorist government agency.  (Of our government.)  He wants to stop the Bad Guy.

Many satellite searches, phone traces and botched capture attempts later, Kiefer figures he'll force the Bad Guy to do what he wants by threatening to hurt the Bad Guy's daughter.  He captures her, convinces her that her dad is evil incarnate, and generally gets her to go along with his plan.

I am, at this point, somewhat opposed to Kiefer's behavior -- as I don't really think chloroforming the Bad Guy's daughter and holding her against her will is something the constitution approves of.  But, y'know, this is TV, so they're entitled to a little suspension of disbelief.  Besides, Kiefer does, eventually, convince the daughter to go along with him of her own free will, which makes me feel a little better about the whole scenario.

Of course, I am less happy every time Kiefer gets on the phone with Bad Guy and says, "I'll kill her; you know I will." 

Now, at the end of last night's episode, Kiefer arrests the Bad Guy.  (Hooray!)  But the game isn't over yet, because the Bad Guy refuses to tell Kiefer where the rest of his little Virus Bombs are -- and those puppies can go off and infect lots and lots of people.

So, they show a preview of the scenes from the next episode.  Kiefer is trying really hard to get the Bad Guy to tell him where the rest of the Virus Bombs are.  Really hard.  We see a clip of a scene where Kiefer has his men push Bad Guy's daughter toward the door of the infected hotel.  The girl is screaming in terror and fighting to get away from them -- meantime, Kiefer is all, "C'mon, Bad Guy, you're out of time -- tell me what I want to know."

I feel a little ill watching this.  Not the same degree of ill I feel when watching pictures of American soldiers torture Iraqi prisoners -- because this is just television and that's real.  But because of the latter, I do feel a level of disquiet at the former.  I mean, am I supposed to be cheering for Kiefer -- a character who, in order to obtain information necessary to save American lives from an anticipated terror attack -- kidnaps someone's completely innocent daughter and threatens her with a gruesome death?  Am I supposed to think this is an acceptable interrogation technique?  That, given the necessity of obtaining immediate information from Bad Guy, all ethical and legal rules go out the window just this once?

And then I start to think there might be a little truth in the argument that the soldiers implicated in the Abu Ghraib abuse might really have believed that what they were doing was OK -- because it seems that, time and time again, our Hollywood versions of law enforcement heroes are always willing to bend the rules a little, in service of a good cause.  When we constantly celebrate "end justifies the means" behavior, how can we seriously expect to convince people that inappropriate means are inappropriate, no matter what?


pegluh said...

No doubt about it, 24 would be way more enjoyable if it weren't for what is happening in the real world.  I still enjoy it, just... with a little bit of a grimace.  I counter the not-so-fresh feelings by making fun of Kim at every opportunity.

sunshine38585 said...

This is my first visit to your journal and I really like this entry. I had to write an essay in Ethics class about "ends justifying means". Come visit my journal sometime.