Since I went on a political rant yesterday, let me take things down a notch today with a look at 24, one of my favorite TV shows. 24 stars Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, an ass-kicking CTU agent (or former CTU agent, sort of) in Los Angeles. Regular viewers of the show have come to realize that Jack Bauer is willing to shoot just about anyone or anything to get the job done.
24 takes place in a slightly edgier parallel reality where American paranoia and Republican thinking make sense. On 24, murderous terrorist motives potentially lurk behind the peaceful facade of every immigrant family (and a few free thinking non-immigrants as well), women are particularly ruthless, and the chain of command between the military, the White House, and the nation's intelligence agencies runs smoothly and efficiently.
I think I like the show for the same reason that it's potentially disturbing. 24 plays into the American Gothic ideal- the belief or fear that depite the apparent normalcy of one's surroundings, there are things evil and dangerous which lie below the surface. The show is effective in that it plays on both our hopes and our fears that there is more to mundane American life than it appears. The battleground for 24 is very familiar, and it plays into the current American paranoia that we face enemies who are not only abroad, but walk among us as well.
It's also nice to believe for an hour each week that our nation's intelligence forces are highly capable, motivated, and efficient.
Air conditioning has made us weak.