Two Words: Jack Bauer

While it looks like just about everyone has posted about TV shows so far, I couldn’t resist the chance to talk about the greatness that is 24.

A little bit of background for those of you who’ve never seen the show: each 24-episode season represents a full 24-hour day, so everything appears in real time. During these 24-hour spans, Jack Bauer, an agent with the Counter Terrorist Unit in Los Angeles (and apparently later New York, but I never watched that season), is faced with the task of thwarting off major terrorist attacks on the United States. From presidential assassinations to nuclear bombs and deadly viruses, Jack always manages to save the day.

Saving the day, though, doesn’t come without a lot of questionable acts on Jack’s part. This video (warning: it’s a little strange) actually goes through every scene he’s killed someone. According to the description, Jack kills 245 people over the course of eight seasons. Beyond this, Jack also repeatedly ignores CTU’s protocol and deals with a myriad of other ethically and morally complicated situations.

So, yeah, he killed a lot of dudes and didn’t always follow the rules. But Jack’s the good guy! He’s fighting terrorism, and if he has to take out a few people along the way, well, that’s just the way it is. Right?

What’s strange about this is that, despite my totally anti-violent demeanor, I found myself rooting for Jack every step of the way. I wanted him to fight back for himself, his family, President Palmer (a fantastic Dennis Haysbert a.ka. the Allstate guy), and the country. Placing Jack in the main character position, giving us all of his insights and the context for the decisions he makes, means it’s easy for us to understand why he so frequently disregards CTU’s protocol, not to mention the law.

Even though he’s committed a lot of crime along the way, one could argue that these crimes were for the greater good. Without Jack, whose capabilities and experience as a counter terrorist agent are generally unmatched, who else could come through to save the country? He’s too good at his job to be locked away – almost as if he’s “too big to fail.”


5 thoughts on “Two Words: Jack Bauer

  1. I liked your quote at the end about Jack being too big to fail like a lot of the companies we’ve talked about. I’ve never seen this show, but it looks really interesting and I feel like I’m definitely missing out. By the sounds of it, even though he’s committed a lot of crimes and killed a lot of people, I’d have to agree with you that he’s doing it for the greater good. So although it might not seem really ethical, it actually is in a sense. I’ll be watching this show in the future for sure.

  2. I have never seen this show as well, but it sounds so interesting. I guess this guy, Jack is more like James Bond, fighting back evil with an even stronger brute force. But in reality, the evil guys almost always outnumber the good guys, and brute force usually is irrelevant in the real world situation. But against terrorists, I don’t really know. May be non-violence does not work in cases with the bad guys aiming for mutually assured destruction.

  3. I’ve always wanted to watch this show because I’ve heard such good things about it! I think the interesting thing about the question you raise is that during the course of a single episode, I’m sure viewers rarely consider whether Jack Bauer’s behavior is “ethical” or “unethical”. Because of the nature of the show, and the people against whom he is fighting, I don’t think it ever crosses the audience’s minds that the murders and crimes he commits are unethical. It seems that “24” raises the same kind of issues as another show, “Dexter”, in which the main character routinely kills serial killers and criminals. Is one life more valuable than another? Is it right for Jack Bauer to kill as many people as he does because of the cause for which he is fighting? In a sense I think he is, like you said, “too big to fail” (or at least too big/”good” to be held to ethical standards).

  4. I think the biggest issue with Jack is not necessarily is he too big to fail, but “does the ends justify the means”. In his case he is fighting for America and “good”. But does that always give him the ability to do whatever he wants. At what point is the information, not worth the collateral damage. I think that this is obviously a glorified example but in the real world you could argue the line is much more blurred. This sort of describes the Nuclear Weapons issue in Iran. There are so many complex variables in this situation it is difficult to just say that we are good and they are bad. However, that is not necessarily true.

  5. Pingback: First Annual BGS Blog Olympics | Business, Society, and Government 4

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