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Number 1 for torture
February 12, 2007 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Sixty-seven scenes of torture in five seasons. Is 24 responsible for an increase in real-life torture? They at least feel guilty enough to meet up with some actual interrogators encouraging them to make their torture scenes more authentic. But it's not just 24 - torture is becoming more prevalent on all American television.
posted by meech (107 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
When violence and sex stop working, ya gotta switch to something a little higher proof.
posted by smackwich at 1:47 PM on February 12, 2007


I made this comment here. A loooong time ago. My google foo isn't finding it at the moment.
posted by srboisvert at 1:53 PM on February 12, 2007


As it is, I think that the impact of America's torture violations was definitely softened by people's exposure to torture in movies making it seem commonplace during war. I bet a lot of people didn't realize it was even illegal until they read after Abu Ghraib that they were supposed to be all upset about it and stuff.
posted by hermitosis at 1:56 PM on February 12, 2007


Sex waterboarding sells.
posted by brundlefly at 1:56 PM on February 12, 2007


They get Fox in Iraq?
posted by smackfu at 2:00 PM on February 12, 2007


I think we all made this comment some time or another in the past 4 years...

I doubt that the 24 is responsible for increased torture, but I do think it's nationalist propaganda, and that, as hermitosis mentions, it contributes to an active deceit about torture.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:03 PM on February 12, 2007


Read the New Yorker article.

According to military professionals, 24 contributes to torture.

And lord knows our current policymakers are much more interested in believing themselves to be tough-minded than in listening to what anyone in the military has to say about anything.
posted by ibmcginty at 2:08 PM on February 12, 2007


Number 1 news network owned by number 2 defense Corp,
network programing.Vertical integration.
posted by hortense at 2:10 PM on February 12, 2007


Tits are bad but beating someone who's defenseless is totally cool? Got it, I've gotta go make some edits in my screenplay and replace sex scenes with torture scenes to keep my PG-13 rating.
posted by fenriq at 2:10 PM on February 12, 2007


Jack Baurer doesn't have time to fuck around people. He'll fucking cut your right eye out, than your left. Man I love 24.

24 is a TV show. Are Americans so stupid they can't tell the difference between real life and fantasy now? (That's really a rhetorical question I suppose.)

My friend wrote this back when Laura Ingraham was talking about 24 as a referendum on Torture.
posted by chunking express at 2:13 PM on February 12, 2007


Torture (and stopping it) is an important subject, and whether-or-not (and, if so, how) pop culture impacts real life is an important (and challenging) area of study.

But it drives me bonkers when these sorts of questions are bandied about using rackets made out of pseudo-science.

a) Is there more torture (or worse types of torture, if such a thing can even be quantified) now than pre-TV?

b) Have people's attitudes towards torture changed since more shows started showing torture?

c) If the answer either (or both) a and b is yes, is there any strong evidence that TV caused (even partially) the rise in torture or the change in attitudes?

It irks me when TV becomes the target, because even if there is a connection, I say lets not waste our time dissing FOX. Let's go after the actual people who are doing the torturing.

I'm always floored by the academics who blah blah blah about the racism in X poetry or the sexism in Y novels. Racism and sexism are horrible anywhere, but for God's sake -- go after the real people who are committing genocide and the bosses who pay women less than men. Stop THOSE crimes. THEN, once that stuff is cleaned up, go after poets and novelists and TV executives.

I'm also floored by newspapers, like the NY Times, that craft pseudo-anthropological studies out of crap data. They'll be some big headline like WHY IS AMERICAN OBSESSED WITH INSECTS? And it will turn out that the "evidence" for this is the fact that three movies about bugs came out recently. Feh!

I suspect I'm taking things too literally, as I often do, and refusing to let a subtext-based social ritual stay covert. My suspicion is that movies, TV-shows and the like are tokens we use to discuss matters that are deeply important to us. "Philadelphia" helped us discuss AIDS. Maybe "24" helps us discuss torture. But literal-old-me wishes that people would just come out and say that: "24 sure has featured a lot of torture lately. Which reminds me of how much I hate torture. What can we do about all the torture in the world?"

The problem with saying that is it makes you feel guilty if you DON'T do something about all the torture in the world.

It's easier to just rail at "the media."
posted by grumblebee at 2:13 PM on February 12, 2007 [5 favorites]


Has 24 ever shown Bauer torturing someone, then finding out later that the information coerced was completely false and led to him doing something that damaged his ability to complete the Unending Quest? (I don't watch it.)

That's what annoys me about the current depiction of torture -- it ALWAYS works. In reality, it doesn't work any better than standard interrogation. And because there's this false confidence in "evidence acquired under duress must be true," the chances of mistakes are much higher.

People always throw out the "wouldn't you torture someone if they knew where the nuke was that was about to go off in three minutes?" scenario. I always throw back, "Well, if you're a terrorist and your life is forfeit anyway, why would you NOT lie?"
posted by dw at 2:16 PM on February 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


Has 24 ever shown Bauer torturing someone, then finding out later that the information coerced was completely false and led to him doing something that damaged his ability to complete the Unending Quest?

Repeatedly. He has also been the victim of torture.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:19 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


dw, season 4, which seems to be where they really peaked with the torturing, had at least 3 people tortured that were innocent. The show treats it more as collateral damage; it's never really discussed by the characters for any length of time. There isn't any, "fuck, we shouldn't have given her the crazy pain drugs, we're monsters."
posted by chunking express at 2:19 PM on February 12, 2007


chunking express, grumblebee, my knee jerks the same way yours does, that demonizing the media is bad.

That said, this torture situaion is a rare and unique one. It's just become an issue, during a time of unusual upheaval and emotions, and the people who know something about interrogations find the impact of the show to be negative.

From the New Yorker article:
Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in the war in Iraq. He told the show’s staff that DVDs of shows such as “24” circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis said to me, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.” ... “In Iraq, I never saw pain produce intelligence,” Lagouranis told me. “I worked with someone who used waterboarding”—an interrogation method involving the repeated near-drowning of a suspect. “I used severe hypothermia, dogs, and sleep deprivation. I saw suspects after soldiers had gone into their homes and broken their bones, or made them sit on a Humvee’s hot exhaust pipes until they got third-degree burns. Nothing happened.” Some people, he said, “gave confessions. But they just told us what we already knew. It never opened up a stream of new information.” If anything, he said, “physical pain can strengthen the resolve to clam up.”
Last December, the Intelligence Science Board, an advisory panel to the U.S. intelligence community, released a report declaring that “most observers, even those within professional circles, have unfortunately been influenced by the media’s colorful (and artificial) view of interrogation as almost always involving hostility. ...
“They were receptive. But they have a format that works. They have won a lot of awards. Why would they want to play with a No. 1 show?” Lagouranis said of the “24” team, “They were a bit prickly. They have this money-making machine, and we were telling them it’s immoral.”
posted by ibmcginty at 2:20 PM on February 12, 2007


First: It's not that 24 depicts torture. So does Rome. It's that 24 makes torture seem cartoonish and, most offensively, EFFECTIVE.

Second: Kifer Sutherland is so NOT tough that 24 makes me giggle. He has to try SOOOO hard to be a tough guy. The forced throaty voice to cover his lisp. His affective anger and mock outrage. The fetishism with his glittery chromed out guns and he how fiddles with them - how many times does the guy have load a round in the chamber for shrist sake? How many gear up scenes do we need? Anyway. The dude is a punky little coke addled party boy.

The show is perfect for it's core audience. The arm-chair warrior Fox-news Whitey Righties that like to talk tough about kill'n them Ayrabs but have never done shit on the actual line. It's impossible to take this whole thing seriously.
posted by tkchrist at 2:20 PM on February 12, 2007 [5 favorites]


The dude is a punky little coke addled party boy.

Dude, you partied with Keifer? Awesome!
posted by NationalKato at 2:31 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


anyone seen Videodrome? Does it look quaint yet?
posted by Miles Long at 2:32 PM on February 12, 2007


My friend wrote this back when Laura Ingraham was talking about 24 as a referendum on Torture.

Argument redux, so you don't have to click: I like watching the show and I'm against torture (in theory, I suppose), so the show isn't pro-torture.

Oh yeah, also, people can tell the difference between TV and real-life.

That must explain all the sex with minors on prime time recently.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:33 PM on February 12, 2007


The show is perfect for it's core audience. The arm-chair warrior Fox-news Whitey Righties that like to talk tough about kill'n them Ayrabs but have never done shit on the actual line. It's impossible to take this whole thing seriously.

Oh good lord. Is Battlestar Galactica good for its core audience, which is composed of arm-chair warrior types who want to kill robots?
posted by The God Complex at 2:33 PM on February 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


He told the show’s staff that DVDs of shows such as “24” circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis said to me, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.”

This is disturbing. But I still don't think anyone has show striking CAUSAL evidence.

I look at it this way, if I had a son and I saw him kick a dog, and when I questioned him about it, he said, "my friend Tim told me to do it," my first reaction wouldn't be to hunt down Tim. My reaction would be to make my son understand that kicking a dog is NEVER okay. It makes no difference WHO tells him to do it. My son is the direct cause of the dog being kicked, so my son is the one that has to be dealt with.

Furthermore, if I went after Tim, people would (rightly) say that I was in denial -- that I didn't want to deal with the real fact that it was my son's fault -- and that I was going after the wrong target.

Someone DOES need to deal with Tim, but that can happen later.

If those soldiers didn't watch "24," would they cease torturing or would they just find some other way to torture?

When I used to work in childcare, I worked for this stupid daycare center that banned toy guns. It made all the liberal parents really happy. So the kids just used sticks or blocks as guns. Parents were more interested is hunting down "evil" pieces of plastic than dealing the the innate violence in their own kids' heads.
posted by grumblebee at 2:34 PM on February 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


But it's not just 24 - torture is becoming more prevalent on all American television.

Is it American Idol season again?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:35 PM on February 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Has 24 ever shown Bauer torturing someone, then finding out later that the information coerced was completely false and led to him doing something that damaged his ability to complete the Unending Quest?

No. But he did torture someone he "knew" was hiding information and when that info was revealed it was not at all relevant to the crime he was investigating but to a crime from a previous season.
posted by dobbs at 2:35 PM on February 12, 2007


I'm deadly serious about Battlestar Galactica, The God Complex. Don't get flippant about Cylons who look like people. That shit will backfire and we'll all be in the poo.
posted by cgc373 at 2:37 PM on February 12, 2007


Dude, you partied with Keifer? Awesome!

I went to school with him. Grade six. He was the fastest runner I've ever seen in my life.
posted by dobbs at 2:39 PM on February 12, 2007


I'm just sorry for Kiefer's dad, that wonderful actor and wonderfully compassionate, progressive man that is Donald Sutherland
posted by matteo at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2007


"[...]torture is becoming more prevalent on all American television."

And here I thought American television was torture! (Oh, c'mon, somebody was going to make the comment.) (On preview: Blazecock wins.)

That said, I get annoyed when people place the blame for actions on media depictions, but there is sometimes something to it. Frankly, given that Fox has been marketed as the only purveyor of American values on television, that provides 24 with an almost religious veneer of fact. I'm not saying that these people believe it's a reality show -- although such a show would be a big hit for Fox -- but that it depicts American the way they've been told it is supposed to be: violent, manly, merciless, and with absolute destruction guaranteed to anyone who doesn't salute the stars and stripes.
posted by mkhall at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2007


The show is perfect for it's core audience. The arm-chair warrior Fox-news Whitey Righties that like to talk tough about kill'n them Ayrabs but have never done shit on the actual line. It's impossible to take this whole thing seriously.

That's funny, because I'm not an arm-chair warrior, I don't like Fox News, I'm against the war in Iraq, and I don't like how torture has become an increasingly prominent tool in Jack Bauer's arsenal. But I still watch the show and used to be a big fan up until season 4.

The interesting thing is that 24 is a show that was conceived before September 11th and born at pretty much exactly the same time; the first media reports about 24 talked about Fox possibly pulling scenes from the series premiere, only weeks after 9/11, because it involved a jetliner exploding in mid-air. (Fox kept the scene, probably because a) the plane wasn't flown into a building, and b) a really hot assassin woman parachutes out of the plane moments before, thus contributing liberally to the sex appeal and lunacy aspects of the show.) So to blindly characterize the show as nothing but wartime propaganda is to ignore the show's genesis; it may be pretty nationalistic and pro-war now, but all that has arguably been a response from the producers rather than a goal from the beginning.

It's true that insofar as torture is depicted badly at all, 24 treats it as an unfortunate consequence of Doing The Right Thing rather than dealing with the legitimate issues surrounding torture. But it's worth noting that in the second season, there were several incidences of torture that reflected poorly on two very sympathetic characters: President David Palmer ordering the torture of a high-ranking government official and Jack Bauer pretending to order the execution of a terrorist's family while the terrorist watched. In fact, that entire season was far more nuanced than the charges of nationalist propaganda would imply; there was the question of going to war over false intelligence, warring factions within the U.S. government, and an Arab terrorist who turns out not to be a terrorist at all, but rather an unwitting decoy for his wife, who is both a terrorist and very Caucasian.

None of that is to imply that the show hasn't gotten far worse in its depictions of torture since. When your television show depicts a lawyer working for a civil-rights group as a hinderance to national security, something is horribly wrong. And I don't really feel that comfortable with the show cozying up to figures like Rush Limbaugh. But even the New Yorker profile makes it clear that the people who work on the show have conflicting political ideologies, and at many points the producers have argued that 24 is not intended to advance an agenda so much as reflect current sentiment about the "war on terror." Hence the storyline from last season that sees a sitting President turn rogue.

In the end, it's mass-market television, designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. The media can only go so far in setting the agenda; at some point it's got to meet the public halfway, or else the message won't resonate. One last thing to think about: 24 was critically hailed in its first season, but almost got cancelled due to low ratings. Imagine how things might be different in that particular universe.
posted by chrominance at 2:52 PM on February 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


As it is, I think that the impact of America's torture violations was definitely softened by people's exposure to torture in movies making it seem commonplace during war.

Isn't movie torture usually performed by the depraved villain -- just recently, for example, in both Pan's Labyrinth and Casino Royale?

Kifer Sutherland is so NOT tough that 24 makes me giggle...

I was going to comment on how convincingly tough he was in Stand by Me, but then I remembered he was up against a ten year old Whil Wheaton.
posted by eddydamascene at 2:52 PM on February 12, 2007


Frankly, given that Fox has been marketed as the only purveyor of American values on television, that provides 24 with an almost religious veneer of fact. I'm not saying that these people believe it's a reality show -- although such a show would be a big hit for Fox -- but that it depicts American the way they've been told it is supposed to be: violent, manly, merciless, and with absolute destruction guaranteed to anyone who doesn't salute the stars and stripes.

With respect, this is the sort of rhetoric I was talking about.

I get that you dislike FOX's values. I do too. But I don't get how their values -- and the values of the people that watch the show -- becomes "an almost religious veneer of fact."

I enjoy the show, as fun escapism, and I've watched enough of it to see many characters that ARE patriots die -- and some that aren't get away.

"24" creates a world in which the selfless are pitted against the selfish (sometimes that's an internal battle going on inside one person; sometimes it's a selfish person vs. a selfless person). Selflessness generally triumphs, but it takes a long time and the triumph comes at great cost. It's not a simple world in which the good guys win and the bad guys lose.

I'm not a patriot, but I can connect with the hard choices that the characters have to make, e.g. whether to save their own skins or help others. And, of course, I can also get into the sheer adventure.

I also think, in a metaphorical way, the show is less about rah-rah-USA than it is about the evils of bureaucracy. Jack Bower is repeatedly the man of action who cuts through the red-tape bullshit and takes the necessary action. He does this at a price, too.
posted by grumblebee at 2:56 PM on February 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Nice post, chrominance.

Indeed, it's pretty odd how Ingraham and others think that results from torture on the show are realistic while completely ignoring the corrupt politicians (even Presidents) as realistic.

I'm not very patriotic, am anti-war, left wing, and think Fox News blows. I'm also Canadian (like Keifer and that hot assassin you mentioned, Mia Kirshner), but I think that the show's a solid example of good drama.
posted by dobbs at 3:00 PM on February 12, 2007


I checked out of 24 about the time the cute girl from The Girl Next Door was being chased by a mountain lion in the midst of nuclear bombs going off in Death Valley. I can only imagine the twists and turns in each episode have gotten more contrived and outlandish. I honestly don't know why people enjoy being manipulated in that way, or why they find it entertaining.

The best dramatic depiction of torture in wartime I have ever seen, that addresses the moral complexity and futility of it, was in Three Kings.

What I remember of the torture scenes from early 24 were that they were gratuitous, ineffective and meant to draw out the idea that the Jack Bauer character is a hollow shell of a man. Besides, no one ever seemed to know enough to say enough to get the time bomb to stop ticking. I thought that was really the point of them.
posted by psmealey at 3:02 PM on February 12, 2007


Is Battlestar Galactica good for its core audience, which is composed of arm-chair warrior types who want to kill robots?

I'm not sure what this means but if your using your secret Jedi Mind Trick to somehow knock BSG... SHUT YOUR FILTHY HOLE!

24 has a core audience. Regardless of what is was when it started it has, post 9/11, attracted a certain audience and now panders to that audience. If you feel that's not "you" well... so what? Most mainstream shows have a target they groom. Go to 24s Nielsen profile. The core target is White Middle Class Suburban dudes who like Fox News. If it appeals outside of that profile that does not invalidate the profile or the target market and why the show follows that plot path it does.

And back to God Complex. Shut your friggin pie hole you worthless worm not fit to kiss Starbucks sweet tight Cylon patootie! BSG RULEZ!!!

God Complex you take things far too literally. Oh. And NEVER SPEAK ILL OF BSG AGAIN! Was I clear about that?
posted by tkchrist at 3:08 PM on February 12, 2007


I'm not very patriotic, am anti-war, left wing, and think Fox News blows. I'm also Canadian (like Keifer and that hot assassin you mentioned, Mia Kirshner), but I think that the show's a solid example of good drama.

Well, concerning television, it seems we have found our common ground ;)

/doffs cap
posted by The God Complex at 3:08 PM on February 12, 2007


I was going to comment on how convincingly tough he was in Stand by Me, but then I remembered he was up against a ten year old Whil Wheaton.

He is convincingly creepy. In that movie he was a true creep - like the character in King's short story. But not tough.

Of all those guys in that movie isn't odd the one who played the fat kid has the most popular show and scored the hotest chick.
posted by tkchrist at 3:14 PM on February 12, 2007


Battlestar Galactica changed everything. Felgercarb!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:15 PM on February 12, 2007


Buffy?
posted by cgc373 at 3:16 PM on February 12, 2007


How many times does Jack Bauers daughter have to get kidnapped, held hostage, or be held in mortal peril, before the discerning intelligent viewer is yanked from the territory of drama and dropped into land of repetitive formulaic farce. Hey. But if that's your thing...
posted by tkchrist at 3:17 PM on February 12, 2007


The only pic Kiefer scared me in was Freeway, where he played a Big Bad Wolf, and a jailbait Reese Witherspoon shot him over and over and over until his face and head were a misshapen horrific mass, but he didn't die. He went to court. Drooling out of his prosthesis. Brutal stuff.

Otherwise, he just seems like a wash. Everybody takes up more space on a screen.
posted by cgc373 at 3:19 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


How stupid is "24"? I caught a scene the other day where this bad guy had the drop on Jack and was about to stop talking and start shooting him when a helicopter snuck up on the bad guy and shot him... and saved Jack!! AMERICA!! Fuck yeah!
posted by wrapper at 3:23 PM on February 12, 2007


Well, concerning television, it seems we have found our common ground

Whoa. Isn't this one of the signs of the apocalypse? Also, do you hate that BSG crap as well or do I have to lower you another notch in my book?
posted by dobbs at 3:32 PM on February 12, 2007


Huck Finn is such a shit book. How many ridiculous things happen to those two on the river. Completely unbelievable and therefore trash. You know what else stinks? Some Like it Hot. As if anyone would be fooled by those two dressed as women. And don't get me started on early Godard. Who acts like that, running through the Louvre after taking English classes? Unrealistic. Lame.
posted by Falconetti at 3:41 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think people understand the difference between reality and TV, and there isn't a cause-and-effect relationship between watching something and doing something.

However, I think that showing torture on TV could have an effect on those who have a pre-existing proclivity to torture (and, of course, the opportunity). After all, isn't this the very point of TV advertising? Not to convince people to buy widgets they don't want, but to convince people who might want to buy a widget to buy a Walker's Premium Widget.

In the same vein, having the 'advertising' as part of a programme would likely make it more effective, in the same way that messages in newspaper editorial are more effective than messages in newspaper ads.
posted by athenian at 3:41 PM on February 12, 2007


You have to lower me another notch! I'm obviously much more of a genre fan than you are. I don't think Season 3 is nearly as good as the first two seasons, but I still think it's a very good show.

As far as pure entertainment is concerned, I'd say Heroes is at the top of my list currently.
posted by The God Complex at 3:42 PM on February 12, 2007


You have to lower me another notch!

*sigh*. Done.

As far as pure entertainment is concerned, I'd say Heroes is at the top of my list currently.

Ugh. Worst of the lot. Four more notches. :(
posted by dobbs at 3:44 PM on February 12, 2007


I went to school with him. Grade six. He was the fastest runner I've ever seen in my life.
posted by dobbs


That's just because he started running right after Mr. Bevilaqua said "Get set!"
posted by papakwanz at 3:44 PM on February 12, 2007



Otherwise, he just seems like a wash.


Yup. 24 had something with the real-time narrative. I like the first 5 or six but it quickly became a gimmick when they didn't really go on to evolve the plot formula. Sutherland has some chops but this show just fawns over him.

Personally I think they could have made it more gritty and lower tech (and less "Bauer Family" dependent). I would have made it more like Smileys People and less like 90210. Get rid of relying on the hot 20 year old computer expert of the week and trendy haircuts. After all how many times we gonna need to see them open up a secure socket and hack in to the mainframe as our main tension builder between shoot outs?

And it needs more Cylons.
posted by tkchrist at 3:45 PM on February 12, 2007


Some Like it Hot. As if anyone would be fooled by those two dressed as women.

Whoa. Wait a minute. Are you saying Marlyn Monroe was a man!?
posted by tkchrist at 3:47 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are those that are in favour of torture: Bush (never been to war), Cheney (never been to war) and Joel Surnow (never been to war and the creator of 24 and a self-confessed "right-wing nut job" (friends with Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter!!!)) on the other side you have Col. Herrington (an Iraq interrogator) Joe Navarro (FBI interrogator) Tony Laoganis (Ahu Garib interrogator) who also said: “We had no official doctrine about what to do. So people were watching movies and watching TV and they were getting their ideas from that.”

While there is a difference between TV and real-life the company that 24 is keeping, at the very least, suggests that it is propaganda in support of the American administration.
posted by meech at 3:49 PM on February 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


Why stop there, Falconetti? Surely there are parallels between 24 and Twelfth Night and Othello. Certainly it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those great works.
posted by psmealey at 3:51 PM on February 12, 2007


and an Arab terrorist who turns out not to be a terrorist at all, but rather an unwitting decoy for his wife, who is both a terrorist and very Caucasian.

Ah-hem. And also the daughter of a liberal do-gooder Hollywood elitist Millionaire who would let his daughter marry one of "those people." They covered their Fox News centered asses with that one, bud.
posted by tkchrist at 3:53 PM on February 12, 2007


Well - After Othello came out, there was a reported surge of men murdering their wives. And that wasn't even in the name of national security.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:53 PM on February 12, 2007


And it needs more Cylons.

Cylons are like bacon. They make everything better.
posted by Cyrano at 3:57 PM on February 12, 2007


Network snuff will be next, because that'll be all that's left.

That Judd Hirsch bit quoted above from the premiere of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was the best thing the show's done, and it's been sadly downhill since. Sorkin, Sorkin, what happened, man?

But, dude, it's Jack Fucking Bauer. Dude can do anything he wants to GET TO THE TRUTH DAMMIT SON OF A BITCH YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO HE'S OR HE'S GOING DARK. NOW OPEN UP A SOCKET YOU BASTARD, AND PUT IT UP ON MY SCREEN!
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:04 PM on February 12, 2007


Cylons are like bacon.

Greasy, salty and unclean in the eyes of the lord?
posted by Tenuki at 4:05 PM on February 12, 2007


Greasy, salty and unclean in the eyes of the lord?

Yup. Like everything else fun in life.
posted by tkchrist at 4:07 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


It appears that the 24-bashing is well underway so I'll just sneak in with a few kicks to the gut while the sucker's down.

24 would be a comedy without all the dramatic music. It is incredibly bad television, worse even than WWE or WWV, or whatever the stupid fake wrestling is called this week. I like Keifer as an actor but 24 sucks zombie goat balls (yes, he was majorly creepy in Freeway but then Reese was loony crazy in that too).
posted by fenriq at 4:08 PM on February 12, 2007


24 would be a comedy without all the dramatic music.

My god you hit it. Let's do a re-edit with tuba solos and marching band music! And then every sexy scene must be accompanied by bag pipes!
posted by tkchrist at 4:12 PM on February 12, 2007


I blame Tarantino.

And Pontecorvo.
posted by breezeway at 4:14 PM on February 12, 2007


Greasy, salty and unclean in the eyes of the lord?

Hey, that's my MOTHER you're talking about!

How 24 has a fan base but The Wire is struggling bewilders me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:16 PM on February 12, 2007


24 would be a comedy without all the dramatic music.

Awesome. The same way that Xena Warrior Princess was a porno without the sex scenes.
posted by psmealey at 4:23 PM on February 12, 2007


How 24 has a fan base but The Wire is struggling bewilders me.

One's plot-based, one's character-based. Mystery solved. (Also, one's "free" and the other ain't.)
posted by dobbs at 4:24 PM on February 12, 2007


Why stop there, Falconetti? Surely there are parallels between 24 and Twelfth Night and Othello. Certainly it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those great works.

I was responding to complaints about he show being unrealistic. Obviously, Huck Finn, Some Like It Hot, and Godard are superior to 24, but the complaint that 24 is bad because it is over the top or unrealistic doesn't survive on its own unless accompanied with more information. If the histrionics of 24 take you out of your viewing space or something, then say that. It just seemed like a lazy and thoughtless complaint. And why address it directly when one can make a snidey remark instead!
posted by Falconetti at 4:34 PM on February 12, 2007


The New Yorker article is excellent - Surnow is an extremely weird guy. A comment on the British socialist website, Lenin's Tomb, offered this as a summary of the show: "24 is 1984 from O'Brien's PoV."
posted by stammer at 4:41 PM on February 12, 2007


24 would be a comedy without all the dramatic music.

Clearly you're not watching it properly. 24 is a comedy BECAUSE of the dramatic music.
posted by chrominance at 4:47 PM on February 12, 2007


Is 24 responsible for an increase in real-life torture?"

Is it also responsible for an increase in back-alley gunfights, assassination attempts, foreign embassy raids, black presidents, evil presidents, killer cell phones, and hot nerdy women? Film at 11!

God I love 24 so much. And its over-the-top-ness is three-quarters of the reason. Some people watch Reality TV. This is my dirty secret, and I don't care if the whole world knows!

Also, 24 bingo! [self-link]
posted by Plutor at 4:54 PM on February 12, 2007


So many exclamation marks. Maybe it's because two episodes are on starting in five minutes!

!

posted by Plutor at 4:54 PM on February 12, 2007


What I remember of the torture scenes from early 24 were that they were gratuitous, ineffective and meant to draw out the idea that the Jack Bauer character is a hollow shell of a man.

What's changed in recent years is that torture is now mostly effective and necessary (ex. nearly all of season 4 shows the former, and Bauer's hesitation to torture someone this season and almost missing crucial info in the process shows the latter). What hasn't changed is it still points to the loss of Jack Bauer's humanity. The man has lost pretty much everything—his wife is dead, his daughter is estranged, most of his friends and allies were killed, and he basically has no real life left.

The obvious lesson 24 has for its viewers, the one the producers and especially Joel Surnow have highlighted, is that America wants—perhaps needs—someone like Jack Bauer to protect the homefront. The not-so-obvious lesson, the one that could use a bit more attention, is that the only reason Jack Bauer is so effective is because he has nothing left to lose; the price he's paid for his effectiveness is his soul. Plenty of Americans have already paid this price in the real world.

The torture issue is a big one, but another related issue that doesn't get so much attention is the central premise that people like Jack Bauer are necessary evils to maintain national security. In other words, America needs Jack Bauer to destroy himself for the good of the nation. It's the same attitude that makes it okay for the U.S. to send tens of thousands of troops to Iraq, to force its soldiers to torture and humiliate prisoners in the interests of gathering intelligence. America continues to ask its own people to snuff out their humanity in order to save the country from terrorists. And for those of us who remain unconvinced that destroying the souls of your own citizens is a worthwhile strategy, 24 often poses numerous moral difficulties.
posted by chrominance at 5:07 PM on February 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Orwellian Ideology of 24
posted by oncogenesis at 5:19 PM on February 12, 2007


America continues to ask its own people to snuff out their humanity in order to save the country from terrorists

The only problem is that not only does torture affect the humanity of the torturer it is also counter-productive to protecting America from further terrorism. Major General Miller who was in charge of the Iraq detention camps [and considered responsible for some of the abuse] had a change of heart: American interrogators working in Iraq have obtained as much as 50 percent more high-value intelligence since a series of coercive practices . . . were banned [in May 2004]. . . . Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the American commander in charge of detentions and interrogations, said that . . . "a rapport-based interrogation that recognizes respect and dignity, and having very well-trained interrogators, is the basis by which you develop intelligence rapidly and increase the validity of that intelligence."
posted by meech at 5:43 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Shut your friggin pie hole you worthless worm not fit to kiss Starbucks sweet tight Cylon patootie! BSG RULEZ!!!

Starbuck is a Cylon now? Pray tell, are you privy to some secret info on upcoming shows?
posted by aldurtregi at 5:47 PM on February 12, 2007


For the longest time, I only remembered images of torture on the part of the "bad guys". Only the Nazis tortured people, or the Imperial Japanese, or the Klan, or the Soviets, or the Vietcong, or NYC cops during the Giuliani Administration (doh! scratch that one). "We" (Americans) never did it, because we didn't have to. We were the good guys, and didn't need to resort to it, because we were wholesome and good and pure, and our enemies would see the light if we were just patient and kind enough with them.

Am I falsely remembering this, because all the way up until 9/11, I can't recall bad guys doing any torturing in tv shows and movies (other than to make the point that torture is bad, mmkay). 9/11 may not have changed "everything" as some claim, but it may have changed this. 24 is the first such example of a show i can recall that has "good" guys running amok, torturing people almost as a matter of course.

Further to chrominance's well made point, is I think a reason for people's general indifference to the idea that our government is torturing suspected terrorists because no one involved with the planning or execution of 9/11 has yet been brought to justice. There may be a sick sense of, we'll if we can arrest them, then we can make them pay for 9/11 there. I dunno. Just a theory. I don't believe it's racism that permits this indifference, which most people on this site seemd to theorize, I think there's something more insidious at play there.
posted by psmealey at 5:58 PM on February 12, 2007


Man, I can’t wait until Hillary Clinton bans all evil media and torture stops everywhere forever and everyone gets pancakes and cats to pet and stuff.

I must say tho, I do like the European attitude of “Hey, look! Tits!” in countering violence. I mean who jerks off then goes out to start trouble? No one. It’s like marijuana.

I’ve never seen ‘24’ so I can’t really comment. Commercials for it aggrivate the shit out of me. I mean, over and over and over, especially during football games. If someone wants me to watch something that badly than I want to not watch it even worse no matter how good it might be or how much I like it. Oral sex included.
“Let me do you like you’ve never - ”
“No, forget it.”
“What?”
“No. S’been built up too much. Screw it. I’ll play tetris.”
“...you don’t want a blowjob”
“Hell no. Not any more there, yappy.”
posted by Smedleyman at 6:02 PM on February 12, 2007


It was a pretty annoying show with all of its ridiculous plot contrivances, but one thing that annoyed me more than that was the fact that the CTU was a bunch hipsters working in a super chic high-tech down town loft office space, and having sexual imbroglio after sexual imbroglio with their hot co-workers. It was basically an ad agency, yet we were expected to believe that these people were government employees. That was more unbelievable than anything plot-related.
posted by psmealey at 6:09 PM on February 12, 2007


It just seemed like a lazy and thoughtless complaint.

Falconetti: Uh. Not if you understood it.

24 suffers from not enough imagination. NOT too much imagination.

So please. Your retort has no teeth. We understand it's a fantasy. The problem is it's a frigg'n dull ass repetitive fantasy.
posted by tkchrist at 6:10 PM on February 12, 2007


Starbuck is a Cylon now?

I am not allowed to say any more. Except the last time I fucked her... her spine glowed. Not that THAT is anything new.

HI-oh!
posted by tkchrist at 6:12 PM on February 12, 2007


I was specifically responding to wrapper, not tkchrist.
posted by Falconetti at 6:22 PM on February 12, 2007


ok. sorry.
posted by tkchrist at 6:26 PM on February 12, 2007






I was laid up once or there was an ice storm, I don’t remember, anyway I got sucked into a 24 marathon. It was exciting, but it made me feel dirty for a week. I’ve been wondering ever since how Donald Sutherland, as a Vietnam war resistor, copes with his son’s fantastically hideous career as a TV torturer.

I suppose it seemed like a good idea at the time, but maybe its not such a good idea after all to name your kid after your favorite drug.

Not ,of course, that I have anything but the highest respect for Donald Sutherland... even if his lousy kid has done enough to negate all the good things he did.
posted by Huplescat at 7:49 PM on February 12, 2007


Is 24 responsible for an increase in real-life torture?

Is Lost responsible for an increase in real-life polar bears?

Is The Colbert Report responsible for an increase in real-life right-wing punditry?

Is House responsible for an increase in real-life medical diagnosis?

Is Firefly responsible for an increase in real-life space cowboys?

Is The Dick Van Dyke Show responsible for an increase in real-life comedy writing?
posted by sparkletone at 8:31 PM on February 12, 2007


This is among the worst MeFi threads I've ever seen.

Almost no one wants to be bothered to read the article.

Lead Army interrogators went to LA to meet with the show's staff to ask them to stop showing torture the way they do. They say it's having a negative effect in Iraq.

The government officials formulating and implementing policy on torture look to the situations created on the show as the reason for, and as support for, their policies.

I have an instinctive resentment to any "blame the media" argument. But the facts of this situation indicate that this show is having a toxic effect.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:48 PM on February 12, 2007


Hey. I read the article.

I'd like to take the interrogators at their word, but I think more is going on here then simple "24 --> More torture."

It feels too much to me like Jack Thompson's rhetoric re: video games when the actual situation is 1) different and 2) more complex than the simple equation of certain kinds of video games as "murder simulators training your kid to kill."

Regardless of the show's merits as entertainment, as art, &c., I'd like to see more about how widespread this toxic effect is before getting het up about it. What's in the article reads like some cases of idiots monkey-doing what they've monkey-seen.
posted by sparkletone at 9:12 PM on February 12, 2007


ibmcginty, I read the New Yorker article Friday, and afterward I spent a while looking up a book a friend of mine wrote, called American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination. In the course of that, I found out my friend appeared on C-Span last summer, during a tour to promote the book, and now that appearance is up at ForaTv [direct link to ForaTv Player]. It's an hour and a half long. Now, I bring up the book and the recording because it's about torture, and about how the U.S. government uses torture from a policy standpoint, but I don't expect everybody who speaks up from this point forward to have watched the video before they speak up. Who has that kind of time?

We're all just talking, here, right? Some of us are talking specifically about 24 and its depiction of torture, and how the views of the show's producers, performers, etc. may play into that. Others of us are talking about our experiences with the show itself, and with our experience of others shows in comparison, and so on. It's a conversation, not a lecture series.
posted by cgc373 at 9:29 PM on February 12, 2007




Someone that teaches law at West point "“The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about “24”?’ ” "

These are the US's finest soldiers? What about the grunts. Yeesh!
posted by lalochezia at 11:09 PM on February 12, 2007


Dammit, after I read that New Yorker article, I was plannning on making a post about 24 and torture. Might as well toss up some of the links I was saving:

Here's Sarah Vowell on 24.

Here's Slavoj Zizek on "The depraved heroes of 24 are the Himmlers of Hollywood."

Here's a PopMatters article on the subject.

I'm deeply conflicted about 24. On one hand, it's the only TV show I currently watch, because I like it so much. I've gotten three generations of my family hooked on it. It gets my pulse racing more than any any action movie I've ever seen (though I must admit, the last few episodes have been atrocious). On the other hand, I'm scared that it is subliminally but actively affecting my attitude toward torture. I'm pleased that pretty much all of the creators other than Surnow (that ass) are wary of the effect the show is having on culture, but I can't stand that their excuse is that "people can differentiate between a television show and reality" (that's from the New Yorker article). Look, of course they don't think that Jack Bauer is actually going out and kicking suicide bombers off of subway trains. That's not the point. There's so much cognitive science literature suggesting that exposures to smallish amounts of environmental input like this can have drastic non-conscious effects on our moral dispositional traits (see, for instance, the Ross and Nesbit literature on situationism and virtue ethics). The worry is that even if you rationally know that 24 is fiction, and you rationally know that there aren't any ticking time bomb scenarios, prolonged exposure to this kind of stuff will unconsciously change the way you react to society. Think about the way that you a person can decry racism and yet still accidentally harbor systemically racist qualities... hanging pictures of great black leaders in your house has a measurable affect on anti-racist behavior, even though it shouldn't rationally make any difference. Sometimes I think I can actually feel in myself the changes that 24 is making on me. I'm not pleased about it. Yet I can't stop watching, because it's so damn fun. How much of a moral puritan must I be?

Season 4 was the worst: the lawyer for "Amnesty Global" is a (metrosexual) villain because he argues for his client's rights and his client happens to be a terrorist; people die because Richard Heller is gay. Sometimes people point to the fact that the show surrupticiously attacked a version of Bush in the last season as way of indicating that the show crosses political lines, but all that shows is that Surnow is some kind of libertarian and hates corrupt governmental involvement. And those (including Kiefer) who argue that the show is tacitly anti-torture because it takes its toll on Jack's psyche? Bull. Jack is presented as a martyr. He gives up his own well-being in order to do the right thing by torturing. We, as the audience, feel sorry for his sacrifices and love him for them: the show encourages us to think that his way is the way of the patriot. I wish Kiefer would recognize this. C'mon Kiefer... you're Canadian!

Still, I watch. Because Christ, it's exciting.
posted by painquale at 11:21 PM on February 12, 2007


That's Nesbitt, not Nesbit
posted by painquale at 11:24 PM on February 12, 2007


And violent video games and goth rock were responsible for Columbine...

...uh huh. Perhaps another way of looking at this is should we really be putting the lives of so many in the hands of people who are so impressionable as to actually use pop culture as a moral roadmap?

I say the strawmen are running the asylum, and the images infecting the souls of the inmates are not on the television screens - they are in the mirrors.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:36 PM on February 12, 2007


And violent video games and goth rock were responsible for Columbine [...] should we really be putting the lives of so many in the hands of people who are so impressionable as to actually use pop culture as a moral roadmap?

Yeah, I expected I might get this kind of response. It has nothing to do with what I wrote.
posted by painquale at 12:11 AM on February 13, 2007


I'm deeply conflicted about 24.

Great comment, great links.

I'm also uneasy about the ends-justify-the-means attitude of the show's writers and the show itself, and how I still enjoy how the story unfolds.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:26 AM on February 13, 2007


I don't think it's the same argument as the Columbine one - it appears that there is prima facie evidence that soldiers in Iraq are using 24 as a role model but that is beside the point. For me the issue is that the TV program mimics the current US administration's immoral and illegal policies on torture [and as homunculus pointed out upthread: Conservatives continue to use Fox's 24 to support hawkish policies].

Decoding the media can be a difficult and time consuming job and while a lot of Metafilter readers would probably be aware of the bias in the program it is worth noting the show creator's agenda [for those that didn't read the article, he says "People in the Administration love the series, too. It’s a patriotic show. They should love it.” He is also the guy behind the Fox equivalent of the Daily Show]
posted by meech at 12:27 AM on February 13, 2007


When I read the phrase "literature on situationism and virtue ethics," I knew that comment was by you, painquale. You should see Kristian Williams, my friend from the link above (reproduced here [direct link to 90-minute video]) talk about what it means for a government to use torture as a tool of policy. His background is in philosophy and literature, specifically moral luck and moral responsibility, but he works more in journalism and nonfictional political work, now. (He also wrote "The Case for Comics Journalism" in CJR, which made the blue a couple of years ago.)
posted by cgc373 at 1:30 AM on February 13, 2007


I'll check that video out when I get a chance, cgc373. Thanks!
posted by painquale at 1:39 AM on February 13, 2007


There's a few people where I work that love 24.

One's a young white male, not really conservative or liberal, but loves guns and violence. The other's a hispanic male that was in the Army (hopefully won't get yanked back to go to Iraq) and trends liberal but for some odd reason watches Fox News just to get pissed at O'Reilly.

It's fairly odd in that one actually has seen combat and says he was scared out of his mind. The other WISHES he has seen combat.

Personally I think the whole 'season is a day' thing is gimmicky so I don't bother, since I don't feel like watching several seasons just to be up on what's going on. I also tend not to watch hour long shows. Plus I had a negative reaction when tere was a fuss made about the "arab-looking" terrorist. Just because it seemed to me like they were trying to exploit people's paranoia rather than making a good story.

I will say I like Keifer Sutherland, Dark City FTW!
posted by Talanvor at 1:39 AM on February 13, 2007


And violent video games and goth rock were responsible for Columbine...

The snark might work better if people wouldn't keep straw-manning "influence" as "is responsible for".

What knee-jerk anti-determinists everyone is these days. Seems the pendulum has swung fully back since the days of Subliminal Seduction. I'm not influenced by commercials! Why, if I was, I'd be up to my ears in Pepsi Blue, wouldn't I?!

I had no idea that the idea of desensitization was so thoroughly discredited. Please go on. Since nothing can influence you, conversation surely cannot.
posted by dreamsign at 1:41 AM on February 13, 2007


Ack. And just now I see that the poster used "is... responsible for" as the rhetorical wording for the post.

I wish it weren't so. Influence rarely gets talked about because everyone is so busy "refuting" responsibility with their, frankly worthless, personal anecdotes.

But my apologies, IRFH, in case you were drawing on the original wording.
posted by dreamsign at 2:18 AM on February 13, 2007


This'll teach me to comment and sleep!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:21 AM on February 13, 2007


dreamsign: Yes, I was deliberately using the post's phrasing to construct my response. And my point actually wasn't that we aren't influenced by what we watch, but rather that if we take the post at face value and grant that there can be an influence, then rather than blaming the source of influence, we should be ensuring that we don't put the ignorant and weak-willed in positions of power and authority over others.

In other words, given the findings, the failure is theirs. Their argument is ironically fundy in nature - we aren't strong enough to withstand our primitive natures, so images that incite impure impulses should be hidden from view. I'm just saying bullshit. If we're going to be in the business of imprisoning and interrogating foreign nationals, we should employ only the very best from our ranks in that regard.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:22 AM on February 13, 2007


painquale: "Yeah, I expected I might get this kind of response. It has nothing to do with what I wrote."

You're right - it had nothing to do with what you wrote. I hadn't even seen your comment until I previewed just prior to clicking Post Comment. My comment was in response to the post, not to you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:25 AM on February 13, 2007


You're right - it had nothing to do with what you wrote.

Oops! Sorry.

(At least I was right.)
posted by painquale at 12:00 PM on February 13, 2007


“Is The Dick Van Dyke Show responsible for an increase in real-life comedy writing?”

Well, no sparkletone. But humorously tripping over and/or deftly skirting ottomen went up by 300% nationwide.
Also the Mary Tyler Moore hairstyle became popular...which is damning in and of itself.


“There's so much cognitive science literature suggesting that exposures to smallish amounts of environmental input like this can have drastic non-conscious effects on our moral dispositional traits...”

Irrelevent even if empirically proven. I mean, one might be able to say “you shouldn’t watch that, it’s bad for you” but there’s no practical way to apriori ban any given media without it being censorship. I’m solidly anti-torture, but I can see no world in which the benefits of banning a television program outweigh the benefits of free discourse and the exchange of ideas. (Not that you asserted it should be banned)
That said, it troubles me that the media is monopolized and these types of messages are the only ones available through mass media. Then again we had Stepenfetchit as a big star for a while and, eventually, equal rights (legally anyway).
I guess, bottom line, it doesn’t particularly matter what a bunch of people watch or where their fantasies lay as long as it’s not intrinsically contingent on policy.
And indeed given the electoral college and any number of other ways voting is rigged such that anyone can be a president or a senator - yet it’s nearly always rich white folks who are - there are more than a few firewalls between the disposition of the general populace and actual execution of policy.
I wouldn’t argue that there isn’t some sort of collusion there (nor would I argue there is without proof) between policy and (subconsciously) convincing folks of the wisdom of it through a mechanism like this. It’s certainly convenient. But again, even given the harm, more harm would be done by employing a mechanism to restrict it. (And that assertion is limited to tools directly targeting any particular sort of message, not giving relief to the media industry in terms of splitting monopoly control and other tools designed to free discourse - the answer to speech you don’t like is more speech - cliched, but true)
...perhaps if Jack pushed people over ottomen?
(or, for you Dykophiles - took everyone’s walnuts)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:42 PM on February 13, 2007


From homunculus's link:
John Gibson: "Is 24's faux suitcase nuke bomb a real wake-up call for America? Should we take this as an early warning sign that something like this could happen here?"

Right. And the Terminator movies were an early warning sign that Skynet could become self-aware.
posted by brundlefly at 12:55 PM on February 13, 2007


if we take the post at face value and grant that there can be an influence, then rather than blaming the source of influence, we should be ensuring that we don't put the ignorant and weak-willed in positions of power and authority over others.

Desensitization isn't about having a weak will, and thinking it is is partly why it is so insidious. It doesn't affect me. *I* have free will! Why, if I didn't, surely I'd (insert knee-jerk extreme behaviour here) by now.

Their argument is ironically fundy in nature - we aren't strong enough to withstand our primitive natures, so images that incite impure impulses should be hidden from view. I'm just saying bullshit.

Agreed.

If we're going to be in the business of imprisoning and interrogating foreign nationals, we should employ only the very best from our ranks in that regard.

Agreed again, except "our best" in this regard are not those with some kind of iron will, but those committed to a) relying on scientific method not desperation nor superstition to determine what works and b) moral determination to refrain from what may be effective but wrong -- and that second requires moral leadership at home since that's where the orders are coming from.
posted by dreamsign at 5:50 AM on February 14, 2007


Of course I'm talking about moral leadership of a democratic nation, and as long as people think that torture works and is required, well... *cue 24 theme*
posted by dreamsign at 5:52 AM on February 14, 2007


Followup that might be of interest.
posted by dobbs at 12:48 PM on February 16, 2007


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