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How The Show "24" Healed A Nation

Updated on December 14, 2014
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Uncanny Timing

The first season of the Fox show 24 aired in November 2001, only weeks after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York, flew a plane into the Pentagon, and aimed an airliner at the White House.

September 11th changed America forever. In the months that followed, a heavy burden of fear hung over the country as Americans mourned the loss of their countrymen and their own innocence in the face of evil. Terrorism was a new concept to most Americans and it soon became clear that it was something that was here to stay.

Enter in Jack Bauer. The story line of 24 is unique in that every season represents an entire day in the life of it's heroic character Jack Bauer, an agent for the fictitious Counter Terrorist Unit. He uses any means necessary to stop terrorists, save those he loves, and protect the innocent.

"I see 15 people held hostage on a bus, and everything else goes out the window. And I will do whatever it takes to save them, and I mean whatever it takes." Jack Bauer "Day 7: 7:00am-8:00am"

Whatever It Takes

From kidnapping the President, disarming nuclear weapons, sneaking into foreign consulates, risking treason, and using unconventional methods of interrogation, Jack will stop at nothing to save America from evil.

America now had a television hero who would do whatever was necessary to stop terrorism, even if it meant breaking the law to stop the lawless. Above personal loss, the laws of the land, or the political ideologies of others, he is determined to do what is right, no matter the cost. He is like the the brave firemen who watched the first tower fall, yet stormed up the second tower, regardless of the consequences.

We Will Never Forget

Flickr: Michael Foran CC-BY-2.0
Flickr: Michael Foran CC-BY-2.0

You are going to be held accountable for your part of everything that happened today. You are not going to be able to hide behind the presidency. Right here, right now, you are going to face justice! And make no mistake about this—this is personal. And if you think for a second that I am scared to put a bullet in your brain…you don't know me. Jack Bauer "Day 5: 6:00am-7 am"

TV Mirrored Reality

Torture

Jack made us ask the uncomfortable moral questions that come with the nature of terrorism. Do the ends justify the means? Is torture moral? What happens when the law is corrupt? Are we bound to moral law or the law of the land? Is it wrong to take away the freedom of a few to save the many?

Jack's world was filled with ticking time bombs, requiring him to obtain information quickly from his captives. His methods sparked an intense debate on the acceptability, accuracy, and efficiency of the use of torture. The military and other government agencies changed their policies in direct response to some of the issues 24 presented.

Since the September 11th attacks were suicide missions, Americans didn't see timely justice done to those who directly attacked us. Instead, we were sent on a decade long manhunt for the elusive Osama Bin Laden, receiving no instant sense of justice, safety, or satisfaction. It might be politically incorrect to admit at dinner parties, but maybe watching terrorists receive their rightful punishment on TV, gave Americans what they needed.

Religion and Ethnicity

As America was struggling to secure its borders, eliminate threats, and detain possible terrorists, Jack was trudging through detainment camps, stopping suicide missions, and even making wrong assumptions about people based on their characteristics. Episodes took a nod at Guantanamo Bay and addressed the issue that terrorists could be your neighbors next door.

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There's still time to get caught up before Season 9!

Jack Grew Up With Us

As the country added new security agencies and protocols, reevaluated foreign policies, and waged wars on the other side of the world, Jack was always one step ahead of us. In the world of 24, America had their first black President long before Barrack Obama, as well as the first Madam President. We saw echos of the Bush Administration's deception in President Logan, came to the edge of nuclear war with Russia, and experienced the chaotic panic of chemical warfare.

In the eight seasons of 24, Jack dealt with every imaginable terrorist scenario. Season One: Attempted Presidential assassination. Season Two: Nuclear war with the Middle East, centered in Los Angeles. Season Three: Deadly Virus. Season Four: Nuclear warhead meltdowns. Season 5: Nerve gas. Season 6: Missing Suitcase nukes from the Russians, Santa Clarita, CA is blown off the map. Redemption Writer's Strike TV film: Child Slavery. Season 7: Broken Federal Firewall and biological warfare. Season 8: Islamic extremists, Government cover-ups, and dirty bombs.

The first few seasons hit very close to home and addressed the fears and issues America was dealing with. However, after years of relative peace on American soil, the later seasons were beginning to feel a little overdone to the critics. It was as if terrorism was old news and Jack had already explored every plot twist in the book. In 2010, after narrowly escaping capitol punishment for treason, Jack thanks Chloe for sticking by him all those years, and disappears for the last time, making the clock count down to zero.

"Every day I regret looking into the eyes of men, women and children knowing that any moment their lives might be deemed expendable in an effort to protect the greater good. I regret every decision or mistake that I might have made which resulted in the loss of a single innocent life. But do you know what I regret the most? Is that this world needs people like me." Jack Bauer "Day 7: 9:00pm-10:00pm"

24: Live Another Day

It has been 4 years since we saw Jack get a running head start from being unforgivably pursued by the Americans and Russians. A lot has happened since we had Jack busting up terrorists. We've pulled out of Iraq, uncovered Benghazi, wiki-leaked our secrets, discovered that the NSA knows more about us than we do, been discriminated against by the IRS, had the Boston Marathon blown up, are fearful of terrorist activity at the Sochi Olympic games, watched the economy throw us down a wild roller coaster ride, are negotiating with the Iranians over nuclear regulations, have narrowly missed a Syrian launch of World War 3, and are watching politicians piss on the constitution, in favor of a totalitarian, socialist regime.

Maybe Jack is coming back because, the truth is, we need him.

Jack Is Back!

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© 2014 Jennifer Arnett

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting....we don't have television and I don't think I've seen more than two episodes of this show ever...so thanks for your reflections on it.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 3 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Excellent Hub. Yes, Jack provided a well needed catharsis for the country in the days after 9/11. He spoke what we felt, and, while skirting along the line of morality, reminded us of the horrid immorality of the attacks of 9/11. I look forward to the new season.

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