Fans of Fox’s smash hit drama “24” are already well into another season of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) withstanding the most stressful of situations by sheer willpower and his serious penchant for bodily danger. By now in its “fifth day,” the show has made us accept Jack as a kind of martyr in the making. His pointed and often reckless desire to sacrifice himself on behalf of his country has become the norm, sparking continued banter on “24″ message boards about whether this will finally be “the day” that Jack will actually be martyred. Fans are always wondering if this is Kiefer’s last hurrah playing this beloved, conflicted, and intensely heroic character, and the end of last year–I mean “day”–left us wondering about his fate until this week’s season premiere, when we found out that he had faked his own “death.” (And last year, the show’s producers and Sutherland’s TV appearances tried hard to leave the door open that Jack Bauer might meet his maker very soon) .
In an earlier post, “24′ & Its Murky Hero Return to Fight Another Day,” fellow blogger Doug Howe talked about how Jack’s character shows viewers a more “human side of what it is like to be a hero.” Yet as much as I love the show (and I am obsessive about it), and as much as I love seeing Jack do what he does best yet again (i.e., almost get himself and everyone he knows and loves killed) in the special four-hour, two-night season-premier indulgence, I have to disagree with the idea that Jack’s portrayal of the hero is rather “human.” Howe compares Jack’s heroics to the more human side of Jesus’s heroics, but in my mind, Jack is not so much aspiring to be human as he is aspiring to be godly.
One of the most consistent characteristics of this non-Everyman we love to watch each week is that he is constantly–and without much thought or reflection–taking into his own hands the fate of people he knows and loves as well as large numbers of people he doesn’t know at all. In other words, I see Jack acting as a kind of literal god on the show, a god who gets to make decisions about who lives and who dies and how that all comes about. This year’s season seems no different in this regard, as we watched while Jack sit by and let one teenage boy die at the hands of terrorists in exchange for saving a different teenage boy, Derek, whom he both cares about and whose mother he happens to be dating.
And speaking of dating, women beware this man. Getting involved with Jack Bauer means either death, exposure to potentially severe bodily harm, and no matter what, a tragic end to the relationship. The failed relationships are piling high now for Jack. And, though fans of the show might all still be thanking god that his daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) is no longer around after three annoying seasons, on the love relationship end she fared no better. Friends and I used to joke that Kim should have on a sign warning all potential suitors saying: “Date Kim, Lose a Limb” since literally, season after season, whoeve she dated either lost an arm or a leg.
But I digress. And don’t get me wrong, I love Jack, I do. It’s just that he thinks he’s something more than human, i.e. God, and while that’s fun to watch, it doesn’t teach me much about the human side of heroism.