Idol Chatter

Donna Freitas is a gifted writer of spiritual insight, but her recent blog posting is dead wrong (literally) on both “24” as well as Shel Silverstein’s wonderful book, “The Giving Tree.”

If you missed it, “24’s” two-night debut again showcased Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer sacrificing himself for the sake of a greater cause. Donna may not like that, but for her to pan Jack as the “sacrifical lamb” in the current plot would be to have, say, panned Seinfeld for doing monologues in every episode, or panning “Cheers” for setting every episode in the bar.

Since Day One, Jack Bauer has woven a strangely nuanced ethical line, where he’s sacrificed his family, his friends, his career, his freedom, and eventually his life for the sake of his moral center: the defense of the United States of America against terrorism. It may seem old, but I though it was an ingenious plot development that he quickly got to the place of saying, “I don’t know how to do this anymore.”

Donna may be right that the “sacrificial lamb” idea gets old, but perhaps that’s part of the problem in our culture: Is character no longer character just because it’s not new or exciting?

“24” certainly has its work cut out for it as an entertainment product, since every season has raised the bar from the previous one. Who knows, it may indeed go from the sublime to the ridiculous. But for me, it’s still hanging out in that tenuous middle.

As far as Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” it give us what every good little tale or fable does: a made-up story with a point to it, and I’ve used Silverstein’s little story to help countless hundreds of audiences–from youth to executives–be reminded of our tendency to be so selfish and self-centered that we forget the joy that comes with the choice of a selfless act, and the enduring commitment required to sacrifice beyond what’s comfortable.

And that is something that Jack Bauer has given us, attracting a following as significant as the paperback action heroes of generations past… at least so far.

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