Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All over again with Deja Vu

I finished up the last couple of episodes of 24 Season 6 over the long weekend. I need to do the stationary bike on a regular basis - to get some form of aerobic exercise that is not too stressful on the joints - and to keep from cutting out of it early I depend on some DVDs of a TV show sans commercials to keep me company while I'm doing the bike. So, lacking a better alternative, I started back in on 24 Season 1, episode 1. To that narrow mindedness make any snicker that you'd like. But note there is a reason I'm bringing it up.

Since I started watching this series during Winter break, there hasn't been a huge lull for me to forget the plots, a lot of detail in that episode I couldn't recall, true, but the main theme is hard to misplace. Yet it turns out, context is everything.

The big mission for Jack Bauer and crew is to prevent the assassination of David Palmer, who happens to be the first credible Black candidate for President of the United States. This episode first aired in November 2001. At that time, my state of Illinois had had an African American Senator, Carol Moseley Braun, but no longer had one. Bush was less than one year in office. Filming of 24 probably started well before the attacks on the World Trade Center; the timing of the shows initial airing was fortuitous for the producers to build a fan base. Nobody was thinking ahead to the Presidential race in 2008....Nobody!

Yet there it is, the key plot device an assassination attempt on a Black candidate for the Presidency, with the fear that if it is successful then it would throw the entire country into a panic. As the pundits at the New York Times make hay with Hilary Clinton's ill considered remarks about Bobby Kennedy's assassination, here and here and here too, perhaps it's helpful to consider what the screenwriters for this show came up with, recognizing full well that these screenwriters knew how to push the buttons of the audience (the show aired on the Fox Network) and noting further that it's the job of a first episode to pull the audience in. The coup de grace, if you trust the correctness of the trivia on the IMDB site about the series, is the irony in noting that Clarence Thomas is a big fan.

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