Friday, August 31, 2007

Jack Bauer Is Loved Outside of US? God Help Us

Another in my continuing series of posts of how 24-is-hurting-America, Amar C. Bakshi, has an interesting column in Newsweek PostGlobal musing how other countries view the 24 series and its hero.

As Australian journalist Antony Loewenstein writes, Bauer’s use of “torture and the whatever it takes mentality is precisely why the U.S. is so despised right now.”

From India, student Akshay Bawa writes: “Jack Bauer is James Bond on coke.” The cool, cosmopolitan imperialism of Britain’s 007 is replaced with the brutish patriotism of Bauer.
I think of Bauer as the new Rambo essentially. And Rambo was not originally meant to be a hero, more of anti-hero. But eventually even the name became synonymous with American Jingoism. To call someone a Rambo is to call them a testosterone-fueled asshole basically.

I remember when the New Superman movie came out I had a lively discussion with my comic-book loving officemate about why I couldn’t enjoy Superman perhaps because he seemed like a cartoon version of all the things about America I didn’t like, namely the concept of America’s ego-oriented assertion that whatever it did it’s heart was always pure. But Superman is practically effete compared to Rambo, let alone Bauer.
"Superman’s weakness is Kryptonite; Jack Bauer laughs at Superman for having a weakness…”

But oddly enough Bauer/24 doesn’t seem to be seen as a symbol of American oppression outside of the U.S. viewing audience.

Within America, minorities need image-rehabilitation, Maz says, but the case for reshaping the standard villain is a bit less clear when we step outside U.S. borders. “It’s strange,” says Maz, but Chuck Norris and Jack Bauer are “immensely popular in the countries where they’re kicking ass. My grandfather loves Chuck Norris,” even though Chuck wrecked Maz in the made-for-TV movie The President's Man.
I wonder if the issue is that the action in the 24 series mostly takes place in the United States. Sure there are occasional jaunts to Mexico and a few outside-the-U.S. scenes, but the action is has always been in the Los Angeles area. So Bauer isn’t actually invading foreign countries to kill their bad guys. Meanwhile, with the exception of the first movie, Rambo was killing foreigners on foreign soil.

So is it easier to enjoy an action hero if you perceive that he’s not actually invading your homeland? I would suspect so. But I also think Bauer is probably just appreciated in cultures that are heavily favored by machismo anyway.


Susie said...

I just have one question: Have you ever watched the show?

Just curious.

NewsCat said...

Yes, I watched the first four seasons entirely. But the fifth I started losing interest and dropped it about a third of the way in.

I did not watch the sixth at all but did listen to Slate's Spoiler Podcasts on it for some reason.

AmarCBakshi said...

Hi Newscat,

Just found your post and really enjoyed it. I think you make a good point about where Jack Bauer is when he battles villains. If he was taking out foreign presidents it could be a lot more controversial abroad. I hear more travel is coming up in future series. We'll see. Thanks for reading and keep in touch. Amar

AmarCBakshi said...