Jan 31, 2007

Hooked on 24

Encouraged by other Christian philosopher-friends, I try not to watch a lot of TV. There are only a couple of shows I watch on a regular basis. One of them, fairly recently acquired, is 24. The show is addictive, and I have to say that I am hooked. It must be the incessant cliffhanger endings on each episode.

However, the more I watch the program, the more I find myself analyzing its underlying philosophy and worldview. There is no doubt that the show is "politically conservative" and that's why a lot of conservatives rave about it, I'm sure. But, all kinds of ethical issues and questions come up if you pay close attention. Questions about the justice of war. Questions about the morality of torture in wartime. Trust and honesty (or the lack thereof). Many of the ethical decisions made by the characters (esp. the main character Jack Bauer) seem based on utilitarian considerations--the idea that what's right is bringing about the most happiness for the most people--though there are times when Jack makes more principled decisions as a deontologist would.

I would be very interested in what any readers out there think about 24 from a Christian and/or ethical viewpoint. Are the themes in the show and the actions of its protagonists consistent or inconsistent with Christian belief? Or sometimes consistent and sometimes not? How and when?


Keith said...

I share your addiction (perhaps we should start a philosophers' 24 support group--of course, it would end up as a regularly scheduled ethics discussion group)! You are, of course, spot on about the repeated conflict between utilitarian and deontological positions. Whatever its other pro's and con's, 24 (due to its popularity) is an ideal tool for teaching ethics.

Incidentally, Richard Brian Davis, Prof of Philosophy at Tyndale Univ College (Toronto, Canada) is currently editing a book on 24 and philosophy. Richard is a terrific guy and a sharp thinker. I'm looking forward to reading his book. Anyway, he, too, is addicted to 24.

Finally: your blog's new look is a nice one, and thanks for adjusting the comments!

Frank said...

If you like 24, you should check out Roger over at the ateam

There is more to do than just study philosophy in LA.

Dr. Steve Cowan said...

Frank, thanks for the links to Roger's site. Waaaay cool! I am so jealous! Tell Roger I said,
"He's the man!"--well, actually, Jack Bauer is the man, but maybe Roger is the "second man." No, wait, that would be Capt. James T. Kirk.

Roger said...

I'm not the man, just the guy Jack Bauer goes to for advice ;)

I had the same impression you do, that the show is basically conservative. However, I've heard from a number of liberals that they think the show is basically liberal. I'm really not sure why, but I find that interesting.

There was a panel just over a year ago on 24 and real life terrorism. It had some public officials, the producers of the show, and some of the actors. According the producers, only one of them is conservative, one is liberal but becoming right leaning, and the third is liberal. Kiefer is now also a producer, and he refused to directly state his politics, but from what I gather he leans left. All that to say, I think what drives the show more than politics is just good story.

Rachael said...

I am generally "liberal" (and athiest), and 24 to me seems to support liberal ideas.

President David Palmer always seems to be protrayed as a good character. His morals always seem respectable and liberal - for instance he is very wary about going to war, he is uncomfortable with the idea of torture and he is intent on protecting civil liberties.

24 frequently shows the protagonists doing things such as torture. This can be taken as the show endorsing torture, but I don't think that's true. At the same time, the show includes characters such as Audrey (who seems to represent some kind of normality) who are disgusted by their behavior. 24 is also simply "telling it like it is", showing American agents doing what most evidence suggests they do.

Jack Bauer is portrayed as a hero (which I agree with) but also as a troubled, dangerous and morally ambiguous man.

I love the show and think the political aspect of it is very interesting. I like that it is made by people with a mix of political viewpoints.

Keith said...


Hi! So, would you explain how 24 supports "liberal" or atheistic ideals?


Rich Davis said...

This is an old thread, but I thought I'd let those interested know that the book is now out. It's called '24 and Philosophy: The World According to Jack'.

Sample chapter: http://www.minimelia.com/callofduty.pdf
Radio interview: http://www.tyndale.ca/~rdavis/audio/weed.mp3

Hope you like it!!