Last night Fox re-ran “24: Redemption” – the 2 hour special designed to serve as an introduction to the new season, beginning January 11. As a lead-in I republish my blog entry for Change.org on “24: Redemption” and pop culture fighting genocide.
Tonight, the show “24” transitioned into its new season with a two-hour special, “Redemption”. (24 fans: check out the whole story behind the special, courtesy of Reuters.) In two hours filled with the usual violence, action and political intrigue the show finds Jack Bauer in Africa, fighting genocide.
Someone once told me that you know your issue has become “popular” when it appears on primetime television. Darfur specifically was featured in episodes of “The West Wing” and “ER” in the past few years. Never before (at least to my knowledge) has the issue of genocide propelled an entire two-hour special.
While I’m pleased that the American public has become so conversant in the issue of genocide that a popular TV hero achieves “Redemption” by fighting genocide, the show had some significant issues that prevented its airing from being a victory for the anti-genocide community.
First, the episode tries to cover too much ground. While child soldiers, land mines, genocide, and the promotion of democracy are all important, trying to highlight each of them in an action-packed show could leave viewers with the impression that these are all unsolvable, endemic African problems.
Second, the episode was strangely (and unnecessarily) anti-United Nations. The UN officer who was delivering food and supplies when the rebels attacked cowers in fear, and keeps repeating “The United Nations takes no position on this matter”. When he crawls into the shelter with the children it becomes quite clear what the “24” people think of the UN. When he offers to help the rebels find Jack Bauer, who is protecting innocent school boys, the show takes it a little too far.
While I’m as frustrated as anyone with the UN’s inaction as an institution, this portrayal was quite offensive to the heroic legacy of the individuals who put their lives on the line to keep the peace in dangerous locales around the world.
One of the things the show did very well came right at the end, when it highlighted the truly life-and-death choices that people make to protect others. When Jack gives up his chance at freedom to save the children, and the embassy officials have to leave so many behind, those watching hopefully asked themselves: what would I do? I hope they know that there are many things they can do right now to help victims of genocide. For some ideas, check out the “Take Action” section on the right side of this page.
It seems that season 7 of 24 will continue the story-line of genocide in “Sangala”. It will be interesting to watch how the plot develops, and if anyone steps in to actually stop genocide in Jack Bauer’s world, so unlike our own…
Photo from IMDB.com