I very much enjoyed Paul Beston’s excellent article on the Fox T.V. show 24. I thought his analysis of the nature of leading man Jack Bauer was especially interesting. However, I would disagree that Mr. Bauer resembles a comic book character. Rather, he has much more in common with two other mythic American heroes: Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.
Both Boone and Crockett were popular, charismatic men whose charm and good humor masked an almost unfathomable violence that lurked just below the surface. Boone especially proved to be as single-minded as Jack as he pursued his goal of hacking a settlement out of the Kentucky wilderness. Crockett’s well known hard headedness led to both problems in his personal life as well as his ultimate defeat for re-election to Congress in 1836. Both men mirror Jack’s patriotic devotion as well as a willingness to do what ever it takes to succeed.
The myth of the hunter/hero gave way to the lone hero motif popularized by Hollywood. This hero, usually played by a small town sheriff (Gary Cooper in High Noon) or the gunfighter with a heart of gold (Alan Ladd in Shane), used violence to defeat greater violence. This concept was turned on its head in the 1960s and 1970s as the great ” anti-heroes” of Clint Eastwood blurred the distinction between good and evil. Dirty Harry got the job done (as did the Man with No-Name) but at what cost?p>Enter Jack Bauer who’s not quite the Clint anti-hero but not the pure, small town Gary Cooperish protagonist either. He is, in fact, the perfect hero in a post-9/11 world. Torn as America is between getting the job done at all costs while upholding American ideals, Jack simply can’t help himself. He necessarily sees the world in stark relief, a black and white universe populated by some really nasty thugs who don’t even blink at the idea of murdering hundreds of thousands of people. We recoil at some of Jack’s tactics. But we recognize that Jack is the guy doing what needs to be done to keep us safe. br> — Rick Moran br> Algonquin, Illinois