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Why Jack Bauer must die (an imitation of Aquinas), part 2 of 3

In Art, Blogging, Criticism, Critique, Culture, Debate, Entertainment, Humor, Life, Logic, Media, Medieval, Philosophy, Review, Society, Spoilers, Spoof, Television, Thomism, Thoughts, Writing on September 22, 2007 at 17:10

Previously on this blog, we discussed whether we may judge if Jack Bauer should be removed from 24.  The following continuation was written between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

ARTICLE 2. Whether Jack Bauer should be removed from 24

It seems that Jack Bauer should not be removed from 24.

Objection 1: For in the past 6 seasons, Jack Bauer had been the central character of the series 24, and indeed he is 24, as affirmed by Movies Online.  Now in any work or institution, the center should not be removed, for as noted by Yeats, when “[t]he center cannot hold… [m]ere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  Therefore, removing Jack from 24 would result in chaos, and it should not be done.

Objection 2: Furthermore, the formal cause of 24‘s dramatic power is the intensity of the characters in the series.  But Jack Bauer is the most intense character in the show, and to remove him would weaken the drama of its stories.  Therefore Jack Bauer should not be removed from 24.

Objection 3: Also, immoderate change would make the subject of the change pine for the old state, as illustrated by the line, “I’ll be seeing you, in all the old familiar places.”  Hence, 24 watchers would be alienated if Jack Bauer is removed, and therefore he must remain in 24.

I answer that: Jack Bauer should be removed from 24, because Jack Bauer has become increasingly marginal to the action of 24.  In Day 5, at least, he was the central node of the story, from the assassination ex-President David Palmer that was pinned on Bauer to the fall of then-President Charles Logan.  In Day 6, however, the significant action was done by other characters like Nadia Yassir, Tom Lennox, and Bill Buchanan.  The attempt to place him, back at the center of the story, by focusing it on his desire to save Audrey Raines, merely highlighted the fact that Jack Bauer has actually become a barrier to the smooth progression of the plot.

Nor does there seem to be much chance for Jack Bauer to become fully-integrated into 24’s action again.  As Aristotle notes in his Ethics, a person is integrated in his society when he has relations of friendship; but in 24, almost all of Jack Bauer’s friends have been lost by death or otherwise, and there is no person left to whom Jack is actually important.  A similar situation would obtain if, in Star Trek, Dr. McCoy, Spock, and the rest of the crew had died, in which case Captain Kirk would become superfluous to the characters, even if he lasts longer in the story.  

Now Jack Bauer, considering his intensity and action-worthiness, should be either central to the story or absent from it.  Since he cannot be central any longer, then Jack Bauer must be removed from 24.

Reply to 1st Obj.: Even the center of a work or institution may change without being fatal to it, provided that the center thus changed does not constitute its very substance.  Now the substance of 24 is not its characters, as shown by the frequent changes in cast, but its time-pressure action motif which gives it its name.  Therefore Jack Bauer may be removed.

 Reply to 2nd Obj.: The formal cause of a story is what makes it a story itself, which is the plot, without which the characters would become mere case studies.  For 24, its substantial form is the intensity of its action, hence the suitability of relatively understated characters like Karen Hayes and Wayne Palmer.  Therefore removing Jack Bauer would not be fatal to the show, provided a good story is provided.    

Reply to 3rd Obj.: We must distinguish between ordered change, which respects the nature (physis) and purpose (telos) of what is changed, and disordered change, which does not.  Ordered change being according to nature, it must be done, for, as John Henry Newman writes in his Development, “here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”   

Here, 24 is by nature and purpose an action-drama series, and it is for this that it has audiences, and such change as furthers this is therefore properly ordered.  Hence, since removing Jack Bauer would help 24’s action as shown in the body of this article, then it would be proper.

(Continued here)


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