Monday, February 05, 2007

The Jack Bauer Experience - a post by Mark

For a couple years now, it has been tradition that I, my best friend Mike, my Mom and anyone else who is brave enough, attempt to watch an entire season of ‘24’ in real time – a veritable 24 hour marathon. Entranced by a captivating plot, and mesmerized by charismatic characters, we sit and stare and watch with absolute attention as Jack Bauer, a federal agent with the Counter Terrorist Unit, time and time again saves the day.

I approach this marathon with great anticipation. I plan for weeks to be able to set aside the time that it requires. It is an escape for me – something that I allow to completely occupy my thoughts for a 24 hour period. I don’t think about school or work; about family or friends – I just allow myself to live vicariously through the experiences of Jack Bauer, and somehow, to be wholly entertained by it. After watching the first episode, I experience a familiar reaction. I am clearly hooked – propelled by an ever-increasing desire to experience the thrill of the unending suspense, and the ‘cliff hanger’ endings of each episode. As I continue to watch, I can feel my pulse racing as the plot intensifies. I begin to participate in debates – often heated ones - regarding the likely conclusion to the various scenarios and subplots. Radical twists in the plot are unexpected, and leave me shaking my head in disbelief, and madly searching for possible solutions to the overwhelming problems that Jack seems to repeatedly face. Over and over again, the tension and anxiety in the room is palpable, and I find myself needing a break – some time to let the typically violent reality of what I have observed, sink in. As time progresses, I feel myself becoming completely submerged – both mentally and emotionally - in the plot. At the time, I find the storyline - as unbelievable as it may actually be - to be quite believable. I don’t seem to notice that Jack never seems to sleep, and yet is never tired; he never eats, and yet is not hungry; he is able to make split second decisions that could ultimately affect the future of the world, and yet seems to experience little observable anxiety. I find myself identifying wholly with his sense of commitment; believing in his ability; and watching, never disappointed, as he, single-handedly it seems, brings a crisis situation to resolution. He is, in my mind, a hero of the highest order.

As I continue to watch, however, a curious phenomenon takes place. The action and suspense seem to have less appeal for me, and I find myself participating in an analysis of Jack Bauer’s rather complex character. I notice that I am increasingly troubled and perplexed by his endless personal struggles, and find that his personal failures seem to lessen, in my mind, the effect of his professional successes. He becomes, for all intents and purposes, more of a pathetic hero, and I am overwhelmed by a sense of compassion for him. Though he does good work, his motivation is firmly rooted in feelings of bitterness, anger and revenge. As a result, any experience of success is an empty one for him. Powerless to deal with his personal demons, the ‘saviour’ is himself, truly in need of salvation. As the show concludes, I find myself thinking about the futility of man’s efforts to solve his own problems and to heal his own hurts – both personally and globally, and grateful, on a personal level, for a knowledge and understanding of the forgiveness and peace that is only available through relationship with Jesus Christ.

All in all, the marathon experience was an emotional rollercoaster for me. Though I was physically tired at the end, I was totally emotionally exhausted. Feelings of exhilaration and suspense, as Jack experienced the thrill of professional victory, were tempered by feelings of pity and compassion as these same victories seemed hollow in light of the agony of his repeated personal failures and defeats. Not totally disillusioned, I will watch the show again, but next time hopefully more with my brain than with my heart.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I truly can't believe that you watch a whole season in a day. The most I can watch of any show is 8 times. But I can see how could mess you up. And start overanalyzing everything, which has the potential to drain you. So I can understand your predicament.

Geoffrey Millar

10:14 p.m., March 11, 2007  

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