TV

When You Take the Gun, Take the Ammo: or, Jack Bauer’s Curse Revisited

One thing that drove my dad crazy was when the good guy escaped from the bad guy in a movie or TV show and didn’t take the bad guy’s gun after knocking him out.

I realize it was a plot device (can’t have the good guy armed, to make it more exciting), but it really is an example of lazy writing. You can keep the danger level artificially high by making the hero artificially vulnerable. In my mind it just makes the hero artificially stupid. Colonel John Casey would never do that.

My son and I are watching the 24 series in sequence (we are just about to start season seven). Jack Bauer, the Kiefer Sutherland character, is as hard-boiled and efficient as trained agents come. He generally picks up weapons as he goes along (as any kid who has ever played a shooter game knows to do these days), but he rarely searches the body for extra ammo clips. When you are fighting your way through a mob of well-armed bad guys that is more than foolish, and I cannot believe a well-trained agent would not pause the few extra seconds to strip the body of everything useful (clips, cell phone, radio, etc.). The only time the writers have this done is if they have an immediate need for something on the body.

Yet 24 is supposed to be the ultimate in realism. It is supposed to take place in real time. Even the commercial breaks happen in real time – when you come back from commercials, 3 to 5 minutes have ticked away on the clock. We joke that some day when we come back we will hear someone say, “Sorry, Jack, LA is gone! You missed it!”

So Jack should do everything by the book, and take stuff that he doesn’t need for the plot twists. Just like a real agent would do, never knowing what would come in handy.

Perhaps one reason Jack doesn’t act like a trained agent or military vet in the circumstances is that, unlike many series, 24 does not appear to have a dedicated armorer from the credits (just prop masters who, certainly, have to know their way around guns). They also do not credit military or intelligence technical advisors (other than a Navy advisor presumably for water scenes). While civilians may well understand gun safety and proper handling of weapons, squibs, etc., they are not conditioned to think about ammo loadout for combat teams or how quickly weapons burn through rounds in a firefight. Guns run out of rounds when writers find it convenient.  Quite possibly the closest the writers and costume designers have come to real combat gear is Arnold suiting up in Commando

My son gets angry with me for yelling at the TV, “Grab the mags, grab the mags!”  “He can’t hear you,” he calmly says.  “Maybe he can,” I mutter.

Now, the rest of this post takes a different turn, but still ranting on 24 (which we do enjoy, even if it makes the military tend to look like warmongering fools with no sense of consequences). If you Google (I prefer Bing, because they are a little less obsequious to China) “curse of Jack Bauer” you generally get a reference to a little speech by Defense Secretary James Heller (William Devane) in season six. Jack used to work for Heller, and fell in love with Heller’s daughter, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver). Heller is telling Jack to never see Audrey again.

What follows is a major spoiler for the series so far, so if you don’t want major events spoiled, read no further. You have been warned! Dun dun dun dunnnnn.

My son and I enlarged upon this conversation a bit.  We both checked the web to see if we could find anything like it but couldn’t, so here’s our contribution.

Jack: “What do you mean I’m cursed?”

Heller: “Well, let’s see. There was your wife, Teri? Remember her? You brought her here, to CTU, safest place in Los Angeles. She was murdered in the basement, just below us here. That was after she had been kidnapped and raped that day.”

Jack: “Uh, yeah.”

Heller: “And your daughter, Kim. She was kidnapped. Twice, or maybe three times, I believe. Arrested. Had to kill one… no, two men. One she shot in the back. The other one she wounded, but you told her over the phone to just keep shooting until he was dead. Remember that?”

Jack clears his throat: “Yes.”

Heller: “Lovely girl. How is Kim? ”

Jack: “She hasn’t spoken to me in years.”

Heller: “Ah. And Nina. Your lover. That’s right, she’s the one who killed your wife, Teri. Just downstairs here in CTU. Turned out to be a double agent. And then you murdered her, too. Just downstairs here in CTU, safest place in LA.”

Jack: silence

Heller: “You were originally at odds with George Mason from Division, but then became friends with him. I forget. What happened to him?”

Jack: Mumble mumble.

Heller: “What was that?”

Jack: “He was dying of radiation poisoning so he blew himself up in a nuclear explosion in the Mojave Desert.”

Heller: “Yes. That was it.”

Heller: “I remember a nice chubby intelligence analyst at CTU who was always secretly helping you against orders. Edgar Stiles, I think his name was. Brilliant chap, but a bit socially challenged. But always there for you. How’s he doing?”

Jack: “He got caught in a nerve gas attack on CTU. I watched him die. I couldn’t do anything to help.”

Heller: “Died? Here in CTU, safest place in LA? Sorry. And your good friends Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler. Weren’t they a lovely couple? And they went through so much to be together! Married, separated, then reunited and out of this ugly business to carry on their lives together after risking their careers and lives for you and each other many times! Let’s see…. She was blown up by a car bomb to try to frame you and Tony was killed by Christopher Henderson, the man who recruited you into CTU and trained you, correct? Wasn’t Tony killed right here in CTU, safest place in LA?”

Jack: “I get your point about CTU.”

Heller: “And what happened to Henderson, who was more than a father to you than your father was?”

Jack: “I executed him.”

Heller: “Speaking of your family, how is your brother? Wait, I know. Didn’t you have him tortured? And didn’t you find out he had ordered the assignation of President Palmer and framed you for it, and plotted your murder? And didn’t your father kill him? So how’s your father? No, no, I have this one, too. After your nephew, who is all of fifteen and following the family tradition, shot him, you left your father to die in an air strike on an oil rig in the Pacific. Good times, good times.”

Heller: “President David Palmer. Your good friend. You saved his life, he saved your life. You helped him out of several major crises, and he was your staunch supporter. His assassination was a terrible thing. And they tried to blame it on you. Your brother was behind that, and your father. Always that Bauer connection.”

Heller: “Finally, Bill Buchanan. Another Division suit who came to CTU, took you a while to warm up to him, then you were great friends and allies. Worked together well, had each other’s backs. He was in and out of CTU, and you worked together even when he was officially off the books and under investigation. Now he has been forced to retire along with his wife by the Vice President himself, neither of them ever to work again. All because of Jack Bauer.”

Heller: “Which leads me to my daughter, Audrey. Jack, every person who has loved you or tried to help you or befriended you has turned up dead, retired, or not speaking to you. My daughter is now in a vegetative state. If you come back into her life she will probably end up dead. Do her a favor. Stay away.”

My guess is he won’t. And my guess (not having seen past season six) is she will die when he comes back into her life. But who am I to see the future?

And Jack – take the extra few seconds to pick up any extra clips and the bad guy’s cell phone after you kill them.  You never know when they will come in handy.

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Thomas the Racist Misogynist Classist Sexist Homophobic Neo-Colonial Tank Engine

When Twitter (my new taskmaster – dare I say my new Sir Topham Hatt?) sent me to The Guardian and a piece by Tracy van Slyke titled “Thomas the Tank Engine had to shut the hell up to save children everywhere: Classism, sexism, anti-environmentalism bordering on racism: any parent who discovered these hidden lessons will be glad the show’s star just quit” (whew!) I knew I had to comment. Then, after commenting, I realized I needed to do more. Who would ever read what I wrote on some Brit site called “The Guardian”? If I really wanted to get my point across I needed to post it here for my reader. And for Amurica.

For those of you who have not had contact with a child in the last 69 years, Thomas the Tank Engine originated as a series of stories told to a child with the measles (Christopher Awdry) by his father, the Rev. Wilbert Awdry, who published the first book of stories (which did not feature Thomas; he came in book two) in 1945. Thomas is a small steam engine who does small jobs around the Island of Sodor, somewhere off the coast of England. That’s somewhere east of the U.S. He’s a “tank” engine because he carries his own fuel and water for his own steam generation and power in his engine rather than in a separate tender. (“And now you know.”) He is a Very Useful Engine.

The first successful TV series began in 1984 with model trains and stop action photography, and today grosses $17 gazillion from hapless parents and grandparents like me who buy DVDs, trains, tracks, backpacks, pencils, sleeping bags, t-shirts, and piñatas. They come out with a new engine every 1.7 seconds. There are close generic trains sold, but if you buy them, you receive the Stare of Death from your child or grandchild shortly before they slip into a coma.

Ms. Van Slyke uses the resignation of the voice actor who has done the American voice of Thomas for the last 5 years (actually, since I have watched, so I am unfamiliar with his work) to explore the dark underbelly of this children’s show. She appears to believe that this spells the end of the Thomas franchise. She should speak to both Messrs. Alec Baldwin and George Carlin about that.

She illuminated the deep archetypes and hidden meanings that the writers of Thomas had woven into the series to prey on the plastic minds of unsuspecting children while parents went on with their chores without a clue. She pointed out what appears obvious upon reflection – that the distinctions of dark smoke (bad engines) and white smoke (good engines) are clearly racial allegories, the lack of positive female role models, and, perhaps most striking, the invidious “Tickled Pink” episode mocking gays and sexual stereotypes (“girls like pink!).

Sadly, Ms. Van Slyke only scratches the surface of the deceptive depths of Thomas the Tank engine and its evil (eeeeeevvvvviiiiiillllll!!!!) and invidious conditioning of our children.

I will attempt to enlarge upon her critique.

Thomas, the main sympathetic character, is obviously an archetype for spreading of the Christian teachings of Thomas Aquinas and his papist Summa Theologica. The “Tank” not so subtly ties this in with the military industrial complex which runs the Western world.

Thomas’ color being blue is a subliminal invitation to children to view pornography; pornography has in the past been called “blue movies.” Are there no depths to which these people will not go?

Percy represents Percival of Arthurian legend, melding together both the Christian myth of everlasting life (Holy Grail) and subtly defaming homosexuality (the diminutive “Percy” being used historically as a name to mock gay men).

Percy is colored green, the color of conservation, yet he rides upon rails made of steel, a non-renewable product. The mockery could not be more evident.

I believe even the location where the series is set has dark meaning – the Island of Sodor can only be a redaction of SODom and gomORrah.

The absence of female engines is noted, but the misogyny goes much further than this. Annie and Clarabelle are two passenger cars, and among the few female vehicles.

Clarabelle is clearly named after Clarabelle the Clown, Howdy Doody’s silent red-haired companion. This reveals several informative layers, beginning with the antagonistic androgynous aspect of man/woman conflict. Next you have the fact that Clarabelle never spoke – thus the only good woman is one who does not speak. Finally, the red hair clearly is a reference to communism, and the “Red menace” our children are being indoctrinated against.

Annie is not so straight forward. Standard linguistic theory as propounded by Noam Chomsky might dictate that we analyze her in terms of Little Orphan Annie, a woman-child who never grew up, who was the target of a wealthy older man who was probably a sexual predator, and whose only true companion was a dog. But I suspect that who the Thomas creators really patterned her after was Annie Liebovitz, noted photographer, whose gritty portraits of the famous catch them in a light rarely seen, saying to our children “Beware! Women will betray you and show you as you really are!”

Thomas the Tank engine is, for anyone who cares to truly think while watching it, a deep, somber, brooding and malevolent show filled with undercurrents and subtexts designed to warp the psyches of our children. I know it sucked hundreds of dollars out of my pocket for toys, hours of time from my life as I spent watching it with kids and grandkids on my lap and building elaborate track sets around the bedroom and living room (and then there was the horror of the talcum powder snow incident…). I am so glad someone had the courage to finally expose this evil propaganda series worthy of Leni Riefenstahl for what it truly is.

Love Fox News’ “The Five” – Congrats on 3 Years

Has it really been 3 years?  Let’s see…. 1,473 fund raisers…. yep, 3 years!

Greg Gutfeld is like the puppy who gets stuck in the exhaust of your RV and delays your vacation; cute but annoying.  Actually, he’s the real reason I watch The Five.  It’s not for the good looking women.  Really.  I swear.  His libertarian take is more workable in my opinion than that of Eric Bolling, who is new to that faith and a little over-eager; I’m a conservative not a libertarian but I like a lot of libertarian instincts.  I liked Eric’s commentary better before his libertarian epiphany  but still value his free market and business insights.  Some of the best byplay is between Greg and Bob Beckel; Greg knows Bob will always rise to the “liberals always…” line and Bob knows he knows and knows he must always respond nonetheless.  Greg is a master of the Frau Blucher offense.

Kimberly Giulfoyle is ever the stunning and staunch conservative; along with lovely Andrea Tantaros they are the reliable traditional conservatives of the group.  Dana Perino, while cute as a bug, is so typical of what is wrong with establishment Republicans and so oblivious of her inbred Beltway isolation that her inclusion is important if only provide contrast to the other reliably conservative ladies, just as Bob Beckel is there to provide the perspective for the traditional Democrats for traditional conservative viewers.

Juan Williams, an infrequent co-host, is a familiar FNC personality.  While perhaps a true believer like Beckel, Juan tends to raise Democrat talking points and straw man arguments too slickly and often (with a sly little grin that always makes me wonder…) for me to accept that he really believes what he is saying.  I often get the feeling this is a paycheck for him, and the character he is paid to play knows he has to take this side and he argues the side he is paid to argue.  Since Juan is justifiably proud of his son Raffi, a staunch conservative, you know Juan is exposed to the intellectual content of conservative thought and thus is more aware than most leftists that the facile and false arguments he routinely attributes to conservatives are untrue.  That he continues to claim conservatives believe these tropes would appear to be theater.

I think Beckel, on the other hand, has his patterns worn deeply into his brain through decades of partisan warfare and I think he can’t see over the top of the trenches he’s dug over the years.  He’s a good man, and a moral man, and an honest man (all on The Five are honest, don’t get me wrong), but he has always believed the bromides he has had his candidates run on (Republicans do not care for working people, they hate minorities, etc.) and even though he works every day with people who demonstrate that these are false, these false core beliefs are a part of the woof and warp of his understanding of the world and, like Javert, to accept that he is wrong at such a basic level would lead to his destruction.  I think Bob believes that the people he works with are actually the rare exceptions among conservatives, which allows him to maintain his rigid misperceptions of evil conservatives.

Or maybe I just like Beckel because with my being butt ugly, too, and having 28 years of sobriety I figure we have a lot in common.

Anyway, a great ensemble cast, always interesting, always worth watching (just more worth watching when Greg. Bob and Andrea are all there, no offense, Dana and Juan!).  Set your DVRs or, as I do, blow off your boss or clients (it’s on at 2 PM where I live most of the year, 3 PM the rest of the year because we Arizonans are ANARCHISTS!)