Let's Boycott "24"

Monday, April 02, 2007

I was totally hooked on the first season of the FOX cliffhanger “24”. We watched it back-to-back on DVD over two nights staying up into the wee hours. But as things went on I found my self more and more uncomfortable with the glorification of violence on the show. As an artist I'm against censorship, but I also believe we artists have a moral responsibility for the kind of statements we make through our art. With every season the show seemed to get worse and worse, until I had to just turn it off. But now I heard a news story that is just over the top:

NPR reported recently that both the U.S. Military and Human rights groups are teaming up (very strange bedfellows) to try to convince the producers of the show "24" to ease up on its positive portrayal of violent and brutal torture as effective and patriotic.

A study done by the human rights organization Human Rights First found that U.S. soldiers were imitating the techniques they have seen on television. This may sound unbelievable at first, but keep in mind that many of the troops are just 19 and 20-year-old kids with no psychological or professional training who were encouraged to be "creative" in their techniques. Former Army interrogator Tony Lagouranis, who was at Abu Ghiraib says, "people were watching movies and TV and getting their ideas from that".

Based on this study, The New Yorker reports that this past November, Human Rights First teamed up with the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, and three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, to fly to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24”. These military experts told the show's producers that the positive portrayal of torture on the show was having two terrible effects: giving the public image world wide that the U.S. condones abuses such as Abu Giraib, and worse, inspiring US soldiers to implement the techniques they see on the show in real life.

Despite the fact that it was the US Military asking for FOX's cooperation (asking in the name of the "war on terror" no less), the producers of "24" refused to comply. Which goes to show that FOX is not conservative, they are simply amoral and money hungry. In the same way that other shows glamorize adultery by portraying it as the "only way" out of an unfulfilling relationship, “24” glamorizes and desensitizes people to abuse. I think it's time for Christians to boycott the show.

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At 1:31 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Amen, Derek.

I used to be a big fan of this show, but it has gotten somewhat schizophrenic and increasingly disturbing.

On the one hand, they seem to want to point out the dangers of stereotyping, of scapegoating, and the potential peril of having ultra-conservative, Nixonian rogue elements working against the rule of law in the government.

On the other hand, they glorify violence and torture, and worse yet, try to give the impression that torture actually works. Even if we were willing to throw our ideals and Constitution into the trash, interrogation experts from other western democracies seem to know better. They know that it does not. It's disturbing to me that Dick Cheney watches and likes this show... Who knew he had that kind of time on his hands?

Plus, on a less serious level:

- Having a nuclear device go off on American soil was way, way over the top...

- Having Jack kill Curtis was wrong... just plain wrong...

- I get frustrated seeing these I/T systems that always work. Pull up a schematic of this, show me the layout of that, get past this firewall, uplink from this cellphone... To make it just a little more real, couldn't they have had Chloe sit for several minutes seeing an hourglass once in a while? A blue screen of death, host not found, server not available, 404 page not found, an error has been found running scripts on this page, etc.. etc...?

BTW, I posted a few essays I thought were interesting takes on atonement here. Have a blessed Easter.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger debm said...

Derek, I read your blog often and I think its great! But, leave TV entertainment alone-- 24 has never been promoted itself as anything then bad guys versus good guys and who can tell the difference. If you want to complain, complain to the military who have put our young men in women in a position in which they have not been trained to do. If you are old enough to serve the military you are old enough to know right from wrong and that 24 is only entertainment. So go ahead and boycott, nobody forced you to watch in the first place. I don't watch videos that show half naked women being degraded, and as my daughter grows older I remind her that it is not real---only entertainment!!

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I appreciate the kind and affirming email you sent me in addition to this post, so rather than have a debate, lets see this as an opportunity for a dialog.

"I read your blog often and I think its great! But, leave TV entertainment alone"

If our theology if it is going to be relevant, it needs to be able to address all areas of our lives together, including what we consume on TV. Additionally, I've been working professionally for over 14 years in the film and television entertainment industry as a technical director and animator (you can see the films I worked on at imdb.com), so I do think I've earned the right to say something about the entertainment industry and the influence of film with some degree of authority from experience.

There was a time that I was presenting an animated short film I had made to an audience of several thousand people in a huge theater. People were laughing just when I wanted them to, being surprised just when I had planned, being moved by the story and music just as I had directed. I realized right there what a profound amount of power I had over these thousands of people... and with that much power to influence people's feelings and thoughts, I realized, goes a lot of responsibility. It was pretty sobering. Art has a tremendous ability to influence people, "under the radar" since it makes us feel something passionatly - fear, passion, danger, joy - before we are really able to process it intellectually, we have "lived through it" via a movie which combines the power of story, the visual, and music all into one. For this reason Aristotle wanted to ban the arts because he saw them as subversive to reason. Now as an artist, I'm glad to have the freedom to say what I want with my art, but Aristotle was right to recognize the tremndous power that comes with art, and with great power comes great responsibility.

You bring up in your post several issues of responsibility: the military's responsibility to give clear training and guidance to soldiers, a parents responsibility to raise their children with good values, an 18-year-old's responsibility to know right from wrong. I do not wish to minimize any of these. Certainly we ALL need to take responsibility, as individuals, as organizations, and as corporations. Which is why if we can expect an 18-year-old to know right from wrong, then all the more should we expect a 55-year-old television producer to have the moral responsibility and character to think not just about how they can make money, but also about the moral impact their messages will have. Film, because it speaks to us on a gut level, can bypass our reason. Advertisers, politicians, and some preachers, all take advantage of this to try to manipulate us into buying stuff we dont need and voting for people we shouldn't by appealing to our fear or insecurity.

So what I object to is not the idea that we all need to use our heads and exercise responsibility, but the subtle idea that corporations (like FOX) are somehow exempt from that same call to responsibility which comes from thinking only of individuals as needing to be moral and letting corporations off the hook. Corporations are made up of people, and because they have much more power and influence, and with that goes equally more responsibility.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Mike L. said...

I agree!

I don't understand why so many Christians have problems with pornography but they are ok with violence. It seems to me that violence is much more harmful. I literally know people that once took part in a boycott of Disney but they regularly watched professional wrestling and they even voted to re-elect George W. Bush. That is sick!

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too ama fan. But Janine Garafalo has killed it for me. NO MORE! We are RACISTS if we don't agree with The One? Puh-lease!
No more. We can get her off the show since Conservs are the ones watching. Drive the ratings down and tell'em why!

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We originally liked "24" when the story line was directed at radical muslim terrorists. We were shocked to see Garofalo in this latest season and can't imagine how she got the part, but when she made those vile remarks about the tea party participants, we decided to not watch it again. We could handle the violence because in the real world, it is what it is. We don't watch any tv or movies with sex, nudity and vulgar language which in today's world doesn't leave much to watch. Thankfully, we have old reruns of Murder, She Wrote, etc. We don't accept letting children watch the immorality and then telling them "it is only entertainment". Immorality should not be entertainment for Christians and if the majority would have taken a stand long ago, the entertainment industry might not have become what it is - degenerate. The drug using, self-absorbed, arrogant, vulgar, immoral "stars" will not be supported by my household but one household can't change the industry.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is time for an all-out boycott of 24 and its sponsors until Fox fires Garolfalo and apologizes to the American people for the inexcusable behavior of one of their employees. Why should Hollywood D-listers be allowed to spew liberal hatred and be protected by their studio bosses? As we all know, there are consequences to our actions, and it is time Hollywood learned that lesson. In the coming days, we'll post the names of 24's sponsors ... please do NOT buy their products until Garolfalo is gone. Then, we'll see if any other studios want to take a chance on employing this sorry excuse for a human being.


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