Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jack Bauer or Jack Shepherd?

This last week saw the series finales of both 24 and Lost, shows that challenged the status quo in the television industry through their creative story telling.  Both shows offer a picture of the struggle between good and evil but they have answered the questions of enemies and confronting enemies in completely different ways.

I became a fan of 24 about a year after Katrina when a friend loaned me the first 2 seasons.  I was immediately hooked by the drama and intrigue of this show centered around Jack Bauer’s quest to save the world from terrorist threats.  At that time in my life 24 was a much-needed escape.  At the end of a hard day of relief work in the community I could come home, drink a cold one and watch Jack Bauer do his thing.  The world of 24 wasn’t like the world I was living in.  In the universe of 24 things were very black and white – good guys and bad guys, problems and solutions (even if they seemed rather extreme like torturing a bad guy with electricity).

In post Katrina New Orleans things were nearly so cut and dry.  There was no clear-cut enemy to focus our anger towards like the Taliban or Al Qaeda.  Instead there was this simmering sense of loss and anger without any one person or institution on which to affix the blame.  The truth is everyone shared some of the blame in the issues that lead to Katrina being such a huge calamity for New Orleans – the government response, the oil companies who dug channels that eroded the wetlands, the corruption in the city and police departments, the average citizen who was indifferent to the cause of hurricane protection, and the Army Core of Engineers whose levees were breeched by the surge etc.  As much as we wanted one enemy it wasn’t going to happen.  This was no 9/11.  But at least I had 24 because at the end of the day after hearing folks blaming the Army Core of Engineers, and the president, and FEMA I could retreat into a world where terrorists were bad, Jack Bauer was good and no matter how bad things might look it would be all worked out in 24 hours.

After losing several months of my life to a 24 addiction I ran out of episodes.  What made matters worse was that I had developed my addiction while watching the episodes on DVD instead of TV without all of those commercials.  I was in a place of having to wait around for another season of 24 and I needed something to get me through because withdrawal was beginning to set in.  Someone recommended watching Lost and in a moment of weakness I said why not.  I didn’t really know what I was getting into with Lost, for all I knew it was just a dramatized version of survival… boy was I wrong.  Once I got hooked on Lost I never went back to 24.

Lost had a completely different rhythm than 24 and was much less black and white.  There was certainly conflict non-stop but there was no clear enemy.  Unlike 24 where everything would find resolve at the end of a season Lost had a way of leaving one with many more questions than answers—gnawing questions that would linger for days and weeks and many times until the next season. 

One of the central themes on lost was “Live together or die alone.”  In the world of Lost we saw all of these characters of different races and walks of life with different goals, different ways of dealing with conflict, and certainly different personalities—folks who would normally have no reason to do anything together yet it was the very crucible of community that put these characters on the path to redemption.  The characters of Lost had to come to terms with their differences and learn how to work together for something bigger than any individual.  For all of its sci-fi elements Lost seemed to strike me as more like the real world – we all have issues and baggage and different ways of dealing with things but we must learn how to live together and to overcome these differences and to see ourselves in a larger story.  In the end the characters of Lost finally found redemption after 6 seasons but that redemption came in and through their connections with each other – typified in the final episode by Jack Shepherd laying down his life for his friends.
I found it interesting that when Lost finally concluded the other night I didn’t quite know how I felt about it.  I think this was a feeling shared by many.  But over the last few days I have come to feel that ending was brilliant and that the implications for the spiritual life are very profound.  As much as I have wanted to see myself over the years as a Jack Bauer, the good guy, fighting obvious enemies I have come to learn that what we see in Lost is a little more accurate picture of how transformation and redemption happens.  In life there is rarely ever one simple enemy or one hero who will save the day.  We all share a part in the blame and can all share in the healing.  Each one of us has the potential, as the characters on Lost, to be both a hero and a villain.  But be assured transformation and redemption are never a solo endeavors.  There are always others with which our individual stories are interconnected, fellow sojourners looking for truth, freedom and healing even though at times they may even appear as our enemies.  We can fight against this reality or try to insulate ourselves in a reality of our own making but ultimately we will either “live together or die alone”.
  • So if you have watched Lost and/or 24 why do the show(s) appeal to you? 
  • Do you identify more with Jack Bauer or Jack Shepherd?
  • What did you come away with after the season finales?


Pi Man said...

Well, I am embarassed to admit that we really haven't watched either, though many have told us how good both series are/were. So Kerry and I have agreed to watch the episodes of Lost over the summer together. I'll be able to make a more worthy comment then, but until then, just call me the "Cave Man." Ha! Thanks, TA

Lori Grace said...

While I was a devoted fan on 24, watching Bauer disappear into the mix again was rather expected. After all, that's classic Bauer. A hero and wanted man, all wrapped up in one itty bitty living space. Great ending.

But the ending of LOST had my spouse and I deeply moved to tears for over an hour afterward. I rewatched the ending again the next evening and the same thing happened.

You see, my own father passed away 3 years ago and watching Jack be embraced by his dad who convinced Jack that it was finally time to "Let go" was healing for me. Through all the years I'd been hurt by my father for various reasons, it was that night where I truly felt no hurt, no regret over what was missed, no unforgiveness, and no ill will toward my father, just like Jack did with his own father. It was a moment of pure forgiveness where none of the faults were remembered or even important in the grand scheme of things.

"Everyone dies sometimes, kiddo." I'll never forget that.