Monday, May 10, 2010

Jack Bauer. A Man of Constant Sorrows.

"Odysseus slept. And lightly the ship sped on, bearing that man who had suffered so much sorrow of heart in passing through wars of men and through troublous seas--the ship sped on." The Odyssey by Homer.

Once again, Jack Bauer has been rejected by everyone around him in the final hours of his 24 hour assignment. Even the President of the United States has tried to arrest him. And Chloe. Although we knew that couldn't last. Now she has been replaced as CTU Director by an evil henchman of President Logan and, I feel certain, will find a way back to Jack's team.

And another love interest is dead. Renee. Not my favorite character in many ways, but I have to admit I was sorry to see her go. Jack seems to like the muscular but well endowed types. All a little too androgynous for me. But I have never been attracted to girls who can beat me in an arm wrestle. Be that as it may, Renee is dead. As are all the girls with whom Jack has been romantically involved. Jack is a male black widow. First bed, then dead. It's a tragic formula.

Jack being the self-conscious man that he is, blames himself for the pain he has brought to his friends, and rightly so. SWM seeks SWF. Former love-interests: Teri Bauer, Nina Myers, Audrey Raines, Renee Walker. All dead or whereabouts unknown.

But I love Jack, he follows in the great tradition of sad and reluctant heroes, from the ancient Odysseus to our modern day Spiderman. Something in us likes our heroes to suffer.

All Jack Bauer wants is to return to his daughter, to find a woman to love and who can stay alive more than one year, and for justice to rule the earth. Not too much to ask. But I doubt he will get any of the above. He will not walk off into the sunset at the end of the series. He will have succeeded in saving the world but he will be alone at the end. There are unforeseeable twists to come; maybe his first wife is still alive, maybe Dalia Hassan was motivated by revenge and plotted her husband's death, maybe Tony's still alive. Who knows, but the surprises are not over.

Which reminds me that there is another Jack in TV Land whose plot has twisted one too many times for me, and that Jack, albeit a man of sorrows as well, whines too much to be a really cool hero -- and I have abandoned any hope of understanding "alto" world. I am referring, of course, to LOST.

But I get 24's Jack Bauer. And it's been fun.
Post Scripts
  1. Heroes in TV and Movie frequently have names that begin with a "J". Jack being the most frequent. See an old post: Jack Bauer's Man-Purse
  2. My thanks to Schuyler Whately, from whom I first heard the phrase "a man of constant sorrows" in reference to Jack Bauer. The phrase comes from song lyrics of Dick Burnett, circa 1913, and was made popular in the movie, Oh Brother Where art Thou. I believe the earliest origin of the phrase is from the Book of Isaiah: He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

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