June 7, 2007

Jack

Category: Television,Uncategorized :: Permalink

In my previous entry, I mentioned that Moriah and I strongly disliked the character Michael Vaughn (played by Michael Vartan) in Alias.  One reason for our dislike was that he rarely seemed happy.  Weiss cracked jokes and didn’t take himself seriously.  Will went through great trauma and yet came through it with his sense of humor intact.  But Vaughn seemed glum from the start.

But it wasn’t just that he was overly serious or that he was often mopey or that there were too many scenes where he gazed at Sydney with sad eyes which we were probably to take as revealing his deep sensitivity.  It wasn’t even that he was headstrong or that he went rogue and did dumb things, annoying as that was.  What bothered us the most, I think, was that when things didn’t go his way he was angry and, as a result, loud, demanding, and pushy.

He should have been the one named Jack.  If you’ve watched 24 and Lost, you might catch what I mean by that.

Moriah and I have seen only the first season of 24.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I praised the show for its portrayal of mature men.

I’m rethinking that appraisal in part because it seems to me from what I’ve watched and from what I’ve heard that Jack Bauer often comes across as an angry and demanding man, a man who will raise his voice to try to make someone do what he wants or who will perform an act of violence to get his way.

Granted, he’s in a desperate situation and desperate men do desperate things.  When you have only twenty-four hours to save the world, impatience is understandable.  And again, I’ve watched only the one season and that was some time ago, so my memory of it is fuzzy.  Perhaps we can cut Jack Bauer some slack on this score.

I’m less tolerant of Jack Shepherd in Lost, who frequently smoulders with rage and raises his voice to attempt to bully people into doing what he wants.  In this third season, he’s been locked away much of the time.  Instead of speaking calmly to those who have him captive, he shouts at them, as if that’s going to do any good.  That isn’t mature masculinity; it’s childish temper.

Again, he’s in difficult circumstances and, like all the characters on Lost, he has some dark stuff in his background.  Perhaps we’re intended to see Jack as an immature, proud, angry man who has to learn to humble himself and grow up and start acting like an adult so that he doesn’t turn out like Michael, the other angry man on Lost, whose immature behavior originally cost him his wife and son and who left the show (so far, at least) having committed a horrible sin without repentance.

Perhaps.  But I’ve heard that there are people who regard Jack as one of the heroes, which seems to mean that they approve of his behavior.  I don’t understand that, but it was hearing that that sparked my meditations on this subject.

In three different shows, two with the same creator, we have main characters who respond to obstacles and challenges not with humility and creativity, not with gentleness and meekness, not with wisdom and maturity, but with violent words and violent actions.  They’ll shout at you until you submit, and if that doesn’t work, they’ll hurt you.  But at all costs, they must have their way.  Do these shows intend us to see such men as heroes?

I’ve met people like that, people who thought they were mature men because they were decisive, knew what they wanted, and would trample over any obstacle on their path.  In my sin, I’ve acted like that sometimes.  And the good thing about Jack Shepherd on Lost, whether the writers intended this or not, is that he doesn’t look like a hero to me at all, which means that the behavior I sometimes exhibit looks petty, pouty, childish, and evil to me, exactly as it should.

I can give one or two cheers for a portrayal of men who are able to make decisions, to take responsibility, to act boldly and do what needs to be done, and I can learn something about maturity from those aspects of their character.  But when it comes to their response to anyone who stands in their way, I pray that I may not be like the Jacks.

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Posted by John Barach @ 11:28 am | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “Jack”

  1. rose Says:

    Gosh how different are perceptions. Not sure what episodes you were watching but I only watched Alias because of Michael Vartan and the character he played Michael Vaughn. I did not see any sadness or glumness at all. I saw a serious, concerned thoughtful character who cared about his job and who had conflicts within himself that he had to come to grips with. I saw the softness of the character, the determination, the subtle humour he showed and yes the calculating person he could be. I saw all of this in the character Michael Vaughn and if it wasn’t for these emotions and portrayal I would not have watched Alias for 4 seasons. None of the other characters interested me or where interesting in the least.

  2. Paul Baxter Says:

    I’d really love to get your reactions to David Mamet’s film, Spartan. The main character in that film, played by Val Kilmer, is quite willing to do ANYTHING to accomplish the objective given to him by his superiors, and says as much directly at the beginning of the film.

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