How '24' tainted the American presidency

As the FOX series struggled to pump up the drama, says Joshua Alston in Newsweek, it turned its fictional presidency into a symbol of corruption

The season finale of '24' has critics talking.

During eight seasons of FOX's espionage drama "24," all manner of vehicles and buildings were "destroyed by all manner of weapon," says Joshua Alston in Newsweek, but nothing sustained "more damage...than the image of the presidency." Originally the show depicted the president as a respected leader and capable crisis manager, but as its writers struggled to maintain a "compelling, suspenseful series" and took more liberties with the character, the POTUS came to symbolize conspiracy more than calm. Here, an excerpt:

"The descent from superhero president to a leader who is inept at best and villainous at worst is mostly rooted in 24's tendency to raise the stakes with every season. [Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer] is the ultimate rogue agent, constantly squaring off against his superiors when they lack the stomach for his brand of instinct-driven, red-tape-cutting heroics. In order to make up the ante, the writers had to give Bauer's oppressor higher ranks and more authority, so it was only a matter of time before the one of the terrorist plots unleashed each season trickled down from the very top...

"Much has been made of what 24 has to say about jingoism, torture, the war on terror, and what, if anything, it has to do with Islam as a religion....Because the show sprang from the mind of co-creator Joel Surnow, a vocal conservative and the subject of a less-than-flattering New Yorker profile, 24 has been viewed, often unfairly, as a dramatic delivery system for a warmongering, neoconservative message. Just as the audience assumed the show was trying to "say something" about terrorism, many viewers assumed the show was trying to make a damning statement about the presidency and the corrupting influence of power."

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