Tonight Keifer Sutherland spoke to me. He told me that terrorism was serious, that muslims ‘stood beside us’ in opposition to terrorism. That they, too, were good people who loved their families.
Unlike in the following episode of 24, he said.
Or similar. I paraphrase.
A few things struck me.
1. Muslims are like ‘us’, but they are not us. They are other than us. But similar.
2. Apologists for fiction exist; reassurances must be made — JUST IN CASE ANYONE THOUGHT 24 WAS REAL. It is not real. It is fiction. Fiction means it is not real. Perhaps this is something they are no longer teaching at schools. Fiction, to reiterate, is other than real.
3. And yet, a question: what responsibility does fiction have to its audience?
4. Another: what *impact* does fiction have on the world?
If William Goldman is right, that popular culture tells comforting lies while art tells uncomfortable truths, then which is 24? Since it appears to deal in uncomfortable lies, that is? Lies requiring clarifications that sound like apologies.
When did those lies begin to make their creators uncomfortable? No doubt at some point after writing and before the totality of the audience was achieved, yes? Which makes me think someone was taking the fiction seriously enough to complain.
Bringing us to the issue of artist responsibility.
Do we really need to stand outside our art, waiting by the front door for the audience to appear, so we can say to them, ‘It’s not real, you know’? Do we, though? I’m asking seriously. Is that where we are? Still barely removed from our cave days, sitting around the fire while the medicine man or wise woman regales us & we swoon with their possibilities because the story tellers are so convincing? So much for science curing us of our narrative need.
But I even understand it, having been raised on generations of alien representations of women in film & literature & art. Having grown tired of the entire genre of thrillers because all any sociopath will do in any film is sexually prey on women. Having to grit my teeth through decades of films where women can be almost anything, provided they’re cute & easy enough to contain. Having watched Thelma & Louise & been surely not the only person to say, ‘Dudes, that is one miserable freaking ending.’
So. Now I want to know. Do we owe it to our audience to be careful in all our representations? Do we need to measure and balance? And if we do need to be that, will it make us unadventurous? Or is it more unadventurous to go with that initial laziness that resulted in all muslims looking like terrorists in one current US TV show? (Dare I answer my own question here & say ‘yes’. But given that, must we always, ALWAYS fight laziness? Can’t we just give into it sometimes? C’mon, can’t we?)
How much impact does one show really have?
And why do I fear that the answer to that last question is ‘a lot’?
Where does the new responsibility for moral development lie? Have parents been superceded by Sutherlands?
Where are we leading ourselves?