What I Like About ’24’

I’m watching the fifth season of 24, and what I’ve seen so far of the show’s portrayal of women, I (mostly) love.

For starters, you have Martha Logan, the First Lady. She’s married to a man who’s both weak and ambitious – a dangerous combination – but shows intelligence, quick-thinking, and innovation. She questions her husband’s judgements. She doesn’t care that her husband just happens to be the US President; if anything, that’s more reason to question his judgements. Her actions and resolve play a crucial part in her husband’s downfall.

And then you have Audrey Raines, the daughter of the Secretary of Defence. She’s got a convoluted history with our hero, Jack Bauer, but that doesn’t stop her from being, well, intelligent, quick-thinking and innovative.

Even the show’s female villains, like Marie Warner, Collette Stenger, etc are shown to be crafty and quick-thinking, often with an wrapedly logical, if somewhat sociopathic, reasons for doing what they do. The villainesses of 24 are several cuts above the promiscuous, vengeful villainesses you typically see in film and television.

But it’s Chloe O’Brien I want to talk about. Season Five opens with her literally throwing a guy out of bed. She’s gotten laid, now she wants him to go. And it gets better from there.

Chloe is stubborn, opinionated, brilliant, loyal, flawed, offbeat. A techie for the Counter-Terrorist Unit, she lacks in a lot social graces. She comes up with conversational pearls like “˜I’m sorry your husband got shot in the neck'; but that’s ultimately what I loved about her. She didn’t mince words. She said what was on her mind. She did her job.

When a close friend of hers dies in a CTU attack, she cries, she goes into shock, then she gets on with her job. OMG, a woman who can grieve, then get over it because, you know, there are greater things at stake? How cool.

And it’s not as if she’s a cold, hard woman. She’s loyal to people – they just have to have earned her loyalty. She shows a an absolute refusal to believe in Jack’s guilt, an instinct borne of great loyalty on Jack’s part that proves Chloe right time and time again. I really liked that the 24 PTB took the time to prove that Chloe stood by Jack because, well, Jack stood by Chloe.

My one gripe with this show is that we never see women racing around doing front-line things like Jack, Tony Almeda etc get to do. But 24 goes a long, long way to redeeming itself by showing such fantastic female characters like Martha, Audrey and Chloe.

Comments

  1. Nialla says

    I spent all of last season worrying they were going to ruin the character of Chloe O’Brien. Most shows wouldn’t allow such a character to exist, or if they did, she’d have to be “fixed” (read: get a makeover and get a man) by the end of the series.

  2. scarlett says

    Well,
    I have this theory that she’s going to be the next to die, because every year they kill off a few established characters, presumable to keep up the tension (and keep down production costs!). But so far, I’ve been really impressed – I REALLY liked the way that, while she enjoyed sex with the rest of them, she didn’t want a relationship, hell, she didn’t even want the guy hanging around after she’d gotten laid. It seemed very consistant with Chloe’s character; this is what I want, this is the quickest, most efficient way to get it’.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    I agree with that. It’s like the old adage that men fall asleep right after sex while women want to talk – I think a lot of people do the exact opposite. Maybe enough that there’s really no serious gender distinction to be made.

  4. SunlessNick says

    I’m currently watching Day 4, though I’ve missed most of the last few episodes (by which I mean I’ve seen only a small part of each one).

    I’m liking Chloe. I liked the way she stood by Jack’s instincts – as well as her own – early on. I liked the fact that a terrified guy trusted her enough to ask her what he should do. When Jack messed up and the guy was almost killed (not to mention Jack all but abandoning him to die), I like that Chloe said she’d never forgive him, but went right on working with him just as she had because the situation demanded it. And I liked it that she replied to someone unexpectedly introducing themselves with a wary “OK.”

    I sympathised with Erin’s decision to fire Chloe when she found out Chloe was working with Jack – the “I need people I can trust” argument is a good one – but Erin seemed a poor leader in most ways, and I didn’t trust that her firing Chloe was really more honest than petulance at Chloe and Jack being right.

    So I liked it when Michelle was put in charge and almost the first thing she did was hire Chloe back. And I liked it that Chloe stood up for the principle that “getting her job back” should mean getting her job back.

    And I like Michelle as a leader; I like that she respects her people more than Erin did, and gets respect back as a direct result. I like that she seems smart and incisive. I like that when she and Tony disagree over a support strategy for Jack – with Tony predicting a specific thing Jack would do, and Michelle favouring a strategy that would cover a variety of things Jack might do – Michelle decides. And I liked that the narrative gave the sense that Michelle’s call was the right one, even though Tony’s prediction was correct.

    And I like that when Michelle gave Tony a job he thought was beneath him, she didn’t take shit, she just told him it needed doing and he was there – likewise, I liked that that the one time she did say something out of line to him, she was big enough to apologise without giving up an inch of her command. I liked that when Tony offered to get out of Michelle’s hair because it would be easier for her if he wasn’t there, he seemed to mean it, rather than indulging in self-pity – and I liked that Michelle decided that being at ease really wasn’t her priority.

    In Summary: I liked that given it started with a woman, Erin, who didn’t strike me as a good leader; the show replaced her not with a man to fix the woman’s mess, but a far superior woman, Michelle, who fixes a mess caused not by a woman, but by a bad leader. And I liked that Chloe was presented as indispensibly competent without making those around her incompetent.

    I find Michelle and Chloe a lot more compelling than Jack to be honest; I’d rather have a show about them.

  5. SunlessNick says

    Actually, I’m being fair calling Erin a bad leader per se. I can see how she’s good enough to make it to the position she has on merit; just that I can see how she’s got weaknesses that mean in a situation this bad, she can’t hack it, and I can see how Michelle thoroughly outclasses her.

  6. scarlett says

    From what I remember of Erin, I also liked that all her flaws were played as something that could have been the flaws of a man – she was ineffectual and weak and probably got the job by sucking up to the right people, but there’s been plenty of men like that, too.

    It’s also what I like about Chloe, Michelle etc, that they could so easily be men. Michelle shows competance and somethings regrets having to make the decisions she makes, but doesn’t flinch from the hard choices. And Chloe is highly competant and doesn’t trust easily, but when she does, places a lot of trust in people and her instincts.

    Even the show’s villians are a cut about the usual promiscous villianesses – you know, the ones who are pissed off because they were dumped so now they’re on a rampage (think Glenn Close in that movie, oh, I can’t remember the name but it’s got Michael Douglas) – their motivations are usually money or ideology, which I’d say are far and away the two main reasons for commiting treason. And are much more logical then ‘I’ll blow stuff up because I was dumped’.

  7. scarlett says

    That’s the one! Yeah, that movie annoyed me, and its ilk, because it’s so common for women’s sole motivations for wreaking havoc to be revenge against a lover. There are far more cases of men acting from that motivation then women. Nina Myers was a little like that, although she toughened up by season three.

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, at least with Nina, it seemed clear that her past relationship with Jack wasn’t the driving force behind her desire for revenge. And then later she got over the revenge and just wanted to go her own way, but he was in the way of that.

  9. SunlessNick says

    Yeah, that movie annoyed me, and its ilk, because it’s so common for women’s sole motivations for wreaking havoc to be revenge against a lover.

    And – as exemplified in Fatal Attraction – the villainy of the woman is also used to absolve the man of any wrongdoing on his part.

  10. scarlett says

    Hmmm, maybe I should get it out and watch it again – I saw it about five years ago, and I remember being annoyed because I could sympathise with Close’s character – the man had an affair with her, dumped her when he got bored and avoided her when she became pregnant. Her reaction was OTT, but I couldn’t blame her for being pissed, and I hated the way they portrayed him as being blameless; I thought he brought it upon himself, and the only person I had any sympathy for was the wife.

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    I read it that way too, personally… granted, this was YEARS ago when it first came out.

    But Nick’s point is still valid because ever since then, Close’s character has been hailed as a great villain, which emphasizes her wrongdoings over his. And every story that’s tried to recreate that scenario has very much treated it like the philandering husband was as wronged as his wife.

    I doubt the same would be true in a movie where a philandering wife exposed her family to a lover who turned out to be insane.

  12. scarlett says

    Yeah that’s what I meant, among other things. The fact that she was a mental nutcase was somehow meant to absolve him of his infidelity. I’ve seen several such scenarios from the 80’s – two Tom Cruise movies come to mind – that makes me think what filmmakers were thinking in that particular decade, that they came up with the thinnest absolutions for infidelity (and that you probably couldn’t stretch it, thin as it was already, to apply the same justification to a woman).
    I picked up the DVD this arvo and I’ll watch it tonight. Watching it in my late teens, it pissed me off enough – imagine what a goldmine for feminist critique it would be today!

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