The return of the brilliant Gregory Itzin as Charles Logan got me thinking about the portrayal of Presidents on 24. Jack Bauer has been the only constant character on the show, but the office of the President has been a crucial part of each season as well. It’s fascinating that minorities have been consistently portrayed as paragons while the traditional figures (translated: white males) have been shown as weak, paranoid and narcissistic.
Some people have gone as far as to say that 24 has been instrumental in paving the way for acceptance of an African-American president, and I think there’s at least some truth to that. David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), President of Days One through Three, was the type of man anyone would hope to have running the country: compassionate and caring, yet strong enough to make the tough decisions. Interestingly, his Lady Macbeth wife Sherry was his polar opposite, ruthless in her ambition. It was her death that ironically provided the impetus for his decision to leave the office.
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Palmer was succeeded by John Keeler (Geoffrey Pierson), who remained something of a cipher considering his administration lasted a little over half of Day Four before terrorists brought down Air Force One. The incident paved the way for Charles Logan to take over, presiding over what many consider to be 24‘s finest seasons. At first he appeared simply wishy-washy, afraid to make a decision, but his character became far more developed in Day Five as he was revealed to be part of a complex operation to make America appear to be under terrorist threat.
Day Six saw another Palmer ascend to office: Wayne (DB Palmer), who had previously served as Chief of Staff for older brother David. He was actually something of a middle ground between the other 24 presidents: basically a good man, but not above some morally murky actions to serve his purpose. After a failed assassination attempt left Wayne in a coma, Vice-President Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe) took charge and immediately brought America to the brink of war with the Middle East due to his heavy-handed shows of strength. Like many in power, his weakness for women proved to be part of his downfall when he had an affair with his aide who turned out to be a mole.
Days Seven and Eight have featured Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), who’s proved to be a throwback to the David Palmer mode. Level-headed and cool under pressure, she’s refused to cave in to terrorist demands and has a desire for justice strong enough to result in turning in her own daughter.
It’s said that a pendulum has to swing both ways before settling in the middle, and I think this is the reasoning behind 24‘s portrayal of their Presidential figures. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what they have in store for us next week’s meeting between Presidents Taylor and Logan.
(Images courtesy of FOX)
-Beth Kostecki, BuddyTV Fan Columnist