March 1, 2005 11:04 AM   Subscribe

The show "24" has taken a lot of heat lately, mentioned recently in this Mefi thread and it got me to wondering....

I've watched every episode of the last 3 seasons. And this season, with all the controversy about the show's "negative portrayal of Muslims", I noticed something:

Not one of the characters this season has been identified as Muslim. Aside from the Araz family being identified as Turkish, not one reference to Allah, Mujahedin, or U.S. presence in the Middle East has been illustrated. Everything has been about "our struggle" and "our cause" and other vague statements.

Can anyone recall a specific instance where any of the bad guys in the show are referred to as Muslims or Muslim extremists? Or that anything in the plots had anything to do with Islam at all? Am I nuts or of faulty memory here? Because I get the impression that people assumed this was a Muslim terrorist cell without the show actually stating it. And in my mind, that changes the way the show should be handling things.
posted by TeamBilly to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
Full disclosure: I have not seen the show. From what you describe, however, it seems as though the writers just want to have an out when the controversy heats up. I mean, if this show had been made in WWII Germany and featured a bunch of guys with blond hair and blue eyes, everyone would be thinking that they were talking about the Nazis. It's all in the timing, I think.

[sarcasm] The beauty of American culture is that we jump to conclusions without being told the specifics. [/sarcasm]
posted by amandaudoff at 11:08 AM on March 1, 2005

(My God, I actually found a use for Google's video search. It's still a pain to use though.)

In the 2nd episode, when the son is talking to his girlfriend, they have this conversation (too bad the closed captioning runs both sides of it together):
It's my parents. They've got a problem with me seeing someone who's... Not muslim? Yeah. And that's it? Whatever they say, you do. No. Then what's going on between us, behrooz? Do you want to be with me or not? I do, but... But what? Debbie, I want to straighten things out, okay?
Link to the Google page
posted by smackfu at 11:23 AM on March 1, 2005

Also found an "Allah akbar" reference in the 11 AM episode, but I don't remember the context.
posted by smackfu at 11:36 AM on March 1, 2005

Now I am admitting to watching this terrible show. Sorry. Bad politics and all. But there is a moment when one of the terrorists knows he is about to be caught and he drives head on into an oncoming semi truck. I think that's the moment that smackfu is referencing.
posted by mai at 11:50 AM on March 1, 2005

The context of the "Allah Akbar" reference was the terrorist that Jack was covertly following was committing suicide after determining that he was being covertly followed. (On preview, what mai said, except I strongly disagree with the adjective "terrible")

The difference between this year and season two (when a terrorist immolated himself inside a mosque, a lily-white converted-Muslim Anglo girl was a central piece of the plot, and several unidentified "mideast countries" were nearly bombed to smithereens for their eventually-disproven part in the said plot) is that this year, the show is depicting an otherwise "normal family" as a terrorist cell. No one really has a real problem with a TV show showing us Muslim terrorists, but when they start giving viewers the idea that the Sulayman family next door could end up poisoning your daughter, well, a thin line has been crossed.

The heat may not necessarily be justified, but the response (intra-commercial messages by Keifer) is good.
posted by Plutor at 12:00 PM on March 1, 2005

There have definitely been instances this season where they've mentioned their faith, and most of them have been pointed out, but it's worth pointing out that they have also used Muslim characters in past seasons, as well as Colombians, Czechs, and a few other not-us types. It's kind of the nature of the genre.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:01 PM on March 1, 2005

Y'know, now that I think about it, I don't recall hearing the word Jewish in Schindler's List, either.
posted by xmutex at 12:22 PM on March 1, 2005

You won't hear "mafia" in The Godfather, either.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:16 PM on March 1, 2005

You won't hear "mafia" in The Godfather, either.

Actually in Godfather II,a character refers to "the Black Hand," which was the predecessor of the American Mafia. And in Part III, Diane Keaton tells Pacino "I think I liked you better when you were a common Mafia thug..."

Just saying.
posted by jonmc at 4:09 PM on March 1, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers. I guess my memory is, indeed, flawed in this respect.
posted by TeamBilly at 6:14 PM on March 1, 2005

smackfu, at the time, the son was trying to save his girlfriend's life by getting her to go away for a day or two. He might have come up with the Muslim thing on the fly. He's a pretty clever kid.

Even so, I'm pretty sure Madwan's group is meant to be a Islamist terrorist cell, even if it's never explicitly said. Their M.O. is a dead-on match.

You may yet be right, in a sense, TeamBilly. I think the second half of the season might be about how this terrorist cell was taken advantage of by these nebulous American defense folks. I doubt 24's producers would hand us something so obvious, at any rate
posted by maschnitz at 11:14 PM on March 1, 2005

He's a pretty clever kid.

No he isn't, he's the dullest knife on the planet. Sure, he stood up for himself when Tariq was going to kill him, but he expected his doctor uncle to give him pain medication no-questions-asked, he thought it was a good idea to call his mom and put her into harms way by telling her that dad tried to kill him, and was totally oblivious to the fact that the ER would call the cops because his mom was obviously shot in the arm, and then when it was all over, instead of letting CTU torture his dad for a bit, he just shot him dead.

But maybe that's his plan.
posted by Plutor at 5:39 AM on March 2, 2005

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