Jan 19, 2013

Rescuing Boys on 24, Part 1: Behrooz

Though in the 2000s gay characters were commonplace on cable and even appeared occasionally on network television, the suspense series 24 (2001-2010), about federal agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) saving the world from terrorists in real time (every hour-long episode covers exactly one hour in a very long day), offers only homophobia.   One executive producer, Joel Surnow, is a self-professed “right-wing nut job” who openly expresses his dislike of gay people.  Of more than a hundred characters, none were explicitly designated as gay or lesbian.  Two were bisexual, both evil.   
But in spite of the incessant heterosexism and homophobia, men rescue adolescent boys with amazing frequency.  In nearly every season, the day begins with an adolescent boy climbing half-naked out of bed or flexing his muscles before a mirror or lounging by the pool in a swimsuit.  As the day progresses, he is  kidnapped, tied up, and threatened by one or more “bad fathers.”  Finally Jack Bauer rushes to the rescue; man and boy melt into each other’s arms and promise to stay together forever.

Although boys with bad fathers appear in earlier days, the homoromantic rescues begin in earnest on Day Four (2005-6).  After years of emotional and physical abuse, teenage Behrooz Araz (sixteen-year old Jonathan Ahdout) hates his father, Navi, but he is not aware that the elder Araz is a terrorist.  Then his girlfriend sees too much, and Navi orders Behrooz to kill her.  

He is unable to comply, so his mother does the job, and the nonplussed Navi orders a henchman to take Behrooz out into the desert and kill him.  Behrooz escapes from his assassin and runs away, with his suddenly repentant mother tagging along.  

At a hospital where his mother has sought medical attention, Behrooz meets Jack Bauer, who promises to keep him safe “from now on.”  Then Navi reappears, tries to kill Behrooz, and finally holds him hostage in the hospital basement.  Jack comes storming in to the rescue.  

Jack’s response to the rescue is a surprising throwback to the physicality of 1940s adventures.  He has spent only a single previous scene with Behrooz, hardly enough time for a realistic emotional intimacy to develop, and since he rescues hostages frequently as part of his job, he should be dispassionate and professional about it.  Yet he hugs Behrooz enthusiastically, has difficulty letting go, and tells him that everything will be ok now, as if he intends to personally guarantee the boy’s safety.  Perhaps Jack wants to atone for his job at the CTU, which has put his own daughter at risk several times previously.  Perhaps he fancies himself a “good father” substitute for the evil Navi. But mere guardianship cannot explain the effusiveness and physicality of the bond.  

Later in the day, Behrooz waits at the CTU for the crisis to end so he and Jack can embark upon whatever future they have agreed to.  Jack is captured by head terrorist Marwan, who wants the boy (for no comprehensible reason except that he is important to Jack), and suggests a trade.  Jack adamantly refuses, but to his horror, the CTU agrees.  We see Behrooz for the last time tied up, being driven away by henchmen, no doubt to his death, while Jack looks on in anguish and yells his name (in two deleted scenes on the DVD, we learn that he was rescued  just in time, but not by Jack).  

Again, Jack seems far more distraught than one would expect from a seasoned federal agent faced with the demise of a near stranger. One wonders just what sort of future he expected with Behrooz.

Not to worry, he'll get a new teenage boy pal in Day Five

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