Jan 20, 2013

Rescuing Boys on 24, Part 2: Derek

Day Five of 24 (2006-07), the tv series about fighting terrorists in real time during a very long day, begins 18 months after Jack Bauer watched the Counter-Terrorism Unit betray his teenage friend Behrooz.  He has changed his name and taken a job as a day laborer in northern California.   He is renting a room from Diane Huxley (Connie Britton) and probably dating her, though he spends more of the first hours of the day trying to bond with her teenage son Derek (eighteen-year old Brady Corbet).

When he discovers he has been framed for the assassination of the President of the United States, and that Russian terrorists are planning to release nerve gas into a shopping mall, Jack springs back into action.  Derek tails him, and they are thrown together for a morning-full of helicopter jaunts and last-minute rescues.

Jack keeps apologizing for getting Derek involved, but the boy doesn't seem to mind.  In fact, he seems to relish working side by side with Jack, like a superhero's sidekick or one of the Adventure Boys in pre-1940s boys' books.  He refuses to leave even when he gets an opportunity.

About halfway through the day, Jack rescues Derek from a hostage crisis at a regional airport, and his mother arrives to take him home.

When will I see you again?” Derek asks.  This is an odd question to ask of his mother’s boyfriend: the use of “I” suggests that he expects a more direct involvement, and “see you” seems to evoke romantic dates rather than outings to the ball park.

Misty-eyed, Jack admits that he will be staying with the CTU, that this is a permanent goodbye.  Then he envelopes Derek in an amazingly enthusiastic full-body hug, his face against Derek’s neck.  Again, he seems to have forgotten that Derek is his girlfriend’s son.  He does not  treat Diane this way; their goodbye is courteous at best.

 Jack may imagine himself a “good father,” trying to “be there,” become a “man around the house” for Derek, but through the episodes the bond does not appear at all custodial; indeed, Derek rescues Jack nearly as much as he is rescued.  And, for the first time in the series, the bond is not deferred by heterosexual imagining: Derek has no “bad father,” so there is no paternal competition, and he expresses no heterosexual interest of any sort.

I don't know why, but the boys Jack rescues are usually played by actors who have significant gay-themed roles in their backgrounds. Brady Corbet played a troubled asexual teen who buddy-bonds with a gay teen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in Mysterious Skin (2004).