Monday, January 30, 2012

Kiefer Sutherland's "Touch" and 9/11

As I’ve noted previously, the intersections between 9/11 and popular culture provided the primary inspiration for starting this blog.  In the years following the attacks, I gravitated to programs such as “24” and “Heroes,” which were directly influenced by the war on terror and the fears and debates it spawned.  These shows have concluded and been replaced by programs that seem to be moving away from 9/11 allegories.  Fox’s new show “Touch,” developed by “Heroes” creator Tim Kring and starring “24’s” Kiefer Sutherland, reveals a continued shift away from direct fears of terrorism to an emphasis on the legacy of the attacks and a return to concerns about traditional crimes.

In “Touch,” Sutherland’s character, Martin Bohm, is a single father who has been caring for his autistic son since his wife was killed in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  His son can’t speak, but is able to see numerical patterns that help Bohm prevent future crimes and accidents.  Through a series of hard-to-explain mechanisms in the pilot, Bohm and his son facilitate the conditions by which a New York City firefighter can rescue children from a burning school bus.  It turns out this firefighter is consumed with feelings of guilt because of his inability to save Bohm’s wife on 9/11. Like the Tom Hanks/Sandra Bullock film “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Touch” depicts how the deaths in the World Trade Center impacted those left behind.

From the previews of future episodes, it also seems that unlike Jack Bauer, Sutherland’s “24” character, Bohm will be trying to stop conventional crimes rather than terrorist attacks.  Similar to CBS’ s “Person of Interest,” “Touch” reveals a gradual move away from post-9/11 fears of spectacular nuclear, chemical, and biological events seen in “Heroes” and “24” to anxieties about common malfeasance like murders, robberies, and car accidents.

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