Juan Cole in Salon:
NBC’s hit series “Heroes” was the most-watched new show on network television this year despite its demanding plot lines and stretches of subtitled Japanese. Its season finale, which aired May 21, dominated the 9 p.m. time slot. What explains the show’s popularity, especially with younger viewers? I think it is that, like the Fox thriller “24,” “Heroes” is a response to Sept. 11 and the rise of international terrorism. But while “24” skews to the right politically, “Heroes” seems like a left-wing response to those events. In fact, it functions as a thoughtful critique of Vice President Dick Cheney’s doctrine on counterterrorism.
In Bush and Cheney’s “war on terror,” the evildoers are external and are clearly discernible. In “Heroes,” each person agonizes over the evil within, a point of view more common on the political left than on the right. Each of the flawed characters is capable of both nobility and iniquity. In Bush’s vision, the main threat remains rival states (Saddam’s Iraq, Ahmadinejad’s Iran). States are absent from “Heroes,” as though irrelevant. “Heroes” makes terrorism a universal and psychological issue rather than one attached to a clash of civilizations or to a particular race.
In its commentary on terror, “Heroes” thus avoids the caffeinated Islamophobia of “24.” And at a time when “24,” a favorite of older Republicans, is fading in the ratings, “Heroes” may also be a better guide to where the thinking of the young, post-Bush generation is heading when it comes to terror.
[H/t Roop Roy]