Johanna Blakley

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Keeping the War on Terror Terrifying

After the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I wondered whether people would remain interested in the War on Terror, or whether we’d see some flagging interest register in the polls that, just last year, placed terrorism in the number three slot of national priorities, right after the economy and jobs.

A shift in public sentiment remains to be seen, but Hollywood seems to have decided to keep mining storylines from the War on Terror. I recently co-authored a report (with Sheena Nahm) on how primetime TV dramas depict the War on Terror. We were surprised to discover that primetime generally avoided the racial and religious stereotypes that we associate with terrorism — and when we took a look at the War on Drugs, we also discovered depictions that adhered more closely to reality than to preconceptions (for example, most drug abusers in this country are white).

Among the top-rated shows in 2010 we found nine that dealt frequently and substantially with the War on Terror, including the NCIS, Law & Order and CSI franchises. After 24 went off the air in spring of 2010, no other major network show replaced it, and so the sheer volume of hours devoted to the War on Terror in primetime sunk considerably. However, Fox has a new show starting this Fall called Exit Strategy, with Ethan Hawke, about CIA operations gone bad, and Homeland, which is from the producers of 24, just started on Showtime last night. Read the rest of this entry »

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