Movies and television shows are often used to make political statements. They are tools of art, of course, but they also provide a picture into the mind of the movie or show director. With that in mind, Barbershop and 24 are two pieces of popular media that have been said to make a political statement. While the political agendas in these two works are very different, each one makes a point in an important and very visible way.

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In the movie Barbershop, there was some effort to represent a picture of what it means to live the black life in the United States. The film uses the setting of a barbershop, which has traditionally been the place where black people have congregated in communities to discuss the issues impacting their community. In these respect, the movie is accurate. It accurately depicts a cultural artifact of the black community. In other respects, liberties are taken in order to prove a political point.

One of the cultural artifacts in the film revolves around the way that the main characters are portrayed. The main characters are hard-working and industrious, and there is a feeling of inclusion, as well (Robins-Grace). Within the film, there are many discussions among characters about the Civil Rights Movement. At certain points, characters argue that some of the heroes of the civil rights movement, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., were lazy or adulterers. Some argue that this movie was making a political statement about those individuals, but it is instructive to dig deeper into this work in order to truly uncover its political agenda. Each time there is dialogue of this nature, characters push back against negative claims against civil rights leaders. As Professor Eric Michael Dyson wrote in The New York Times, “What the critics of ”Barbershop” ignore is that nearly every criticism they make has likely been made by one of the film’s characters.

Every time Eddie — an older man who, with his old-school Afro, is something of a village idiot — airs his views, others rise up to challenge him. The key to the free-ranging discussions in ”Barbershop” is stated by Eddie when he asks, ‘If we can’t talk in a barbershop, where can we talk straight? This ain’t nothing but a healthy conversation’” (Dyson). Ultimately, the political lesson in this film seems to be a statement about the open dialogue within the black community. Black people, the movie opines, are able to challenge even their most beloved characters. The political agenda might even be drawing a contrast between black portions of America and elements of white America, which often fails to challenge perceptions of the people it holds dear.

The popular show 24 also takes some liberties in other to push a political agenda. In the show, there is a glorification of torture, as the movie twists the realities that tend to exist when quasi-military personnel, like the show’s lead character, are trying to uncover information (Miller). The show has produced more incidences of torture than any other television show, prompting many to wonder whether the show is trying to convince people that torture is acceptable or normal (Bauder). In The New Yorker, Jane Mayer wrote of the show, “24  is the worst offender on television: the most frequent, most graphic, and the leader in the trend of showing the protagonists using torture” (Mayer). In order to understand the effect, one has to understand both the show and its primary character.

Jack Bauer, a man played by Kiefer Sutherland, is an unquestionably cool operator. Put up against time in a number of critical situations, Bauer is routinely asked to pull rabbits out of his hat, saving the world or the president or the country’s innocent citizens right in the nick of time. The political message in the show, however, is quite clear – as long as one has the right ends in mind, the means are not important. The show pushes a “whatever it takes” mindset behind torture, justifying the use of a range of different tactics. This was important when the show was running, of course. 24 ran during the time when America was in conflict with terrorist groups, and it used things like waterboarding in its camps around the world. Some argue that there was a very real effort to persuade people that this was the appropriate way to operate (King).

These two shows provide a good example of how television and movies can be used to provide political messages. While the messages in these two shows are very different, and the methods used to promote them are different, they are equally effective at making the audience believe that the intended message is the norm, or should be the norm, in America today.