On 24

Jack Bauer Is the Dirty Harry for the Age of Terrorism

By Lorie Byrd

“Go ahead, make my day.”

It is not hard to imagine Jack Bauer delivering “Dirty Harry” Callahan’s famous line from the 1983 film Sudden Impact, or standing in for Callahan in the scene the line comes from, daring a man to go ahead and shoot the woman he’s holding hostage at gunpoint so Callahan will have reason to fire.

Jack Bauer is, after all, the modern-day Dirty Harry–but instead of targeting armed robbers and serial killers, Bauer goes after terrorists intent on mass murder.

Not only are Dirty Harry and Jack Bauer similar characters, but they each won pop icon status in surprisingly similar times, Dirty Harry during a period of concern over increased violent crime and Bauer during the post-September 11 focus on the threat of terrorism.

Police Inspector Harry Callahan, portrayed by Clint Eastwood, rose to popularity in a series of five movies beginning with Dirty Harry in 1971 and continuing for seventeen years, through 1988’s The Dead Pool. The Callahan character was loosely based on the chief investigator in the Zodiac Killer case, David Toschi, but Clint Eastwood made the character his own over the course of the series with his trademark squint, raspy voice, and deadpan delivery.

Dirty Harry was a new kind of fictional cop. In sharp contrast to the “just the facts, ma’am” officer epitomized by Jack Webb’s Sergeant Joe Friday in the ’50s and ’60s, Callahan did not adhere to any procedural handbook. His high-action, in-your-face approach to detective work was a drastic departure from the daily routine  …

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