MALINA: It looks like he can't take much more of the waterboa- the interrogating. And I'm wondering maybe if we want to do a little less interrogating and maybe start thinking about his civil rights. I'm a U.S. Attorney, gentlemen. I represent the United States of America. The United States of America is in this room with you. So you need to watch how you treat the prisoner on American soil.
MAYO: I represent the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act and all the men and women who ever fought and died for your right to stand in this room with your glasses and your briefcase and spout your crap. We're not on American soil. This is not America -- this is the Pentagon, and that is an enemy combatant. Son, I represent the United States, you understand? The United States of America's in the room with you. You are a guest here. Shut your mouth.
"Scandal," of course, is heightened, soapy and more than a little crazy -- it's a TV show in which the main character's love interest is the President (Tony Goldwyn), who is, incidentally, married and about to have a baby, and this year it's suggested that Olivia and other D.C. higher-ups colluded to guy elected via voter fraud. As a movie, "Zero Dark Thirty" is considerably more complex, grounded and ambitious in its aims. But while the discussion over whether or not the inclusion of torture in the latter constitute some kind of approval -- Bigelow, delving into the topic in the LA Times today, wrote that "Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement" -- recent fictional depictions of torture imply that we still find it easy to accept it happens, and not even in the faraway legal gray areas of places like Guantanamo.
It was a moment that recalled executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa's show, "24," which for eight seasons queasily suggested that torture was a gruesome but necessary and effective means to an end when the stakes were high and timing was tight. "We're utilising certain devices for drama," star Kiefer Sutherland said when defending the show to the Guardian back in 2009. "And it's good drama. And I love this drama! As an actor I have had an absolute blast doing it. You sit in a room and put a gun to a guy's knee and say, 'Tell me!' Oh, you feel so amazing after that!"
Times have changed, even in the two and a half years since "24" ended -- in "Homeland," Carrie (Claire Danes) looked shocked by what Quinn did, though she had no issues in other areas illegally surveilling Brody at the start of the series. Torture isn't included in "Scandal" for entertainment value the way it was when Jack Bauer did it. And the discussions of the torture sequences in "Zero Dark Thirty" hinge on the film's suggested journalistic depiction of real events, a burden neither "Scandal" nor "Homeland" or "24" has to face. But if fiction, particularly the type piped into our homes on the small screen, is any kind of reflection of the American subconscious, then it suggests that we believe it still happens, that it happens close to home and that it's done in the name of patriotism -- as uneasy and troubling as that is.