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Starring: David James Elliott, Catherine Bell, John M. Jackson
Director: Donald P. Bellisario (Producer)
Ayn Rand based her theory of art on Aristotle’s maxim that fiction portrays people as they can and should be. Every work of art is “a selective recreation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value judgments.” (The Romantic Manifesto, Signet 1971, p. 19) An artist cannot present all of reality, so some aspect of it stands for the whole. Is the world hospitable or hostile or indifferent? Rand called this one's "sense of life."
“Art is a concretization of metaphysics. Art brings man’s concepts into the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly as if they were percepts.” (RM p. 20)
A biography of Abraham Lincoln’s life could run six volumes, chronicling every detail, but the characterization of President Lincoln in a Civil War drama will subsume and encapsulate all of that and deliver it to the audience, according to the intent of the artists--the actor, writer, director, and the others in the team. Ultimately, someone has artistic control of the final product and it is that person’s vision of life that we receive.
In this case, the controlling artist was the executive producer, Donald P. Bellisario. A Marine Corps sergeant, Bellisario also created the original Magnum, P.I., Airwolf, and Quantum Leap. That last reveals the most about Bellasario’s view of your place in the universe. Is history inevitable? To what extent can you make your own life? In JAG, there is no doubt that we all make choices and accept responsibility for those decisions. Sometimes, the characters are in circumstances that are very constrained, but “I had no choice” is met with “You always have a choice.”
Last week, Laurel and I viewed the final episode of the final season of the television series JAG. It took us about a year to work through the set. Laurel is a voracious reader, primarily of murder mysteries and computer documentation. As a writer and reader of non-fiction, I am informed by Ayn Rand’s theory of aesthetics expressed in The Romantic Manifesto. For being television, written, shot, and edited on a grinding production schedule by a large, changing staff of writers and directors, with the attendant holes in plot, character development, and theme, JAG held up well.
The heroes are Commander Harmon ("Harm") Rabb and Colonel Sarah McKenzie. Each has a complicated past that leave them internally conflicted. However, their moral lodestars are on the far horizon. Though they change course, they never stray from moral right or moral certainty. So, they eventually find home port. Our "common man" viewpoint characters are Lieutenant Harriet Sims and Lieutenant Bud Roberts, a married couple. They never lose their moral compass as they are struck by life's harsh moments; and they persevere and thrive with unshaken optimism. In the ten years of the series, Roberts matures, gaining complete self-confidence.