[Ed. – We still remember a time when media critics wrote media criticism.]
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is hysterical. Hysterical as in histrionic; hysterical as in somehow funny; hysterical as in you wish its team had worked harder to take the temperature of the world around us before sending this highly charged and obscenely blinkered James Bond manqué into the world.
Debuting Friday on Amazon Prime, this show is an updated and serialized adaptation of Clancy’s perennially successful patriotic book series. Jack Ryan, world-saving C.I.A. agent, has been played by a bizarre range of performers over the years, each theoretically embodying a different but overlapping vision of masculine American heroism: Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Chris Pine.The villains, too, have changed, as American foreign policy has swung wildly in the years since the character was introduced in 1984.
Its other primary story objective is proving that Jack Ryan deserves his white male entitlement—which indicates just how closely American myths of masculinity are intertwined with international dominance. From frame to frame, Jack Ryan is an astonishing case study in toxic narratives. I watched it twice, slack-jawed in amazement; I do not know if this is an endorsement or not.