Home / Why Harry Potter and Jack Bauer Are More Similar Than You Think

Why Harry Potter and Jack Bauer Are More Similar Than You Think

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Like anyone else hooked on the show 24, I’ve got Jack Bauer on the brain. Unlike many fans of the show however, I came to the world of CTU late in the game. Therefore, I’ve been hauling in the DVDs on Netflix, recording the current season on TiVo, and racing to catch up. This means that I’m cramming in about 12 hours of Bauer every weekend. That kind of input makes you go a little crazy.

I find myself dreaming about sockets and protocols. Wondering who Division is going to send down to bust me for skipping my Advanced Trademarks seminar. When someone takes too long swiping his debit card at the grocery store, I scream, “We’re running out of time!” I’ll admit, I’ve got a problem.

However, one of the good things to come out of my daily ponderings of 24 is that I’ve stumbled on a striking similarity between Jack Bauer, CTU Agent extraordinaire, and Harry Potter, boy wizard. This may seem like an odd pairing, but just check out the evidence.

1. Both Jack and Harry are impervious to fear. Time and time again, the two heroes throw themselves into terrifying situations with no hesitation. This is probably a quality that exists in most heroic characters, but it is hard to recall any action hero running headlong into danger more often than Jack Bauer. And there is certainly no precedent for a 14-year-old old boy confronting a 50-foot basilisk, as Harry did in the second book. The only other combination of youth and bravery that even compares to that would be the time that Chunk found the strength to befriend Sloth in “Goonies.” Or any kid that made it through a stay at Neverland Ranch.

2. Signature skills. Both Jack and Harry have a plethora of heightened skills that enable them to save the day when everyone else fails. Among those varied abilities, the two heroes have signature skills that stand out and define their greatness. Bauer’s are killing, torturing, and pistol-whipping, as evidenced by websites that track his total kills and tortures every episode. Every Monday on PTI, Tony Kornheiser gleefully announces that he will be tuning into 24 later that night and keeping tabs on Bauer’s number of pistol-whippings. For all of Bauer’s stamina, decisiveness, and helicopter-piloting skill, it is his handling and use of weapons (including his hands, feet, and head) that stands out the most. As for Harry, his signature skill is clearly flying on his broomstick. That was made obvious in the fourth book (and movie), when he was nudged toward using his broomstick to defeat the dragon in the Tri-Wizard tournament. Throw in his amazing record as a Seeker in Quidditch and there is no doubt about this one.

3. They each have overlooked skills. Again, while they are known for killing and flying, Jack and Harry both possess mind-blowing skills that aren’t as obvious to the casual observer. Potter is very underrated with magic. That sounds weird, since he’s a wizard-in-training at Hogwarts, but the books clearly indicate that Harry is an inferior student as compared to his friend Hermione. Yet whenever the going gets tough, it is always Harry pulling out some fantastic spell or dueling with dark wizards. His flying, recklessness, loyalty, and bravery are all more obvious skills, but he can handle a wand as well as anyone. With Bauer, nobody realizes it, but his use of technology is ridiculous. He sets up his own remote video cameras, hacks into data fields, repositions satellites, and sends encrypted materials over his cell phone, and he does it all in record time. Also, Bauer’s ability to read building schematics that are downloaded to his PDA is nothing short of phenomenal. Give him a 20,000-square foot power plant with four floors and 40 rooms and he will diagnose that thing in 15 seconds. Amazing!

4. Both are heroes born out of tragedy. If you watch The Office, then you know that this is not only the requirement for a superhero, but also for any hero, according to Dwight K. Schrute. (The famous quote: “A hero is born out of a childhood trauma, or disaster, that must be avenged.”) Regardless, both of our heroes fit the bill. Potter’s tragedy is obvious and works as one of the central plot points throughout the series. The death of his parents when he was a baby is the backbone of the entire story. He is, after all, “The Boy Who Lived.” Jack Bauer’s “born out of a tragedy” credentials are a little cloudy. For starters, as far as we know he never suffered a “childhood trauma or disaster,” so that makes things tougher. Plus, other than the failed Victor Drazen mission (in which he lost his whole team and left third season villain Stephen Saunders for dead), there wasn’t much indication of tragedy leading into Day One. So all of the heroics from the first season were just Bauer being Bauer, pre-tragedy.

Still, it is obvious that Jack Bauer took it to another level once he suffered from tragedy. When he thought his daughter was dead (reported to be found floating in the harbor), he went on a one-man killing spree the likes of which we hadn’t seen since John McLain was running loose in the Nakatomi Plaza building. Then, after finding Kim alive, Bauer returns to CTU only to discover his wife, Terry, dead on the floor. Ever since, he’s been a terrorist-fighting machine.

5. Both consistently get blamed, underappreciated, and doubted far more than should be even remotely possible. This is easily the most infuriating part of both 24 and the Harry Potter series. How many times does Harry need to save the day before he gets the benefit of the doubt? How often must Jack prevent millions of people from dying before CTU stops freaking out and trying to take him into custody every time something goes wrong? It’s infuriating. Alas, the problem with trying to write a series, whether it is for television, film, or in the form of a novel, is that you have to balance a continued storyline with the need for constant dramatic tension. There is no better form of conflict than pitting the antagonist against the world. It is just that it gets old after a while. Just once, I’d like to see Bauer disobey orders, get results, and then have everyone thank him for doing a great job, instead of yelling at him for failing to follow their directives. (Peter Parker/Spider-Man qualifies here as well.)

6. Neither have any respect for protocol. Of course, part of the reason they are always being blamed and reprimanded is because both Bauer and Potter have a strong disdain for rules, regulations, protocol, and bureaucracy. For Bauer, there is “not enough time!” to always follow the book, and for Harry, he needs to do his work after hours, patrolling the halls during curfew.

7. They both have significant physical scars. Harry has the famous mark on his forehead, the scar that starts hurting whenever Lord Voldemort is near. Bauer has the track marks on his arm from the haunting heroin addiction that he overcame during Day Three (maybe the most amazing Bauer feat of all – kicking his dope habit in less than 24 hours) and that eventually cost him his job at CTU.

8. Both are willing to die for others. Obviously. Harry has risked his life numerous times, most notably for Dumbledore in the last book and the time that he saved Fluer’s sister in that lake. I’m sure there are other instances, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. As for Bauer, he risks death all the time, but no occasion was more dramatic than when he was willing to pilot a bomb into the ground. He called his daughter to say goodbye and everything. Luckily for The World, George Mason, who was dying from radiation poisoning anyway, took over the plane, allowing Jack the chance to escape the plane and risk death another day.

(It is worth mentioning that in Season Three, Bauer was not only willing to die, but he was willing to kill everyone else too, if need be. In 24 hours, he put a gun to his own head, to his partner Chase’s head, and to his boss Chappelle’s head, and pulled the trigger each time. That is a rough day.)

9. We’re stopping at nine, because both characters are getting close to using up their nine lives. Both have been rumored to eventually be killed off to end their respective stories. Kiefer has stated in interviews that the Bauer character might have to die to either end the series or to allow the show to continue in a “realistic” fashion. Likewise, there is talk that J.K. Rowling might end the Harry Potter series with the boy hero making the ultimate sacrifice. I included this not only because it is yet another similarity, but also to say that these are horrible ideas. Trust us, writers, when we watch 24 and read Harry Potter books, we are suspending reality. You don’t have to kill off the main characters to make it “more realistic.” Forget about all that. The reason Harry and Jack are so popular is that people love heroes and they love the continuity of knowing that no matter what happens, at the end of the day, the hero will prevail. Killing off Jack Bauer and Harry Potter would deprive us of our two best, and most surprisingly similar, heroes.

Killing off Dumbledore and Tony Almeida is more than enough. Let our heroes live.

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About Adam Hoff

  • This was awesome!

  • Thanks!

  • Interesting analogy – both are survivors too:)

  • irws

    its nice you took a lot of time with this, but you could have taken any 2 heros and replaced them with the paralells you’ve drawn

  • Zero

    … That was just a list of any formula for any generic hero-type character in a movie or videogame.

    It’s so cliché.

  • Ah, but neither of these heroes made for good video games.

    Make that No. 10.

  • Um, that is the whole point. It was supposed to be a joke – comparing such absurdly opposite “heroes” yet still finding how they can still be alike given all the stereotypical qualities they possess. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and if the humor is missed, then I take the blame for not making it more clear. Trust me, I’m not trying to make any sort of serious statement here. Lighten up, people!

  • It’s so cliché

    Actually – it was rather clever.

  • Lighten up, people!
    Amen Adam

    Next time though, you gotta say, “Lighten up Francis”

  • Greg Heinrich

    Not my favorite article because it has very little meaning to anybody who has not watched the 24 (most of the population…thanks god). Obsession with such a TV show is not healthy. Nonetheless, it does have humor and would be fun to read had I watched 24.

  • alexander

    very very nice.
    although very difrent i kinda would like to c harry figth terros and jack get ass wooping with guns gaintst them weird wans

  • I think you’d be surprised how many people watch 24. What is more interesting though is that everyone who does tune in becomes obsessed. You can’t help it. It isn’t the kind of show you just turn on to have in the background while reading a magazine. Of course, when you start getting the urge to torture people, that is the time to scale back. (Disclaimer: that was a joke. Just so we’re clear.)

  • chris


  • Ralph

    “Killing off Dumbledore and Tony Almeida is more than enough”

    bit of a spoiler for people not watching the lastest US eppisodes

  • I’ll say it again –

    Lighten up Francis!

    I mean seriously. Playing the ‘spoiler’ card? What did you think you were going to see when you read this? Gentle hints and innuendos?

    and to this comment:

    because it has very little meaning to anybody who has not watched the 24 (most of the population…thanks god

    You know, the show is pretty darn popular. Sometimes it’s nice to read about something that you’re not familiar with.

  • I thought the funny part was when Greg (#10) mentioned people not watching 24. What about people not reading or watching Harry Potter? I watched two seasons of 24 and saw only the first HP movie, and haven’t read any of the books.

    Seems like a big assumption to think that 24 would necessarily be the missing piece of the formula, rather than HP!

  • Okay.

    I’m sorry, but that was absurd and stupid.

  • yoshi987

    dude u r a fag jack bauer is nothing liek harry potter n00b,

  • SonnyD

    Phillip Winn: You should give the Potter books a try. The books are so long and so much is left out for the movies that I don’t know how one would make heads of tails of the movie without reading the book first.

    I’m sure I’ve read books by the thousands, but probably wouldn’t have thought to buy what seemed to be a kid’s book. But someone gave me the first two books; I couldn’t put them down, read all night.

  • That’s a very good informative comparison! Aaman put it right … both are survivors! 🙂

  • ron

    lol love the reference to dwight’s hero definition

  • Kevin

    While this article is simply a description of the classic hero archetype, it was still somewhat clever.

    24 is an incredibly creative and amazing series, and I would highly recommend getting into it. A word to the wise, however, try to catch it in DVD or marathon form as having to wait a week in between episodes could drive a man to drink – it’s that addictive.

    As for Harry Potter, I cannot say enough how imaginitive and enjoyable these novels are. I stress “novels” as while the movies are well done, they can only do so much in such a medium. A LOT is left out, butchering the Harry Potter name to many who only watch the movies and judge it as childish. I believe the movies are more geered toward children, but the novels are spectacular. Don’t take my word for it, simply read the first book and I guarantee that you’ll have the other 5 under your belt soon after – they’re that addictive.

  • Great article!

  • Claire in Australia

    I just wanted to say that although i don’t watch 24 i am a massive HP fan and i thought your similarities were really good. you wrote that whole story/article thingy really well and it was just a nice brief yet long insite into the world of the heros. so thanx for a nice article thing from CLaire

  • Thanks for all the feedback. I agree that you should certainly read the Harry Potter books and that the movies don’t do the trick. You should also give Season One of 24 a try by picking up the DVD’s and diving into it over a weekend.

    I’m glad that someone enjoyed the Dwight nod. That was just such a classic scene. (Although we now have a new “ultimate Dwight” moment – the acceptance speech.

  • someoneudon’tknow

    were u on crack when u wrote this?

  • Melanie

    Excellent comparison!

    Speaking of #5 – giving credit where credit is due – Harry was only 12 when he killed the 50ft Basilisk.

  • Lea Lord

    Thanks for the article! I really enjoied it! Sure, most of these things could fit in a comparison between any of the heroes, but I don’t think that’s bad.The man has just expressed an observation he’s made on two of his favourite heroes.Actually, since someone’s not familiar to the characters, I don’t see a reason to read such an article in the first place.But I also liked the comments.It’s nice to hear different opinions;it helps improvement(of course the last doesn’t refer to #26).Thanks also to Matthew T.#10,Sonny D.#19,Mark #20,Ron #21,Kevin #22,Adam #25,Melanie #27 for their observations.

  • Jack Bauer

    You compare me to Harry? Your time, my friend, just ran out.

  • I would have never thought to make this comparison, but it surprisingly rings true (at least for me). They are superheroes with interstingly similar qualities. Nicely done!

  • Comment #29 reminds of one of those “Jack Bauer Facts” like:

    – The city of Los Angeles once named a street after Jack Bauer in gratitude for his saving the city several times. They had to rename it after people kept dying when they tried to cross the street. No one crosses Jack Bauer and lives.

    – Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.

    – Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.

    – If you wake up in the morning, it’s because Jack Bauer spared your life.

  • rev. al sharpton

    what about “they both WHITE!” they both honkys and that’s fine by me. but what about them other colors in the rainbow. you see, i head a coalition of colors called the Rainbow something…
    we deal with all them different funny types. we need heroes to be of different color to truly reflect our hero society. Imagine a little yellow asian boy, he know he ain’t gonna grow up to be no white hero!

  • Imagine a little yellow asian boy, he know he ain’t gonna grow up to be no white hero!

    So, he’ll grow up to be a Asian hero. World needs more heros’ no matter what the color, no matter real or fictional.

    Adam – did you ever think you’d open up this can of worms when you wrote this?

    I’m thinking we outta preface these things with the aforementioned “Lighten up”. : )

  • Cori

    I loved this. I’m an avid fan of both 24 and Harry Potter. And these comments are just too funny.

  • HArry Potter

    Dude Why the hell are you Comparing ME The UBERLEET Harry Potter vanquisher of all evil in the magic universe to some Yankee cheeseburger Snarfing Fucker?*Continues to act like a British ass for the next 20 minutes*
    {-=disclaimer=-NOt all brits are asses just the closedminded ones that asume all americans eat shit tons of Cheeseburgers}

  • I love all the role playing we have going here. It’s like an episode of PTI with Kornheiser and Wilbon. (Perhaps I should save that reference for the sports-related blogs?)

    Mary, no, I didn’t expect to come under fire for marginalizing various races, ethnicities, nationalities, or any other group when I wrote this one! I am going to assume that the comment was made in the same, light-hearted spirit with which the article was penned and leave it at that.

  • Julia

    I love Harry Potter, 24, and The Office!!!!

  • Nice. And your thoughts on Arrested Development, Curb Your Ethusiasm, Scrubs, and Lost?

  • maverick

    I dunno if this fits, but Jack Bauer also has Chloe O’Brian (Senior Analyst at the Counter-Terrorist Unit and computer whiz) the same way Harry Potter has the ever dependable brightest witch of her age, Hermione Granger. 🙂

  • I dunno if this fits, but Jack Bauer also has Chloe O’Brian (Senior Analyst at the Counter-Terrorist Unit and computer whiz) the same way Harry Potter has the ever dependable brightest witch of her age, Hermione Granger. 🙂

    Hmm –
    Edgar=Ron Weasley
    Audrey=Rita Skeeter? I hope not!

    This was just off the top of my head – I’m sure someone will take issue w/at least one pairing.

  • stephanie

    for the sevent book of harry potter the title should be Harry Potter and the mystery sister it is about a sister thath came out of nowere

  • **Still Mourning for Tony**

    Well, Jack can’t really fly on a broom and talk to snakes, and Harry Potter isn’t that good at killing people, but I really agreed with one of your points–both of them have no respect for protocol. But, I’m sure that if Harry Potter had jack’s secret weapon on HIS side–the secret weapon being Chloe O’Brian–then maybe he would win his battles. And maybe if Jack knew that illegal torturing curse, he’d be even more productive!

  • **Still Mourning for Tony**

    Hey, I just remembered–didn’t Jack not inform Kim about still being alive for her sake? He was obviously afraid for her if someone ever found out about his being alive. With good reason, seeing as everyone that knew about his fake death was killed except for Chloe. He isn’t really IMPERVIOUS to fear, he just really doesn’t show it a lot. Oh, and another similarity? They both like to yell a lot. In the fifth HP book, Harry was yelling at everyone for no reason. Other than being an angsty teenager. Jack Bauer isn’t really an angsty teen, but has anyone else noticed how often he yells? Like, he’ll have his gun out, searching for a terrorist, and he’ll be yelling, “I DO NOT HAVE A VISUAL OF THE SUSPECT, CHLOE.” If this was anyone but Jack, I’d think Chloe would say something like, “God, I hear you.” What a pessimist… She’s still my favorite.

  • **Still Mourning for Tony**

    This is a note for Mary K. Williams:

    So, would Lynn be like that annoying guy at the ministry? That Fudge guy?

  • Steve

    I’ve enjoyed the Harry Potter book and movie series. ’24’ was well done (at least, the first season I saw), though somewhat unbelievable. Any stories about heroes are going to have some similarities, inevitable really.

  • Fantastic comments. I love the torture curse and the observation that they both yell a lot. Good stuff.

  • DavidWright

    Harry was only 12 when he took on the basilisk. He was 14 when he escaped from Voldy and the Death Eaters in the graveyard.

  • hardcore 24 fan

    Well i have to say this is a well thought out argument but you really need to get a life and see the facts.

    anyone can have similaritys with anyone and nine is a such a small number to call that significant.

    and as a 24 fan and long time harry potter hater you need to see the real facts.

    harry potter is a faggish wizard who needs to be killed.

    Jack Bauer is a tough, ruthless, efficient, ambitous and detached HERO

    Harry potter isa fucktard

  • lauren

    if Jack Bauer was trapped in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Myers, and he had a gun with two bullets in it, he’d shoot Nina twice.

  • ROFL!

    Classic, thanks lauren.

  • i agree with hardcore 24 fan, harry potters’s gay
    and lauren, we all heard that before

  • LuchoXp

    JAJAJAJA Great, that was funny as hell

  • anonymous

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor] Seriously, GET OVER IT! Your country lost, you’re lucky that you’re alive! I mean if I had a choice between being treated like a cold blooded freak or coming home in a coffin, I’d gladly take the first option any day of the week!
    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

    As for this article, If I got to continue the Harry Potter saga it would look something like this:

    Harry Potter 1: The Philosopher’s/Socerer’s Stone
    Harry Potter 2: The Chamber of Secrets
    Harry Potter 3: The Prisoner of Azkaban
    Harry Potter 4: The Goblet of Fire
    Harry Potter 5: The Order of the Phoenix
    Harry Potter 6: The Half Blood Prince
    Harry Potter 7: The Deathly Hallows
    Harry Potter 8: Highway to Hell
    Harry Potter 9: Rage in the Cage
    Harry Potter 10: Love T.K.O.
    Harry Potter 11: Balls to the Walls
    Harry Potter 12: Revenge
    Harry Potter 13: Last Blood

    Chapters 8-13 would be crossovers with #11 being the one with Jack Bauer and company. It would be the longest Harry Potter movie at (you guessed it) 24 hours and it would include a scene where Jack tortures Harry and even chops off a couple of his fingers! Unfortunately for you Bauer fanboys, Harry kills the terrorists AND JACK BAUER to save the day!!!

    Oh and for the record chapters 8-13 would be darker, have more violence, plenty of torture, plenty of killing (in a grotesque manner to I might add!), and more swearing than a truck driver (Harry drops the F-bomb every few seconds!!!)! These would be BIG improvements over Rowling’s pussified storylines!

  • Jack Bauer > Harry Potter

    Mary K. Williams said:
    “Adam – did you ever think you’d open up this can of worms when you wrote this?

    I’m thinking we outta preface these things with the aforementioned “Lighten up”. : )”

    Read comment #26’s response to Adam Hoff as that is exactly what I think of your opinions too.