[Update, Oct.16, 2009: This blog may seem too trivial to most readers of this website to even mention, and I almost deleted it. But upon reflection, think it is more important than meets the eye. I am referring to more than the startling rise in anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda and boycotts emanating from the West. The audience for NCIS is obviously “the heartland” where there is more likely to be an unreflective patriotism, strong support of the U.S. military (in this case, Navy and Marines), and a culture that is unabashedly sentimental and Christian. At the same time, some normally (socially) liberal supporters of Israel have counted upon conservatives and Republicans in the South and West to support a pro-Israel foreign policy. What NCIS has made clear to me, is that Israel gets their support on condition: that Israel subordinates its national interests to those of the United States. If it goes off on its own, the antisemitism we used to identify with populists, other American conservatives and the Republican Party will once more be expressed openly. (It was already present in prior episodes, for instance, when Ari, Ziva’s half-brother, shoots one of Gibbs’ pet agents. Ziva will then shoot Ari, apparently to save Gibbs’ life, but later, she reveals it was upon her father’s orders. Yesterday’s blog follows, unedited.]
Is it my imagination, or has the character Ziva David (played by Cote de Pablo, whose Chilean family is upper-class Catholic) on the hugely popular NCIS television series, undergone a change in identity? No longer the amoral, enigmatic, heartless assassin seemingly divided in her loyalties (but always the Israeli) that she has been for the last few seasons, on last Tuesday’s episode (Oct.13, 2009) , she underwent the final phase in the transfer of her affections and loyalty from her equally cold-blooded father Eli (head of Israel’s Mossad) to the fatherly character Agent Gibbs (played by gracefully aging Mark Harmon, son of U. Michigan football hero Tom Harmon, Mark once deemed the sexiest man alive, and in this series, as silent as Gary Cooper). Ziva’s eyes filled with tears as her application to become an American agent attached to NCIS was accepted, and a prior episode featuring her return to the team after an implausible rescue by her superhero NCIS comrades, attracted 21 million viewers. Normally, superhero Ziva doesn’t cry, even under torture by Islamic terrorists. Am I forgetting something? I remember anger and stoicism, but not the qualities usually associated with women.
So Ziva now has a heart, unambiguously, and I’m wondering if she will still wear her Star of David necklace. [Added, Oct.21, 2009: on last night’s episode her neck was conspicuously bare, made even more visible by a low cut draped blouse. In the January 12, 2010 episode, the necklace is back, now gold. Ziva is preparing for her citizenship test and knows more about the Constitution than (Gibbs?).] [Added Nov. 11, 2009: this blog has been read consistently since it was first posted, and I can see why it remains current. After reflecting upon the apparently sequestered field of military psychiatry in the wake of the Hasan jihad, it seems to me that NCIS in its very conception reflects the tight team bonding of a military unit. No one questions the hierarchy, and the team, brilliant and versed in the most advanced technology, adores Gibbs and is fiercely loyal to each other. No one ever questions U.S. foreign policy or the possible mismanagement of American wars, past or present. I.e., the show bonds the audience to military authority as if we were all part of the team, and these attractive young people part of our own families. The unqestioning obedience to upper members of military hierarchies is documented in this series of blogs: http://clarespark.com/2010/04/22/links-to-blogs-on-military-psychiatry/, and more than hinted at here: http://clarespark.com/2012/01/25/the-state-of-the-union-stinks/.]
[Added 12-16-09: I am almost speechless over tonight’s NCIS, in which a marine is killed by his brother because the family honor was soiled after the victim converted to Islam. We also learn from the Leader (Mark Harmon) that there is no difference in the conceptions of the Christian God and Allah. So tactful for Chanukah week. There is a strong contrast made between tolerant liberal Christians (the victim’s father, a clergyman) and “rednecks.” The latter resent the marine’s conversion to Islam and see it as destroying morale in his unit (veterans of Iraq). They are portrayed as angry animals and Ziva and de Nozo make short work of them, leaving every one of the “rednecks” (charmingly called “red-throats” by the Israel-born Ziva) vanquished and literally floored.
[Added 4-22-10: the episode “Faith” was repeated this week, and I noted that “Ducky” advised his assistant that wars would be prevented if more people understood diversity. Fatherhood was as usual the dominant theme, and in the end everyone forgives everyone else: it was a Cain and Abel story, this time with a repentant Cain. Gibbs’ father was traumatized by having shot a robber in his store to protect a woman and a young girl, and he asks Gibbs if he isn’t disturbed by taking the lives of others. Gibbs, ever the stoic, indicates that it is difficult, but has to be done.]
[Added, 2-16-12: POTUS urged that we copy the military model in his State of the Union speech. I wrote about the implications of such policy here: http://clarespark.com/2012/01/25/the-state-of-the-union-stinks/.]
[Updated, 1-9-13: NCIS returned after winter break with a new, especially violent and disturbing episode (“Shabbat Shalom”), in which relations between the U.S. and Israel, or Israel and Iran take front and center. Ziva’s father Eli, the head of Mossad, makes a secret visit to the US, presumably to heal relations between Israel and Iran, but murders a journalist who recognizes him. At a Shabbat dinner attended by Ziva, her father, and Leon Vance and his wife, Ziva leaves in anger, missing an assassination that kills her father and Vance’s wife. In turn, she captures the assassin, who commits suicide. We do not know his nationality, but the logic of the story suggests that he must be a right-wing Israeli spoiling for an attack on Iran by Israel. Coming at a time when the anti-“Jewish lobby” Chuck Hagel has been nominated for Secretary of Defense, I wonder if the writers of NCIS are independent of government influence. The episode was certainly bad for the Jews. It ended with the death of a sympathetic black character and will be continued next Tuesday. It is most likely that the target of the NCIS writers is Mossad in general, which is not politically correct, and which has been killing off Iranian “genocide-scientists” to quote WSJ of January 13, 2012, p.A13, Andrew Roberts book review.
I just got this comment from “Raymond in DC” who adds to my evidence: “I used to enjoy NCIS, but the repeated slams against Mossad just turned me off. Earlier episodes included Mossad operatives operating illegally on US streets, another involving a rogue agent ultimately killed by Tony. In another, Ziva is sent on a mission and abandoned by Mossad somewhere in the Horn of Africa, only to be rescued by her American friends. Gibbs describes Mossad (or maybe it was just her father) as “not one of the good guys”. Ziva subsequently disavows her homeland (Israel) and becomes an American.
Ironically, only a few days ago the NY Times – which almost daily finds something about Israel to criticize – reported that Israeli intelligence (which might be Mossad or Military Intelligence) discovered that Syrian forces were assembling chemical weapons for delivery, and that subsequent warnings by the
US, Russia and others based on that intelligence convinced Syria against such action.” ]
[Updated 1-15-12:] Ziva’s Jewish “blood” is highlighted, as she returns to Israel, picks olives, plants a tree, and leaves a note in the Wailing Wall. A new character, the deputy director of Mossad appears, and he seems to be negatively portrayed as devious and untrustworthy as an ally . It is possible that the writers of NCIS are peaceniks of the liberal left, and that they view Mossad as a force for continued enmity between Israel and her neighbors.
[Updated, 1-23-13:] Ziva may or may not have been killed in the last episode, possibly at the hands of “rogue” Mossad agents. In the same episode, there is a flashback wherein the child Ziva must say goodbye to her father Eli, who is going away for an unstated time. Eli, the abandoner, is thus contrasted with the good father played by Mark Harmon, who is ever present to protect his surrogate children on the team. Moreover, the new director of Mossad, a woman, is distinctly a negative character, not to be trusted (as Ziva says); moreover NCIS is shown to have hacked into the Mossad data base, an action which gains the wrath of the new director. Since a shrouded figure is shown in a short preview of the next episode, and since Cote de Pablo is said not to have signed a contract for next year (HuffPo), the entirely Americanized Ziva may have died at the hands of bad Jews.
[Updated 5-16-13:] Ziva lives! and is entirely integrated into the team, but the season finale leaves viewers wondering if Gibbs and/or his team have crossed lines imagined to exist by the writers of this series. From internet postmortems, I have the impression that the writers do not have a conscious ideological agenda, but are unclear themselves what will develop. All biases described above are probably internalized attitudes, which makes NCIS even more suspect as an accurate depiction of a government agency.