When the Jack Ryan movie franchise was rebooted in 2002 with The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck as Ryan — two Ryan reboots ago, as it were — the filmmakers made a controversial move: they changed the movie’s terrorist villains, who had been Arab Muslims in the original Tom Clancy novel, into Austrian neo-Nazis. The movie was released in the post-9/11 age, although it had completed production prior to those attacks, and Muslim-American groups had lobbied for the change. The film, not necessarily for that reason, fell short of expectations and was Affleck’s lone outing in the role.
Other series, from 24 to Homeland, have caught criticism for using Muslim and Middle Eastern terrorist characters and 24, by its later years, was interspersing jihadists with drug cartels, evil corporations, and both Russian separatists and ultra-nationalists. Now, with Jack Ryan re-emerging in a new TV series, producers have again been confronted with this decision.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the new TV series for Amazon Studios currently in pre-production and starring John Krasinski as the famous fictional CIA analyst, will feature ISIS as the antagonists in its first season, as was revealed by Krasinski in an interview with Collider. The actor added that the series will base its storylines on “ripped-from-the-headlines type stuff,” with different real-world villains stepping in in subsequent seasons.
Krasinski talked more about the plans for the show in his Collider interview:
“We’re doing 10 episodes and I think the interesting part about it is exactly what you said, everything’s changed so much; the line between film and TV has blurred so much over the years, I think Jack Ryan is a product of that blurring so much that I think that they’re not even really considering it a TV show, they’re calling it a movie that’s being told in 10 parts; and that’s not just an argument of semantics, it’s actually true. Carlton Cuse’s whole plan is we’re gonna shoot it on a movie budget, we’re gonna have the same stunts as movies, it’s gonna feel like a movie but you’re gonna watch it every week. His whole idea was he just felt that two hours wasn’t enough time to tell a Jack Ryan story because Tom Clancy’s books are so detailed and rich, and the character of Jack Ryan if he has a superpower is his intelligence, so there’s a lot of problem solving and things that take time, and that’s the beauty of the spy genre. That’s what I found was the best pitch to me is it’s really just what’s the best format to tell this story?”
It’s certainly an interesting choice to use real-life villains, but it also makes sense not to directly adapt old Clancy book plots, many of which were set during the Cold War. Perhaps the show can be creative with how it tells the story— someone attempting to defect from ISIS, a la the plot of The Hunt For Red October?
There’s nothing wrong with a show using ISIS as villains, and even though the Islamic State has been around for a few years, not many movies or shows have yet. It’s important, though, that they do so in a way that’s fair, accurate and not making use of racial stereotyping.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan enters production soon, although it has no official release date yet.