America loves its larger than life superheroes who don’t bother to play by the rules because their own inner compass trumps any laws made by bureaucrats to control ordinary people. Andy Warhol is an artist. Jack Bauer is a spy. Their job titles are different but each is on a quest for truth. The favored truth extracting technique for both Andy and Jack is torture. Jack Bauer is incapable of getting through 24 hours without torturing at least 24 people. And virtually every one of Andy Warhol’s hundreds of films is a form of torture. Not the “torture” of sitting through 8 hours of Empire, but the torture inflicted on Screen Test subjects by Warhol’s camera, or on the stars of other Warhol films by the acts of other on-screen actors or off-screen interlocutors.
Most “bad guys” eventually crack under Jack’s excessive force. Andy can make you crack in 3 minutes. Salvador Dali was one of the most dramatic, flamboyant artists the world has ever seen. And he put that persona forward at the beginning of his Screen Test. But he couldn’t hold that performance for 3 minutes. Under Warhol’s torture, Dali cracked.
Epic Rap Battles of History
Ok, so they haven’t made Andy Warhol vs Jack Bauer yet. But who would win? Let’s break it down into Form & Content:
Physically, Jack Bauer would probably kill Andy. Trying to imagine Andy throwing a punch at Jack is laughable. Jack would walk away without a scratch and Andy would be nothing more than a lump of ruptured flesh.
- Advantage: Bauer
Jack Bauer could easily kill Andy Warhol. But not destroy him. He might make him cry; he might make him beg. Like Valerie Solanas made Andy beg,
No! No! Valerie! Don’t do it!
Some argue that Warhol wasn’t as creative and risk taking after June 3, 1968. But Wayne Koestenbaum argues that many with Warhol’s fame & fortune would have hired a fleet of bodyguards or bought a private island, yet Andy did neither. He continued to live in New York, to walk its streets every day, and to be enormously prolific.
Whether Andy lives or dies at the hands of Valerie or Jack, no one can take away the visions of Andy’s cultural eye. While Jack would walk away without a physical scratch, he’d likely walk away a physically intact, yet utterly broken man. His life revealed like the Wizard of Oz’ “man behind the curtain” to be a lot of thunder in the service of an ideological vacuum.
- Advantage: Warhol
A draw? While Andy Warhol and Jack Bauer represent two of the greatest masters of the art of torture that America has ever produced, it turns out they don’t really operate in the same realm. If you want to know where the bomb is, Jack’s your man. Andy would be useless trying to extract factual information like that. Conversely, if you want to peel the onion of persona as far as you possibly can, Jack doesn’t even know what that is. It’s invisible at the tempo Jack operates on. But Andy’s unflinching camera eye lives there. It can elevate a Candy Darling to more than you thought she was, or destroy the pretense in an idol like Salvador Dali.
With Edie Sedgwick, Andy’s camera eye exhibits her power and grace in the same moment that it lays bare her frailty and vulnerability. With Edie Sedgwick, Andy’s is at once the most loving, and most destructive, eye I’ve ever known.