When I was in college, I saw the movie The American President, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. I had recently discovered that I had an interest in politics, and when we walked out, it was Michael J. Fox’s character, the domestic policy advisor, whose job I wanted. He got to write the speeches. And they were doozies. Read the rest of this entry
It would be impossible to have a President’s week on a site that discusses creativity and storytelling without discussing the West Wing. Aaron Sorkin took television by storm in 1999 with this drama about fictional President of the United States Josiah “Jed” Bartlet and his senior staff, taking us inside the west wing of the White House and captivating audiences for seven seasons. But what is it about this show that is so compelling? Read the rest of this entry
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Like kings and queens, Presidents have long fascinated writers and audiences alike. The Office holds power, but restrained power, meaning that the President is doomed to be perpetually frustrated by the gap between what he wants to accomplish and what he can accomplish. The Office brings with it celebrity but also criticism that is rarely heaped upon even the most downtrodden Hollywood star, putting to the test an individual’s self-confidence and ability to perform knowing that half of his audience is guaranteed to be angry with his choices. A President’s private life is exposed to the public, putting a strain on his relationships with his family. And…oh, yeah, there’s that thing where he’s got a metric boatload of responsibility for the fate of a world superpower.
With all the conflict situationally embedded within the Office, it’s no wonder that the President regularly appears as a character in stories. In some cases, an actor will personify a real President in cameo, lending a sense of reality to a fictional story. Other times, an actor will portray a real President in order to make a comedic point, as in the countless SNL skits mocking our esteemed leaders. Most interesting, however, is when a story features afictional President as a main character.
Making a fictional President allows us to test situations a real President might find himself in (admittedly, some of these are a little unlikely to occur) and see what he (or she…we can hope, right?) is made of. Presidents are, after all, just people, and people have limitations. Pushing a character to those limitations and allowing him to rise or fall is the meat of a good story. Pushing the stakes as high as possible — to, say, the fate of a nation — is the gravy.
Join me this week as I take a look at some fictional Presidents and what they say we, as a country, might want in our actual leaders. Who are some of your favorite fictional Presidents, and why?