WITH Donald Trump having achieved a surprise victory in last night’s US election, the Republican Party – which had partially disowned Trump in anticipation of a historic loss – will now face a minor existential crisis as conservatives decide whether or not to embrace the Trump brand of populism. It could even come to be seen as a turning point in the history of the Grand Ole Party.
Meanwhile in fictionland, they never state which party candidates belong to. The British satirical sitcom The New Statesman was elaborate about it in its first episode, in which anti-hero Alan B’stard, wearing a white rosette that doesn’t match up to any real-life British party, beats both his Labour & Conservative rivals for his seat in the House of Commons. It’s obvious to viewers that B’stard is a Tory, much as it’s obvious that the government in The Thick of It is a Labour one. But if you never say it by name, you have reasonable deniability in case of a libel suit. Additionally, as we’ll see below, American fictional Presidents are more likely to crop up in action films than political satires, & it is important that viewers respect the dignity traditionally associated with that high office, regardless of polarising political affiliations. Well, nuts to that! Let’s try to place some fictional Presidents on the political spectrum.
President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), Independence Day
President Whitmore’s immediate reaction to alien invasion is nuclear retaliation, a move that backfires spectacularly. If his gung-ho attitude weren’t enough to mark him as a Republican, there is also his celebrated speech, in which he unashamedly equates the USA with the world. Republican.
President James Marshall (Harrison Ford), Air Force One
Here’s an easy one. James Marshall is a clear Republican, something which becomes only clearer if you remember Harrison Ford playing Jack Ryan in the Tom Clancy adaptations Patriot Games & Clear and Present Danger. In Clancy’s super-conservative novels, super-conservative Ryan eventually becomes President, & it’s hard not to see Air Force One as an unofficial entry in the Jack Ryan series of films. Republican.
President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman), Deep Impact
The real-life Freeman is a prominent black conservative, but that might be neither here nor there. President Beck is presumably the first black President, which suggests the Democratic Party; the film was made while Obama was an obscure Senator, but there were other prominent black Democrats, such as Chicago Mayor Harold Washington. Sadly for President Beck, his most significant act as President is to gather the best-&-brightest to wait out the impending meteor collision in safety, abandoning the rest of the population without even bothering to alert them of the danger. It’s possible on the one hand to see that as a reflection of laissez-faire Republican attitudes, but equally it could be chalked up to the leftist elitism Democrats are constantly accused of by their opponents. Probable Democrat.
The U.S. President (Billy Bob Thornton), Love Actually
Love Actually does the irritating dance around the name of a politician (“The President”, “The Prime Minister”, “The Prince of Wales”), so I don’t have the pleasure of typing out of one the astonishingly white-bread names given to almost every other President listed here. Love Actually was released in 2003, a time when anti-American sentiment was high in Britain, & Billy Bob Thornton’s character seems to combine the worst elements of Bill Clinton & George W. Bush. Still, despite the way he leers at a Downing Street intern, the political context makes it clear that what’s really being criticised here are the key doctrines of the Bush era: the War on Terror, & the Special Relationship. Hugh Grant’s Tony Blair stand-in of a PM, David, gives the speech many Brits must have been dying to hear from the real-life Blair. Republican.
President George Sears (John Cygan), Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
George Sears, better known as Solidus Snake, had a busy history, training child sodiers in the Liberian Civil War, being appointed to the Presidency by a shadowy organisation known as the Patriots, sponsoring the development of the super-weapon Metal Gear REX, & masterminding the Shadow Moses terrorist incident before leaving office under a cloud of disgrace, all while covering up the fact of being a clone of the legendary soldier Big Boss. Solidus then goes on to become the head of the rogue anti-terror unit Dead Cell under the guise of his brother Solid Snake, hijacking REX’s successor Arsenal Gear, and finally being killed in a swordfight with his adoptive child soldier son, dying in a prototype power suit before the statue of George Washington outside Federal Hall, wielding two katanas & draped in the US flag, which makes the post-Presidential career of e.g. Jimmy Carter look like underachieving. His position as the 43rd President of the United States, his military background, his appearance, & even his first name are suggestive of George W. Bush. But his hardcore libertarian rhetoric is a far cry from the moderate conservatism of Bush; in fact, with his obsessive invocations of the Founding Fathers – he named his group the Sons of Liberty – Sears is the original Tea Partier. Just look at his flag:
President James Johnson (Paul Lukather), Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
President James Johnson resembles Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson in looks, accent, demeanour (note the crotch-grabbing incident), & name. He also pledged in 2008 to close down Guantanamo Bay, a pledge also made by real-life Democrat Obama. Yet something’s fishy here: George Sears is stated to have been removed from office after the Shadow Moses fiasco. In real life, such a removal would have led to Sears’ replacement by his VP, which might mean Johnson is a Republican (there’s no way Sears is a Democrat), except Johnson mentions that his path to the Presidency was being the insignificant son of a Senator before being selected by the Patriots. So chalk this one up to ignorance of the American system on the part of the writers. Democrat.
President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), Olympus Has Fallen
Asher’s all-American square jaw plus his handy approach to ass-kicking suggests a Republican, and his tough approach to North Korea inspires the dastardly plot that results in him being held hostage in the White House. Also, it’s difficult to get Eckhart’s portrayal of Harvey Dent out of your mind; unlike President Sawyer, we’re privy to very little of Asher’s key policies, but Dent’s tough-on-crime, lax-on-civil-rights approach had him widely compared to a Bush-era conservative. Probable Republican.
President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), White House Down
This one’s even easier. Young, black, hip, & full of promise, James Sawyer is clearly intended to evoke Barack Obama. The film evidences the hopeful mood that abounded at the start of Obama’s presidency – see the Doctor Who serial The End of Time for a particularly quaint example – although, peculiarly, Sawyer is said to be the 46th POTUS, suggesting that he succeeded Obama, rather than being his fictional equivalent. It also leaves space for another President to have preceded him – Benjamin Asher, perhaps? Regardless, Sawyer is said to have pursued dove-like policies in the Middle East after a failed Bush-like incursion into Iran, & his inexperience with firearms – which he soon gets over – suggests gun control is on his agenda, also. Democrat.
President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews), Idiocracy
President Camacho is black, like the Democrats Tom Beck & James Sawyer, & his Hispanic name suggests a continuation of ongoing demographic trends – Hillary Clinton’s Presidential hopes hinged on getting out the Latino vote. His vision of a united America isn’t dissimilar from those of Obama or Hillary Clinton, albeit heavily watered-down to the point of meaninglessness. But his brand of gun-toting super-patriotism smacks of the Republicans, & entertainers from Ronald Reagan to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Donald Trump have flocked to the party (Camacho is an ex-porn star). Of course, he’s the President of the future, & both parties have current issues in defining their voter base. Who knows what changed between then & now? A perfect compromise of Republican & Democrat.