As folks in the States celebrate a long weekend dedicated to honouring the dudes who’ve led them since a certain memorable revolution, now seems like a perfect time to discuss the presidents we wish had been real.
Film and literature have produced a wide variety of fictional presidents, ranging from the saintly to the sociopathic. Before the election of Barack Obama, TV gave us a black president in David Palmer (before taking him away with a 5th season assassination) and a woman president with Mackenzie Allen in the short-livedCommander in Chief. Movies gave us a regular dude pretending to be a president in Dave and an incompetent named after a vulva hairpiece in Dr. Strangelove. Novelist David Baldacci gave us a murderous president in Absolute Power and Kurt Vonnegut gave us a president who gave everyone new government-issued family members in Slapstick. The list goes on and on.
The question is, out of all the fictional presidents out there, which one is your favourite?
Me, I gotta go with Andrew Shepherd, the lonely single father played by Michael Douglas in The American President. Written by Aaron Sorkin, he was a clear test run for The West Wing‘s Jed Bartlet, but gets the lead in my boat because I’ve seen the movie probably a dozen times and only a few episodes of the TV show. Also the movie does something a lot of people hate, but I love, where it abandons all pretence of fairness and straight out becomes liberal propaganda with a climatic speech that would have done Charlie Chaplin proud (he wrote, because the final speech of The Great Dictator is easily the best of its kind in film history).
As depicted in the film, Shepherd displays all of the virtues people want in a president (and rom-com lead) and as much of a fantasy figure as he may be, the film still manages to ground him in a way that makes him seem just slightest bit credible–someone who could actually exist in the real world. It’s a neat trick to play and for it, he gets my vote.