5 Presidential Firsts Hollywood Hasn’t Tried Yet

Today, enjoy this guest post from Trevor Seigler.

With the 2008 election of Barack Obama, change came to America, especially in Hollywood. The speculative “black president” genre was just getting started when President Obama’s election rendered such fanciful depictions as 24’s President Palmer and Head of State’s Chris Rock irrelevant. But future screenwriters need not worry; there are plenty of options left for “what-if” presidencies if you have the creativity to make it happen.

Before we start the list, let’s lay down some ground rules: animals might be able to make free-throws using their paws or teach Matt LeBlanc to connect with his teammates, but they’re legally ineligible for the nation’s highest office. However cute the prospect of “MVPP: Most Valuable Primate President” is, it’s best left to the dustbin of history. And while the notion of Arnold “Governator” Schwarzenegger in the White House is a marriage of pop-culture and Republican wish-fulfillment, his role as governor of California has had mixed reviews and not enough box-office to justify a sequel. So now that we’ve established some boundaries, let the presidential possibilities commence!

Female President

    This one seems like cheating: what with Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton’s roles in the 2008 election, the notion of a female president isn’t necessarily so “out there” as it once might have been. 24 had a female head of state, and Geena Davis starred in a short-lived show built around the premise on ABC. With Mama Grizzly Palin as the “popular girl who makes out with you to win your vote” Republican 2012 hopeful, the window of opportunity to make a film around the concept is rapidly closing.

    Pros/Cons: What screenwriter couldn’t squeeze dramatic gold out of the premise of a working mother as the world’s most powerful leader? She has to deal with the pressures of home life—with unruly adolescent kids whose sense of entitlement comes less from their Secret Security detail and more from their job at Hot Topic—while also trying to prevent terrorists from upsetting the groundbreaking Middle East conference that will finally settle that whole pesky “Israel vs. Palestine” issue. Though, to be fair, such issues could take a back seat to the complaints of the “First Dude” about how emasculated he feels (because he’s referred to as “First Dude,” for starters). It’s the sort of role that Angelina Jolie could both excel in and ruin simply because her presence destroys the willing suspension of disbelief.

    Possible scenario that would work: Let’s aim a little older than the typical “soccer mom” contingent of the audience, while also acknowledging the multiethnic future of the POTUS. Tyler Perry’s Madea character is an omnipresent cultural phenomenon, a pot-smoking, feisty, but ultimately moralizing grandmother figure who owns every room she walks into (often to the detriment of anyone else in the scene). It’s frankly shocking to me that Perry hasn’t made Madea in the White House yet (subtitle: Diary of a Mad Black President), but give him some down time in between “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns” and he’ll knock it out before you can say Why Did I Get Married III: No, Seriously, Why the Hell Did I Get Married?. Madea would have a field day back-talking the incoming Republican majority (led by snooty Richard Dreyfuss), and she’d tell the terrorists what’s what. Plus, she’ll have time to toke up with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Method Man while steering young orphan Willow Smith to the Lord. It’s what those of us in the business call “box office gold.”

    Home Alone, White House Edition: President Kid

      Remember how I said animals and Austrian bodybuilders are off the table for possible presidential hopefuls in popular culture? That rule doesn’t apply to kids. Everyone loves kids, until they grow up and become sullen adults or Lindsay Lohan. If a kid can travel back in time to save King Arthur’s court or pitch for a major league team (granted, it’s the Cubs, so it doesn’t really count), they can run the free world. What could possibly go wrong?

      Pros/Cons: What could possibly go wrong is everything; think about the last time you ever dealt with a kid who felt empowered because he wore a nametag or had a driver’s license. Think how big of an attitude he’s gonna have when he has the title of “president” backing him up. Sure, the kid starts out all cute, but then he hits puberty and suddenly he goes from “adorable” to “asshole in training.” Some child actors transition well from innocence to experience gracefully; not every former Mouseketeer is headed straight to rehab. Sure there’s the whole constitutional amendment about having to be in your thirties before you can even sniff at the Oval Office, but as the younger presidents (Teddy Roosevelt, JFK, Obama) have shown, you have a lot more energy if you’re on the right side of fifty.

      Possible scenarios that would work: Justin Beiber has the world at his feet; he’s a multi-platinum pop star and (wait for it) his dad is president. But when President Beiber suffers a bump on the head and loses his memory, a little-known clause in the Constitution says that little Justin has to take over (bypassing the whole structure of government). Vice President Sam Waterston is super-pissed, of course, and so is the Congress, led by oldster Betty White. But Justin’s cool, and he starts off not taking it seriously but events take a dramatic turn when he falls for the daughter of the Secret Service chief (played by adorable gum-chewing Miley Cyrus).  Oh, and he has to do something about that buzzkill called the “recession.” Will President Justin save the day? If this film is aimed at the teen market, of course he will (though, to keep the girls interested, Miley has to go down in a haze of gunfire. That way, Prez Beiber Fever runs wild with the hope that anyone could be his First One Less Lonely Lady).

      18 Comments on “5 Presidential Firsts Hollywood Hasn’t Tried Yet”

      1. Qwil man #

        Don’t forget Vin got his big break playing a robot in Iron Giant! He’s day-one ready for the role!

         
      2. Gab #

        So you don’t think Demolition Man will come true, eh?

        I actually really hope a movie about a female president gets made sooner rather than later. There have been a few movies with female VICE presidents, but a woman has yet to hold the actual presidency on film as of yet. Even if she’s not the main character, it would be quite refreshing.

         
      3. Jamas Enright #

        Futurama tackled some of these, and I think Dollhouse was aiming for a “programmable” president.

        However, it seems that the most outthere concept of a president is a rationalist, humanist, dare-I-say atheist president. It’s toned down somewhat under Obama, but America still looks like a theocracy. And unless a president is bending knee to a god, they don’t even get a look in at the oval office.

        The main problem with such a movie is that sooner or later it would be kowtowing to the more religious audience by at least having either “we can get on with religion / religion teachs us morals” stance or “something unexplainably supernatural occurs / there’s …something… out there guiding us all” plot points.

         
      4. Megan from Lombard #

        There was a book based on the premise a kid ran for president and actually won. The author worked around the whole ‘you have to be older than thirty to run’ issue by having them pass an amendment that allowed him to run. Granted the kid running got a lot of coaching from a more politically inclined friend, but the premise of how the whole political/electoral system for the country was crazy.

        And instead of a First Lady there was a First “Babe.”

         
      5. Pasteur #

        SPOILER ALERT: And then the ghost of Lincoln turned out to still stalk the halls of the white house, and inspires the kid to save the day? If memory serves, he resigns so his better-qualified Rosa Parks/FDR mashup of a VP can serve in the oval office legit.

        Have there ever been notable Jewish presidents in fiction?

         
      6. Kir #

        The problem with the kid premise is you’d have to come up with a suitable workaround for the “minimum 35 years of age” part of the presidency. The Constitutional amendment Megan mentions above would be far too much of a stretch politically, I think. Maybe a “Freaky Friday” sort of thing?

        For a robot president, would it be a robot specifically constructed for the presidency (in which case it might get testy about the term limit thing) or a realistically humanlike ‘bot with AI running on its own whim? I mean, I’d vote for Data in a heartbeat. If, you know, there still were a U.S. in the twenty-third century.

        The reality show idea makes me cry. I’m not even going to touch that.

        I demand queer representation: How about a gay or lesbian president — out and possibly even married with kids? A trans president would probably really be pushing the envelope, considering how intolerant people are, but still interesting.

        It’d be really neat to go the theology route, too — step away from Christianity and go for a Jewish or Muslim president (the Abrahamic faiths would probably come easier, or at least anything other than Islam would). Or hey, let’s really go out on a limb and make it a Buddhist or pagan or atheist president, or Unitarian Universalist or anything else, et cetera et cetera ad nauseum.

        Basically, you could set up a minority dartboard for this, with results more or less realistically possible at this point in time. How about a Latino or Asian president? A disabled president (FDR doesn’t really count, since he kept it pretty hidden)?

         
      7. Raphael #

        Simpson’s had a chimp president, and Futurama had both a disembodied head (Richard Nixon), and a twofer with robot/alien and father/son prez/vp duo (Harrold Zoid/Calculon).

        I’d like to see a single president on the dating scene!

         
      8. Oddtwang #

        The excellent Vertigo comics series Transmetropolitan had a throwaway story featuring a kid as Predident (IIRC he was 18, with the amendment in question having been un-amended). There’s also a few political superhero yarns out there, probably the best being the recently-concluded Ex Machina, which had what amounted to an alien/robot/superhero mayor of New York and was (largely) excellent.

        Battlestar Galactica was a pretty decent example of a female President (albeit OTTwelveColonies rather than OTUS), with a bit of love life thrown in (though no children).

         
        • Gab #

          AH! I forgot BSG!

           
      9. Iris #

        I think Robin Williams is in Bicentennial Man, instead of Millenium Man. I would love to see a pagan president, personally.

         
      10. Aimee #

        in I, Robot there was a robot president. And what with this being Asimov, that meant that he was the perfect president. But then the world abolished countries and re-organised itself into regions, and I think he was the leader of the Pacific region… (or did he fake die?)

        But anyway, for a while there he was the robot president. But a secret robot! (Because trade unions have kept robots off earth. Man, remember unions?) Anyway, the opposition accused him of being a robot, so he punched a heckler out in public (The first law of robotics: a robot can never harm a human being), but then the heckler was also a robot!

        Of course, none fo this appeared in the movie. So I guess Hollywood hasn’t tried this yet.

         
      11. Trevor #

        Don’t you hate it when you write an article, send it off, then realize you messed up the title of a Robin Williams movie you wanted to reference? My bad…

         
      12. dock #

        How about this for the surprise twist at the end of the conjoined twins president movie- The Simpsons-esque “it didn’t matter anyway because they were BOTH EVIL!! A bitter race polarizes the country even further and in the end both twins were in on the same plan together- to divide and conquer the United States and in the chaos take the reigns as supreme leader(s). It could be a metaphor for political instability and the deterioration of the public and political spheres over the last 50 years…

         
      13. Steven #

        On the topic of Robot Presidents, I think a Micheal Chrichton route is needed. I’m currently reading the book Prey, where technology evolves and becomes “alive”. A robot president would serve as a representative and learn all about politics and eventually run for President and start World War 3, Terminator style, humans fighting against the machines they built to serve them. Or something less far-fetched.

        PS: My first OTI post wooooo! Don’t I feel special.

         
      14. Eli #

        This reminds me of a conversation me and my step-father had with a contractor we had doing some work on our house once. The man wasn’t very intelligent and he really just opened his mouth in order to find new ways to shock people (good thing the man was hilarious and a hard worker, or he probably wouldn’t have been able to get much work).

        Anyways, the conversation (which was in 2006, long before anyone I knew had ever heard the name Obama), was about how we needed some fresh blood for President. He proposed that we needed a midget, irish, jewish, black, crippled, one-eyed, former communist, high school dropout (the list goes on and is very inconsistent) President.

        Obviously, he was just trying to combine a bunch of unelectable qualities, and fit them all into one person, without much regard for the fact that you can’t have a person who is all black, Irish and Jewish, without making some hereditary compromises here and there. I found it to be a pretty stimulating conversation because as it went on, we kept coming up with more and more qualities that would have been thought unelectable at the time, but the idea of a female President never came up. I’m not sure if it happened that way because it didn’t occur to him, he thought it might actually be possible or if (in the context of our conversation) he thought that was just plain silly.

        Either way, it was the first time that I ever really thought about how the Oval Office has been occupied solely by white, Christian men (unless Jefferson’s deism counts as non-Christian).

         
      15. Isaac #

        No one has mentioned “Prez” Rickard yet?

        With all of the comics-to-movies adaptations lately, I’d be surprised if this one isn’t already in development.

         
      16. Taliesin #

        In Shadowrun, there was an US President named Dunkelzahn – the oldest acting President, the first blue president, the only one to be born before the Christian era, the tallest, longest and heaviest President ever – yes, the first president of the USA who was a dragon.

        http://pl.shadowrun.wikia.com/wiki/Dunkelzahn