Your Budget Does Not Compute, Dave: Replicant President
In science fiction, nothing says “cool premise ruined by the presence of a Baldwin brother” like a robot- or alien-invasion-themed film. Ever since Metropolis, the cinematic fascination with robots in particular has led to some interesting films. HAL, C3PO, Robocop, Ashley Judd: robots make for compelling figures in a film. You never know when they might go off the program and start going nuts on puny humans. I’ll leave the “alien as president” for someone else to ponder; basically you’re looking at Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Manchurian Candidate (with a little The Thing thrown in), and who wants to see that? Okay, I might want to see that, but let’s stick with the programmable life forms from our own galaxy.
Pros/Cons: Robots can be tricky to render as realistic; For every Blade Runner where Rutger Hauer is one badass killbot, there are a million bad “I am a robot because I have halting speech” portrayals on film and in television. But as artificial life catches up with the imaginations of filmmakers, it’s only a matter of time before the idea of a robotic leader of the free world sounds plausible (hell, Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, and he’s pretty convincing as a human-cyborg hybrid). Who would be programming our robot-in-chief? Would the need for war clash with his mandate to “do no harm to fleshy, humanoid others?” Would he commit a faux pas at the state dinner by ingesting only motor oil and declining caviar?
Possible scenarios that would work: Robin Williams has played both a robot (Millennium Man) and a presidential candidate (Man of the Year), so asking him to suit up as both would be a comedy bonanza (unless he’s bearded; if he sports facial hair, you know it’s a “serious” Robin Williams film). If he’s unavailable, Vin Diesel is pretty monotone and in need of work; there’s only so many Fast and Furious sequels to make. A robotic president doesn’t necessarily have to exclude major ass-kicking from his daily agenda, especially if his opponent is someone classy and British like Alan Rickman or Alfred Molina. It would be Robocop White House just in time for Christmas.
I’d Run Against You If I Could: Siamese/Conjoined Twin Presidents
Our two-party governmental process is a fairly new innovation; back in the early days of the Republic a man like George Washington could run unopposed, with no one “swift-boating” his war record. Multiple parties sprang up over the courts of the nineteenth century, but we basically became a blue state/red state of mind in the years after the Civil War. And since then, no one has dared asked the question of what would happen if a candidate ran for the nomination…for both parties.
Pros/Cons: Conjoined (or “Siamese,” after the first documented such case, Chang and Eng Bunker) twins are a fascinating medical anomaly, and the idea of forever being tied to another human being with whom you share your body has served as the grist for many notable films and TV shows (as well as the possible inspiration for three-legged sack races). But what if one twin ran for the Republican nomination and the other ran as a Democrat? How would the campaigning work? I can see the attack ads now: one twin’s attempts to distance himself literally and figuratively from his twin failing miserably because the other candidate just happens to be in the shot and offering a rebuttal. Either way, one wins and one loses, but who really holds the reins of government? Would a president whose opposition leader shares his bed be able to push through his agenda? Could surgeons separate the twins, and would it only make things worse? Would the Farrelly Brothers be willing to revisit this territory?
Possible scenarios that would work: Tom Selleck and Ted Danson are joined at the hip…literally! Born to a poor sharecropper in post-WWII Tennessee, the two are diametrically opposed when Tom can’t help but spy on Ted’s secret Young Communists meetings because he’s there as well (Ted has to attend Tom’s “Junior McCarthy Witch-Hunt Pals” meetings in turn). The brothers couldn’t be more different, with Ted protesting our involvement in Vietnam while drawing fire as Tom tries to lead his platoon through the Mekong Delta. In their presidential runs, both struggle to define their own identity, all the while supported by conjoined twin spouses (Mary Steenburgen and Ann Coulter). One wins, the other loses, but they try to share the Oval Office’s newly refurbished “twin chairs” and “double desks.” If we’re shooting for an Oscar, serious questions of political importance must be tackled; if not, hilarity ensues.
You Are the Presidential Loser, Goodbye: Reality-Show Commander in Chief
Reality shows are a lot like presidential campaigns: you start with a wide field of choices, gradually winnowed down through eliminations when candidates fail to meet standards such as attractiveness or believability, until you’re stuck with two “lesser of evil” choices, neither of whom is really much of a choice when you get right down to it. Why not make it a little more interesting and admit that it’s all a giant reality show, with the ultimate prize being the White House?
Pros/Cons: Interactive reality shows like American Idol and Are You Smarter Than George W. Bush? have led the way in getting viewers to participate in the basic concept of democracy, i.e., voting for who you want to win so that you can bitch about them later. More people vote for Clay Aiken or Jordan Sparks than vote for Obama or McCain. The moral and ethical problems of opening the presidential election to popular vote instead of the electoral college could seriously re-shape our government into one where populism trumps the reasoned and deliberate approach of modern bureaucratic government. (And that’s a problem because…?)
Possible scenarios that would work: You know about The Jersey Shore, right? Bunch of greased-up stereotypes live together until they get drunk and have a fight…and then fill out the rest of the season doing much of the same. Granted, participatory viewership isn’t encouraged, but for the purposes of our movie you can now vote for the cast member you feel is best able to deal with the serious problems of the modern presidency. Does Snooki have the right idea about tanning Iran into the Stone Age? Does “The Situation” understand “The Dilemma” in North Korea? Can Pauly D find New Jersey on a map? Each contestant tries to advance, using common political practices (attack ads, Tea Party protests, their fists) until one is left as the ultimate winner…and suddenly realizes how hard this all is. Classic reality shows like The Real World were cast with the idea that the young people would have to work together under the premise of a business venture that depended on them not drinking and partying so much…so of course each business failed. If the business in question is the United States of America…god help us all if Vinnie fist-bumps us into Armageddon.
Have a presidential first you’d like Hollywood to try out? Tip off the screenwriter-in-chief in the comments!