5 Presidential Firsts Hollywood Hasn't Tried Yet

5 Presidential Firsts Hollywood Hasn’t Tried Yet

Black president? Old news. Here’s where TV and Movies are going next.

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!

        24 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)?


          • clayschuldt #

            The reality show aspects of it makes us all cry now


        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.



        17. Craig #

          Now this is freaky.


          • Amanda #

            Oh my God.


        18. clayschuldt #

          If a vampire candidate ran against a werewolf candidate, who would the American people elect?


          • Craig #

            It depends on which is the R and which is the D. And which party was in office before.


            • clayschuldt #

              Could a vampire–with its aversion to the crucifix and sexual overtones–successfully run as a Republican?


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