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The American President in Film and Television

Myth, Politics and Representation

Gregory Frame

As evidenced by the election of celebrity and reality television star Donald Trump, popular culture has played a vital role in the conceptualisation of political leadership. This revised edition of The American President in Film and Television explores the complex relationship between the construction of fictional presidents on screen and the political cultures from which they emerged. How have our popular cultural fantasies of presidential leadership contributed to the current political reality? Combining textual analysis with close attention to political and historical contexts, the book addresses the reasons behind the proliferation of images of the president in the past twenty-five years, from the archetype in American genre cinema (Air Force One, Independence Day and Deep Impact) to the idealised fantasy figure in network television (The West Wing, 24 and Commander in Chief). With the election of a president whose worldview appears to have been formed entirely by the aesthetics and rhetoric of popular culture, where does the presidency – either on screen or in the White House – go from here?

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Conclusion. Old Constructs in a New Era: The White House Invasion Narrative and the Return of Abraham Lincoln



Old Constructs in a New Era: The White House Invasion Narrative and the Return of Abraham Lincoln

This book has offered a broad account of the forms and functions of the American presidency in mainstream cinema and television in the last two decades, demonstrating the myriad ways in which Hollywood’s presidency is as much about Hollywood history as it is about American history. I began with the suggestion that, to understand fully the constitution of the presidency in cinema and television, one needed to pay close attention to the formal constitution of the texts in which the institution is represented: through discussion of the generic, iconographic and narrative frameworks in which the president is positioned, and by paying close attention to the manner in which the president is figured through aesthetic strategies (camera movement, lighting, editing techniques, framing), one can begin to unpick the ideological ramifications of these representations. Does Hollywood’s presidency look to reinforce, critique, question, or destabilise dominant constructions of the ‘real’ president?

My approach has been greatly informed by analyses of Hollywood cinema that suggest mainstream film is broadly predicated on the maintenance of dominant political and economic power structures in American society. Although I have problems with such approaches because they tend to ignore the pleasures offered to audiences by mainstream Hollywood cinema, there is no doubt that the texts themselves (unsurprisingly, perhaps) offer reinforcement to mainstream values and dominant power structures. This book has demonstrated the ways in...

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