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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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I owe as much for the second edition to the people who supported me in the completion of the first. The bulk of the research for this book was conducted while studying for a PhD at the University of Warwick, which I began in October 2009 under the supervision of Professor Stella Bruzzi. Thank you to Stella for her guidance, suggestions and constructive feedback throughout the process, as well as her support since. In addition, much of the intellectual confidence that I developed over the course of my doctorate is down to her, and for this I will always be thankful. This book would not have been possible without the grant I received from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

I am also grateful to the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Warwick: the first edition of this book was commissioned for publication while I was an Early Career Fellow. Great appreciation goes to the University of Warwick’s Humanities Research Fund, which provided financial support throughout this process, enabling me to present aspects of this research at national and international conferences. Enormous appreciation is due to colleagues and peers in the Department of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick, especially my friends Hayley Merchant, Owen Weetch, Nicolas Pillai, Derilene Marco, Lauren Jade Thompson, Richard Wallace, Santiago Oyarzabal, Adam Gallimore, Joseph Oldham, Anna Cooper, Mike Riding, Charlotte Stevens and Celia Nicholls. Your support was invaluable throughout this process. I also want to...

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