Does the Presidential Campaign Resemble a Movie?

Updated 1 year ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
 Does the Presidential Campaign Resemble a Movie?

Art imitates life and vice versa, but the mudslinging tactics and personal vendettas thrust into the race for President of the United States and the surge in 'hate' rhetoric  have many observers believing they are watching a movie or a TV reality show.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams observed, "the mudslinging in the campaign has more to do with a breakdown in honor, respect, and compassion in our society. We have become a culture driven by "reality TV" and as a consequence we now have the ultimate "Reality TV Show" playing out before our eyes."

Legislator Kelli Sobonya suggested that "the main stream media is trying to make certain things the focus instead of discussing the big issues that are on the hearts and minds of the American people."

 Does the Presidential Campaign Resemble a Movie?

Former Huntington resident Tiffany Johnson Bayley who owns a jewelry business near Orlando, Florida, admitted, " Just when you think a person can't stoop any lower...they prove otherwise. This is the most Non-Presidential Presidential election in history. It's downright shameful."

Barbs, slams and fact checks have become routine. The campaigns step into time machines looking for succulent quotes that will paint a darker negative image.

So what political themed films would be a quick learn for Election Day relevance? That's scary. 

Asking a few political veterans and a few voters produced a range of cinematic analogies from "He Said, She Said" to "Dr. Dolittle" and  "Titanic." Rolling Stone has named  "Purge: Election Year "  (not every debate needs two sides),  "Green Room " (be wary of extremists), and "Zootopia" (exercise tolerance and compassion).

 Does the Presidential Campaign Resemble a Movie?

Hollywood's political genre features classic dramas, vicious satires and crazy allegories. And this election cycle has included Hillary Clinton telling Donald Trump that it would be "dangerous" should he become the Chief Executive, which invokes thoughts of Cold War oriented themes, such as "Fail Safe,"  or "Dr. Strangelove" (which ends with non-agreement and world-wide nuking).

Before detailing my choices, I respectfully differ to Mayor Williams who selected "A Face in the Crowd" (1957),  based on the "Arkansas Traveler" short story in which Andy Griffith plays a drifter discovered by a promoter who then rises to prominence through small market radio and eventually national television.

I'm opting for "Network" (1976) starring Peter Finch as the ranting and prolific Howard Beale whose low-rated TV news program goes viral when he unleashes verbal madness that persuades supporters nationwide to shout out of their windows, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

This list of 2016 electoral conscience stirring accounts purposefully does not include any riveting historical accounts (that discards Oliver Stone and Michael Moore efforts) , opting instead to maintain  the "spirit" of the current campaign by emphasizing satires , cynicism, idealism, or the balancing of power versus corruption.

The "ideal" would be Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939) in which Jimmy Stewart plays a wholesome, people pleasing everyman whom political bosses attempt to manipulate based on his trusting naivete. Capra re-spins the topic in 1941's "Meet John Doe" starring Gary Cooper as a hired homeless man representing society's unkindness to people in need.

On the opposite extreme, come films such as "Manchurian Candidate" (1962) , "Keeper of the Flame," (1943) , "Citizen Kane" (1941) , "Advise and Consent" (1962) , and "Seven Days in May" (1964)  postulate circumstances in which a candidate (or the a military leader) has loyalty to America's enemies and seeks to secures , for instance, in "Manchurian" a communist influenced leader.

"All the King's Men" (1949) depicts the power climb of Willie Stark from a rural county seat to governor. It's a testament to compromises and lies to retain political power in an era where the pressure came from the "machine" not "lobbyists." A satirical view of political bosses and their electioneering can be seen in "The Great McGinty" (1940) with Brian Donlevy in the title role.

Best Man
Best Man

"State of the Union" (1948) paired Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in a Capra comedy where a female Republican newspaper executive (Angela Lansbury) gouges her lover as a dark horse presidential candidate knowing that she would be the power behind the man. Hepburn plays an estranged wife who reconciles to prevent muck from rising.

The Best Man (1964) features a ruthless Cliff Robertson and a principled Henry Fonda via for their party's nomination. At one point the current president (played by Lee Tracy) tells Robertson, "It's not that I object to your being a bastard ... it's your being such a stupid bastard that I object to."

The Last Hurrah
The Last Hurrah

"The Last Hurrah" (1958) stars Spencer Tracy in a no holds barred  mayoral campaign where he must face rumors of graft, abuse of power, and other corruption.

"The Candidate" (1972) has Robert Redford running for governor as a designated opponent for a shoe-in incumbent. Redford is allowed to speak his mind and his old school values and  truthfulness  overshadows the incumbents constituents.

The Candidate
The Candidate

Looking at absurd (?) analogies "Wag the Dog" (1997) has strategist Robert DeNiro hires a Hollywood producer to create a 'fake' war to cover up the incumbent president's  flirtations with an underage girl. Sandra Bullock feminized the concept with "Our Brand is Crisis" (2015), as she attempts to spin a victory for a Latin American dictator. Want to try screwball concepts, try Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" (1940)  or the Marx Brothers in "Duck Soup" (1933).

More on point, "Primary Colors" (1991) features John Travolta, Emma Thompson, and Billy Bob Thornton in what has been described as a roman à clef  morphing the 1992 campaign of President Clinton.  Kathy Bates received an Oscar nomination for her role as a journalist seeking to uncover evidence of the candidate's womanizing.

As "pay to play" and blatant disrespect compete, journalists continue spewing muck.   Reflecting on Mrs. Clinton, Bayley explained that "very little negative makes the lead story... it is the job of the press to report the news , not manipulate it or present opinion."   Thus, as Del. Sobonya added, "Dodged issues include jobs, national security, keeping our families safe, and ensuring a fair court system that believes in the separation of powers and won't allow activist judges to become the legislative branch of government."
Come November 9, the nation will stay divided and voters will see whether facts and truth burst forth in the White House, Congress, the Legislature or City Hall.




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