The TFS Staff Elects Viable Fictional President Alternatives
Listen, we can do a lot better. That's a fact. Here at the Talk Film Society, we thought, "Who, on the long list of fictional presidents to grace TV and Film, could do a better job at being President of the United States?" What the world has come to find out, in so little time, is that being a passable president takes some compassion, competency, and some idea of how the real world works. Real basic requirements, actually. We've come up with a list of fictional presidents who may not be perfect, but they could get the job done. Easily.
President Merkin Muffley, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Peter Sellers played one (three, actually) of his funniest characters in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, but something about President Merkin Muffley always carried our love. From the outlook, all we see of him is a man just as paranoid as all the rest. If anyone perfectly embodied what we have been fearing the whole way through, Sellers’s Strangelove role as Muffley is a perfect representation of what happens when you have so much power and people start coming after you. One can only say it’s a fitting description of our current president and how he deliberately is avoiding certain things being questioned against his character but something about President Muffley makes him a more reliable one within spirit. Merkin Muffley might have terrible traits, but there’s a reason we have always come to find a character as likeable and as funny as he is presented for us to be. Inside of a world where hate is being tossed all across because of how one man is delivering inside of his own role, President Muffley is an exaggerated picture of an ordinary man unable to find that sort of control with this power he has in his own hands. Instead of taking control, you’ll only get a simple “Hello, Dimitri?” over the phone.
Claire Underwood, House of Cards
House of Cards' Frank and Claire Underwood are, together a Machiavellian and cannily conniving couple. But Claire, rather than Frank (Francis, if you're Claire) is the one who's more capable and better suited to the presidency than Frank, or our current one.
Claire, as played by Robin Wright, is a calculating, sly player of the long game. She deals, and she backstabs. But she also makes peace. She builds inroads. Claire’s far more patient than Frank, their opponents, or any of the current occupiers of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When Claire takes a hit, she takes it in stride, never letting the public see her stagger. She moves forward, continuing on to the next plan or deal. She calms Frank's outbursts and plans for revenge quietly, for a time when it’s safe to take it.
Claire Underwood doesn't take to press conferences to discredit her opponents. She sets them up to be discredited by their own vices, leaving her hands clean and an honestly disdainful reaction as the only comment given to the press. Her only opponents are those who get in her way, not the people over whom she would govern. I wish we could say the same about our current situation.
- Sean Beattie
President Lindberg, The Fifth Element
President Lindberg from The Fifth Element is my dude. I warped to two other galaxies very far out of my own system to give him extra votes. Look, judge me all you want but I just wanted to make history by trying my damnedest to make him our 100th Black President. Sue me, I love even numbers. And speaking of even, President Lindberg cares about the larger issues like unity amongst all races, including alien, no matter what chunk of space you hail from because the more we learn about each other, the more we own the stars. He spends large amounts of his own money to insure children are fed throughout the cosmos. Education is never lacking and health care is forever covered thanks to his stellar leadership. He never demands funding for pointless projects like former President Banwayan's stupid 'McDonalds on every block and every high rise in your metropolis' idea, which has only made our people fat and lazy, not to mention the astronomical price tag that came with it, that WE citizens paid for. President Lindberg also looks like he could bodyslam an angry Mangalore should the situation arise. In short, I love my president and hope he protects us from all the evil that may be floating out there in the vastness of space.
- Rockie Juarez
President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, Idiocracy
A completely average man from our time, Joe (Luke Wilson), takes part in a military test of suspended animation technology and wakes up 500 years in the future to find that he is suddenly the smartest man alive. Humanity has seemingly devolved, language has become nearly irrelevant, and we've become so significantly dumb that we've started naming ourselves after branded products. The President is named Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews). He swears every third word and is dressed from head to toe in loud American flag patterned garb with an oversized gold metal hanging from his neck. In his State of the Union he fires an assault rifle into the ceiling to quiet an unruly crowd.
Prior to Joe's arrival, Dwayne Camacho was the smartest man alive. That doesn't mean much, but he did truly want to help his people. When they find out Joe is the smartest man alive, President Camacho comes to him with hopes that he will make people's lives better because he is at least smart enough to realize that he is not the best choice to help his people when there is a clearly better option right under his nose. Empathy and humility are very desirable traits for a President, and our current one has neither.
- Marcus Irving
President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
"In the name of people, and freedom, and democracy, and stuff like that, I hereby kidnap myself, and I'm taking this ship with me. Whoo!"
Fictional presidents have long been a staple of cinema but few have been as unhinged and wacky as President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. A severely underrated sci-fi/comedy based on Douglas Adams' hilarious novel, it introduced audiences to the certifiably insane Beeblebrox as he steals an incredibly expensive spaceship and travels the galaxy looking to get laid.
Beeblebrox is preferable to our current Commander in Chief for numerous reasons. Whereas our president is completely crazy, Zaphod is only half insane, thanks to him having two heads. He's got a wicked intergalactic fashion sense that outclasses the standard suit and tie by a country mile. Zaphod also tends to do the right thing in the end. He might not always read the laws he puts into place, but at least he takes the blame for it. Oh and he has some of the sweetest dance moves this side of the Milky Way Galaxy. Plus, he's played by Sam Rockwell so he'll always be the Dreamboat in Chief.
- Matt Curione
President James Dale, Mars Attacks!
Towards the end of Tim Burton’s underappreciated Mars Attacks!, in one last ditch effort to save the human race, and himself, President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) gives an impassioned speech to one of the Martians. The President just witnessed his last remaining cabinet members and military generals wiped out by laser blasts, but he still finds the courage to put on his jacket, fix his tie, and deliver a ‘Tear down this wall’-level speech filled with hope and change. Sure, he ends up getting duped and killed by the Martian leader who he extends a handshake to only to have the Martian’s robotic hand pierce through his chest — but at least he tried. President Dale may indeed be a complete idiot, dumbfounded by the Martians’ existence and making mistakes along the way (rest in peace, Congress). But, in his final word, his olive branch to the race of violence and sex-crazed aliens, he proclaims, “Why can't we alll just get along?" Okay, fine, he’s borrowing that phrase from Rodney King, but the sentiment remains. President Dale may have been the worst president to lead Earth in an interplanetary war with Mars, but at least he’s not one for vying for planetary destruction all on his own.
- Marcelo Pico
President William Allan Moore, Big Game
It’s a known fact that Samuel L. Jackson is one of the most recognized and popular actors in cinema, from his tenacity to never stop working and always have a dozen or so films in various stages of development. Which is why it's no surprise that eventually he’d have the opportunity to play the POTUS, in an action-thriller no less. Big Game, from the director of Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, is set over the course of a couple of hours as en-route to a summit in Helsinki, Air Force One is shot down by terrorists in the wilderness of Finland, with Jackson’s President William Allan Moore being the only survivor of the plane wreckage. He encounters a young boy, Oskari (Onni Tommila) who is out by himself in the forest to partake in his kinsfolk tradition of killing a deer to mark his transition into adulthood. Oskari doesn’t expect to run into the most powerful man in the world, but when he does, the two have to run off and fight off those who are pursuing the President – a big game in itself. Coming across as an inversion of the no-bullshit, hard-ass characters that we’re used to seeing Jackson play, Moore is something of a coward, who’s also very much disliked by the constituency and even his own team members. Nevertheless, it does make for an interesting odd-couple arrangement between him and Tommila’s Oskari, and the film itself is very much inspired by 1980s B-movies – coming across as an Amblin film with a heaping amount of action and explosions.
- Rob Trench
Tracy Flick, Election
Election's Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is a young woman from humble beginnings. She has worked hard her whole life to achieve her dreams of leadership. She had some mistakes when she was younger, and she’s a bit too eager, but she believes that working selflessly for others is worth the time and sacrifice, even when it’s unappreciated. She knows women who change the world don’t do it by being passive and docile — they have to make their voices heard.
On her way to the (class) presidency, Tracy is opposed by a rich, tall, dumb, white man (Chris Klein) who is coerced into running by higher powers (Matthew Broderick) whose interests are against Tracy. She also faces a populist backlash from third party candidates (Jessica Campbell). Early polling indicates a win for Tracy, but machinations of the political system lead to a loss. Tracy is devastated, and the high school is plunged into the chaos of a megalomaniac who threatens war via fits of racism, xenophobia, and self serving interest. No one was ever happy again.
Sorry, I got my plotlines confused. A janitor finds the missing votes and Tracy leads the high school to prosperity. A happy ending for all.