The American President in Film and Television

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More About This Title The American President in Film and Television

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Runner-up for the BAFTSS 2016 Best Book Award

Why are fictional US presidents everywhere on screen? How do these constructs relate to our understanding of the presidency as an institution and the United States as a nation?
This book sheds new light on fictional representations of the leader of the United States by analysing key films and television series from the early 1990s to the present day. Combining textual analysis with close attention to political and historical contexts, it addresses the ways in which representations of the president have responded to a period of profound change in American politics and society, encompassing the end of the Cold War, 9/11 and the collapse of the economy.
Exploring the complex relationship between the political context and the generic, iconographic and narrative parameters upon which mainstream cinema and television are based, this book challenges the tendency to equate content with context. Instead, contemporary representations of the president are examined as critiques of, or reinforcements to, dominant conceptions of political leadership. The reasons behind the proliferation of images of the president during this period are explored, 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). This book offers unique insights into the roles mainstream cinema and television continue to play in the reinforcement of mythological conceptions of the American presidency.

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Gregory Frame is Associate Fellow of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick. His research interests revolve around the politics and ideologies of mainstream cinema and television, and he is currently working on a project concerning the representation of American monuments and memorials in visual culture.

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Contents: Introduction: The American President in History and Criticism – The Symbolic Presidency in Washington and Hollywood, 1932–1989 – The Post-Cold War Presidency in Hollywood – The West Wing: Continuity and Change from Clinton to Bush – Predicting Obama? Hollywood’s Black Presidency and the Creation of a Stereotype – «Having it Allen»: Motherhood, Family and The President in Commander in Chief – Old Constructs for a New Era: The White House Invasion Narrative and the Return of Abraham Lincoln.

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«An assuredly deft and engaging exploration of how presidential figures function in American film and television, Gregory’s book is anchored in textual readings and it hits the right note – whether he is discussing the Capraesque tendencies in the comedy ‘Dave’, offering a focused appreciation of the looming presence of Martin Sheen, or unpacking issues of race and gender (in particularly persuasive chapters on black and women presidents). In Gregory’s own words the book ‘looks to engage fully with the politics of representation in the Representation of Politics’, and it is completely successful in that mission.» (British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies, 2016 Best Book Award Committee)
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