Shooting the President: The Depiction of the American Presidency on Film and Television from John F. Kennedy to Josiah Bartlet
Barber, Matthew David
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis – Shooting the President: Screen Depictions of the American Presidency from John F. Kennedy to Josiah Bartlet – examines the depiction of the presidency in American film and television from 1960 until the present day. In this study I explore the relationships between the presidency and Hollywood, particularly in the context of genre structures. I examine the constructions of specific presidential mythologies based on the real presidencies of Kennedy, Nixon and Clinton and the construction of fictional presidencies in the television series The West Wing. In four sets of case studies, I will chart the changing significance of each president through different genres, looking particularly at how each presidential mythology is affected by the anxieties and fashions of the contemporary political and social world. I also examine the ways in which the appearance of presidentiality is created within each text by various means including set design, the choice of actor, the use of dialogue and the framing of particular characters. The aims of my thesis are to demonstrate how a telegenic style of politics formed during and after the Kennedy presidency can be seen to be both represented and enhanced in genre films and television series. I chart the relationship of this new mediated style of presidency through my case studies as it faces challenges such as Watergate, Clinton’s sex scandals and the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001. Finally, I aim to demonstrate through a close reading of the latter seasons of The West Wing how the American public can be seen to be prepared by its popular media for the success of the first black president, Barack Obama.
PhD in English