Has Hollywood gone too easy on George W. Bush?

Arts, entertainment, and more.
Oct. 16 2008 6:57 AM

Bush on Film

Hollywood's eight-year romance with the 43rd president.

To listen to Slate's Spoiler Special about W, click the arrow button on the player:

Click here to watch a video slide show about George Bush on film.

Click here for a video slide show on Bush at the movies.

Oliver Stone's W. is that rarest of spectacles: a fiction film depicting a sitting president. By one count, there had been only two movies depicting a current head of state before Bush came to office: Mission to Moscow (1943), featuring FDR, and PT-109 (1963), which placed JFK at the center of his own war epic. But whatever reluctance Hollywood had about rendering the president disappeared when Bush came to Washington. Stone's W. represents the culmination of a fascinating cycle of movies and television shows that star, in one way or another, the 43rd president.

Advertisement

The general intent of these depictions has been to cut Bush down to size, but there's an argument to be made that pop culture has not been up to the task of representing this president's momentous tenure. Our image of Bush via the movies has been stunted—he's a goofball, a bumbler, an amiable frat boy. In the days before 9/11, Iraq, and Katrina, that irreverent caricature may have sufficed. But just this summer we were subjected to the sight of Harold and Kumar toking up giddily with W.—this from a movie with the word Guantanamo in its title. As the weight of his eight years becomes fully felt in the slumping present, the question needs to be asked: Is Bush the buffoon the best Hollywood can do?

Click here for a video slide show on Bush at the movies.

Elbert Ventura is managing editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 22 2014 1:22 PM Is Arabic Really Just One Language? 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 22 2014 2:12 PM Crusader, Sans Cape The superhero trappings of Gotham are just a clever disguise.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.