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.

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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.

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