From simply incompetent to outright evil, movies and TV have given us countless bad politicians over the years. Regardless of whether you’re happy with the outcome of this week’s U.S. Presidential election or not, let’s all come together and be grateful that none of these fictional leaders really hold office.
A few weeks ago, when our Roundtable presented our favorite fictional Presidents, I went with David Palmer from ‘24‘. This week, I’m returning to that show for our worst fictional President: Charles Logan, played with Nixonian charm by Gregory Itzin.
Logan was first introduced in Season 4 as a rather weak-minded Vice President who gets thrust into the Presidency when Air Force One is shot down and the previous President is injured badly enough to be unable to fulfill his office duties. However, it’s in Season 5 (regarded by many as the show’s best) that Logan really turns into a mastermind of political manipulation and viewers learn that he actually had a hand in the death of everyone’s favorite former fictional President, David Palmer. Watching Logan slowly self-destruct on screen (and Itzin’s performance) was one of the highlights of the show’s entire run. He became the President viewers loved to hate, and was quite possibly an early model for Francis Underwood from ‘House of Cards’.
Mayor Larry Vaughn from ‘Jaws‘ has to be the all-time worst fictional politician. He embodies everything terrible in the political world – the worst of which being that he placed his own citizens in harm just to keep seasonal revenue coming into his town. Not including Mob killings, Vaughn is the only person who can ever claim responsibility for people dying from shark attacks. After the tragic results in the original ‘Jaws’, it’s unbelievable that the people would re-elect him for a second term in ‘Jaws 2’.
Also, if you haven’t yet seen the not-as-bad-as-it-looked ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot, then you’re missing out on a great bit about the ‘Jaws’ mayor that’s delivered by Kristen Wiig and Andy Garcia.
I’ve been thinking about Greg Stillson from ‘The Dead Zone‘ for the last year. Something about a hotheaded loose cannon slipping past the radar under the guise of a populist political campaign, before eventually igniting a nuclear holocaust, has felt frighteningly relevant during this Presidential campaign. I don’t think I’m alone on this one. Stephen King has said much the same thing in interviews since the thought first popped into my head. I can only hope Johnny Smith’s vision doesn’t come true!
On ‘Futurama‘, Nixon not only managed to become President of Earth (even after losing at blackmail), but he stayed in power throughout the series. This could be considered his only real achievement, because otherwise he was totally hapless. Nevertheless, I doubt that any other ex-President turned animated character could have the kind of staying power Nixon did.
In his brilliant satirical mockumentary ‘Bob Roberts‘, Tim Robbins plays a deeply corrupt Machiavellian manipulator who cons his way into a U.S. Senate seat by positioning himself as a populist folk hero, all the while pushing a political platform that seemed frighteningly reactionary back in 1992 but may look almost quaint and moderate today. Robbins himself is of course an outspoken Liberal, and he has great fun ripping into his characters’ Right Wing views and positions, but he doesn’t exactly go easy on the other side either. Bob’s Democrat opponent is portrayed as a doddering and ineffectual relic almost as bland as his name: Brickley Paiste (played with perfect measure of elitist condescension by Gore Vidal).
In addition to starring, Robbins wrote and directed the film. It’s hilarious and (sadly) still topical and relevant today. I can’t believe nobody has released it on Blu-ray yet.
Please try to keep your comments focused on fictional movie or TV politicians. Any attempts to incite a real political argument will be deleted. We have enough division in the country and the world right now. We don’t need to carry it over here too. Thank you.