The presidency has been an element of feature films from the beginning,
although movies depicting actual presidents have rarely been box-office
successes. Early silent classics included Lincoln, the Lover
(1914) and The Birth of a Nation (1915). Some films have
sought to glorify--Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda,
Sunrise at Campobello, PT 109; others explored the ambiguity
of the office--Seven Days in May, Nixon, and Dr. Strangelove.
More recent movies, like Air Force One, Deep Impact, and
The American President, turned the president into an action
hero, a romantic leading man, or a symbol of all that is right--or
Television has treated the executive office with less reverence.
In the early years, programs like Producer's Showcase and
Philco Playhouse began to examine the American political
system. By the 1970s, several depictions of the presidency attempted
to demystify and to explain, including Eleanor and Franklin,
Collision Course, and The Missiles of October. More recently,
NBC's The West Wing tried to both entertain and educate its
viewers about life in a working White House. And Saturday Night
Live has lampooned the presidency for more than two decades.
Today's shows strive for a better-rounded, less heroic picture of