The Presidency as Entertainment

Kevin Kline as president in Dave, 1993
Courtesy of Movie Still Archives

The presidency has always been a dominant force in shaping and reflecting songs, movies, and other cultural expressions. As a symbol of and for America, the president traditionally was depicted as a heroic figure, as the nation's moral compass, or as a reflection of the national mood. Changing technologies and changing attitudes have contributed to more accessible and varied characterizations, though they are not necessarily more realistic.

The centrality and visibility of the presidency in American society speaks volumes about its importance and influence, and contributes to a common political culture.

Fascinating Facts

The Presidency in Popular Imagination

George Washington's (1789-1797)
character has not been featured in a major film, although he has been represented in minor roles in many movies.

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
is the third most represented president in movies; Charlton Heston played Jackson twice.

John Tyler (1841-1845)
was the first president to use "Hail to the Chief" at official and diplomatic occasions to mark the chief executive's arrival.

Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
has been represented in more than 150 films, making him the most frequently portrayed president.

Rutherford B. Hayes' (1877-1881)
wife Lucy was the first president's wife to be called "first lady."

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
ranks second in film portrayals; the most well-known are PT 109 (1963), Prince Jack (1984), and JFK (1991).