As you are more than aware, today is Election Day. While I think that it is very important that people exercise their right to vote, I’ll honestly be glad when this whole thing is over. This election has exhausted even this political scientist. So much vitriol. I’m ready to be done with it.
In honor of today, I thought about campaigns and elections in pop culture and was surprised at the number of examples I could come up with; apparently it is a much more frequent plot device than I anticipated. Perhaps people prefer the drama and potential comedy of elections that feature fictional characters and no real consequences. So if you want a break from today’s election coverage, check out some of my favorite instances of pop culture campaigns and elections.
- Election (1999)
I.LOVE.THIS.MOVIE. Election is a great black comedy about a high school election for student body president. I would argue that this is Reese Witherspoon’s best performance of her career; as over-achiever Tracy Flick, she is hilariously neurotic and obsessed.
The rest of the cast is great too. Matthew Broderick is a lot of fun as Mr. McAllister, Tracy’s teacher and nemesis, who tries to stop her from winning. I’ve always had a soft spot for Chris Klein and he is great as McAllister’s unwitting pawn. The stakes are low, but not to the people involved. There is just as much treachery and subterfuge in this student body election as there is in the big leagues.
This scene may sum up how a lot of people feel about today:
- Community – Intro to Political Science
Not a surprise that this is one of my favorite episodes of Community. Jeff decides to challenge Annie in her quest to become president of the Greendale Community College student body. The debate is hilarious on many levels, but I especially enjoyed Troy and Abed’s coverage. The news crawl had all sorts of Easter Eggs for fans and Troy has one of the best lines of the episode: “It’s like God spilled a person.”
Man, I miss this show.
- Cheers – Woody Gets an Election
This is an oldie, but a goodie. When Fraiser is fed up with the American voting public and their willingness to lap up whatever candidates say, he decided to run Woody for Boston City Council to prove a point. His campaign strategy might sound a little familiar:
The idea of poor, dim Woody in office makes me smile every time I think about it.
- Family Guy – It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One
Family Guy has dealt with campaigns on numerous occasions – Peter and Lois ran against each other for school board and Brian tried to stop same-sex marriage from being recognized in Quahog, – but my favorite is when Lois decided to run for mayor against Adam West. This scene in particular always cracks me up and tends to sum up what I think about the ability to persuade undecided voters (seriously – who is still undecided this late in the election?).
- The Campaign (2012)
Thisis one of my favorite movies of 2012. As I wrote in my review, I had my doubts about the film, but it wound up being very funny while also commenting on the sad state of affairs that our current political system is in. Ferrell and Galifianakis are a great team.
- Arrested Development – Immaculate Election
I love all the episodes of Arrested Development, but the episode where George Michael decides to run for student council in probably in my top ten. Steve Holt has always been one of my favorite fringe characters and he is front and center as the Goliath to George Michael’s David. And the campaign ad that Gob creates for his nephew is priceless:
- Bob Roberts (1992)
I don’t know that words can express how much I love this movie. Written and directed by Tim Robbins, it is a wonderful satire of the election process. It follows the rise of a right wing former folk singer (Robbins) as he tries to defeat the incumbent Senator. An amazing cast – Robbins, Alan Rickman, blog favorite Giancarlo Esposito, James Spader, John Cusack and Susan Sarandon – only elevates a great script. This film is now 20 years old, but illustrates how little things have changed.
- Parks and Recreation
Most of the fourth season of Parks and Recreation focused on Leslie’s campaign for Pawnee City Council. Leslie was the underdog, running against the heir to the Sweetums fortune (guest star Paul Rudd). There were many great moments as Leslie had to rely on her friends from the Parks Department to help her campaign, a task that they were eager – if not under qualified – to do. This story arc was representative of the show as a whole; while it poked fun at the political process, there was still a real sweetness to it.
- The Wire
One of the overarching stories of season four of The Wire was the mayoral race in Baltimore. This is hands down my favorite season of a great show; between its focus on the election and on the school system, it was extremely powerful and devastating. Carcetti faces an uphill battle in his attempt to become the next Mayor and he is certainly a flawed character, but it makes for brilliant television. And yes – the actor who plays Carcetti is the same guy who plays Littlefinger on Game of Thrones.
Best show ever.
Parenthood has done various storylines attached to elections – last season, Christina went back to work on Bob Little’s campaign and Amber had a romantic entanglement with Little – but Max’s decision to run for student body president this season was especially poignant. If only all campaign speeches were this honest and heart felt
- Saved By The Bell
I think it is mandatory that all shows that take place in high school eventually get around to doing an election story, and Saved By The Bell is no different. And of course, Zack Morris would have to throw his hat in the ring for president.
Look how young they all are!
And finally, I thought this chart was kind of interesting. Do your television choices match up with your political preference?
I couldn’t highlight them all, so what are your favorite campaigns and elections in pop culture? Sound off in the comments below. And make sure that your voice is heard today. If I’m dragging my sick self to the polls, you have no excuses.