Magazine article The Christian Century

Candidates & Moviegoers

Magazine article The Christian Century

Candidates & Moviegoers

Article excerpt

REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC candidates who survive the February 5 delegate nomination marathon should be ready to confront a hidden danger to their campaigns--movies. Hillary Clinton, for example, should be concerned about Primary Colors (1998), a thinly disguised portrait of her and Bill. Based on a book by Joe Klein, the film follows the early career of fictional candidate Governor Jack Stanton (John Travolta) and his wife, Susan (Emma Thompson).

Late in the fill campaign adviser Libby Holden (Kathy Bates) confronts the couple with her research on charges about the candidate's sexual escapades--not a part of history the Clintons want voters to remember. Holden reminds the Stantons that they were once idealists; in their quest for power they have abandoned their idealism. The governor's wife defends the shift, saying they must do what is needed to reach the White House--where they will then act on their ideals.

The film that could haunt former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is September Dawn. Released late in 2006, September Dawn tells the story of the massacre of 140 Methodist pioneers on September 11, 1857, in Mountain Meadows, Utah. Only one Mormon leader was executed for the crime, but historical consensus maintains that other Mormon officials were behind the massacre.

Of course, Romney cannot be held responsible for what happened at Mountain Meadows. But because Mormonism is an unknown quantity to many American voters, the film could undermine his efforts to explain that Mormonism today is not the Mormonism of 1857. Unfortunately for Romney, a political campaign is not a good venue for teaching the public about religious belief and history.

Critics are hailing The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington, as a tribute to the struggle against segregation by African Americans in the South. This celebration of an African-American college debate team's victory over prejudice could have both negative and positive value for Barack Obama. On the negative side, the film might remind African-American voters that Obama was not a part of the civil rights movement. But that fact might be regarded favorably by others.

Some Democratic candidates have been so eager to portray themselves as tough on terror that they have ignored the strong human rights concerns of their liberal base. …

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