George W. Bush and Pop Culture's Perception

By writer, Stephen Humphries | The Christian Science Monitor, October 24, 2008 | Go to article overview

George W. Bush and Pop Culture's Perception


writer, Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor


During his eight tumultuous years in office, President George W. Bush has been portrayed in popular culture as a hubristic cowboy, a puppet of Dick Cheney, and the worst mangler of the English language since Shakespeare's Dogberry. Oliver Stone's new biopic, "W.," even focuses on Bush's supposed "daddy issues."

And those are the gentler depictions. He's also been branded a liar in Neil Young's "Let's Impeach the President," accused of being in cahoots with Saudi oilmen in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," and pilloried in the post-hurricane Katrina mash-up video "George Bush Doesn't Care about Black People."

Bush is hardly the first White House occupant to endure invective from entertainers, and such clashes tend to be particularly pronounced when a Republican is pitted against left-leaning creative types. But the 43rd president's time in office has marked a fundamental turning point in the relationship between popular culture and politics. The proliferation of new forms of media - coupled with a democratization of communication that allows anyone with a modem to become a filmmaker, broadcaster, or pundit - has meant that no other sitting president has had quite so many slings and arrows to suffer. Against such a backdrop, Bush may find it exceedingly difficult to control the final narrative of his presidency.

"I believe Bush's legacy will be almost entirely shaped by pop culture," says Leslie Kreiner Wilson, executive director of Americana, the Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture. "Pop culture has always had some impact on our perception of presidents, but the media explosion since the 1980s has made things much harder on the presidents since then, like Bill Clinton and George W."

Other observers believe that history's verdict on Bush will be more forgiving than, say, his depiction in the TV sitcom "That's My Bush" or the Eminem protest song "Mosh." Put it this way: Bush's ratings can only go up. When the Siena Research Institute asked 744 leading historians and political scientists to rank Bush as a president, the results spawned a "Rolling Stone" cover story proclaiming him the worst president ever. But the institute's Tom Kelly, a history professor at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., says it takes at least 25 years to establish the academic record of a presidency. By then, emotions are lower and perspective is clearer.

"Pop culture is like cartooning," says Mr. Kelly. "It creates a sharp image which reflects more, probably, about the mind of the individual who creates the image, than reality - although that doesn't mean the image is wrong. But, also, it tends to pass."

Still, Kelly says, some pop-culture images do linger. For example, a combination of Johnny Carson jokes and Chevy Chase impersonations on "Saturday Night Live" created an enduring image of Gerald Ford as being more prone to pratfalls than Inspector Clouseau.

But there's a profound difference in today's media landscape, argues Donick Cary, creator of the Comedy Central cartoons "Lil' Bush" and "The Adventures of John McCain." "Forty years ago, a comedy take on a president would be 13 episodes of 'Saturday Night Live' in a year," says Mr. Cary. "Now, every day, as soon as there's a [presidential] debate there's literally 100,000 takes on the Internet as well as 'The Daily Show,' 'Colbert Report,' Bill Maher. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

George W. Bush and Pop Culture's Perception
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.