Mark makes a great point. But I’d like to dwell on The American President for a moment, if for no other reason that it only comes up every couple years. The amazing thing about The American President was how much of the argument Rob Reiner (the director) had to concede to the Right. In the movie, the president is indeed a widower. He has a date with a mature, educated woman who isn’t his wife. Oh the scandal! Richard Dreyfuss* plays a conservative pol who immediately pounces on this scandalous behavior in attempt to show that the president doesn’t respect family values. Because, as we all know, the bible thumpers have an eleventh commandment: “Widower Dads Shall Not Date (Even After An Appropriate Mourning Period).”
Reiner couldn’t possibly make a movie about a married President who routinely cheats on his wife and even gets jiggy with an immature and frivolous intern, callously letting the girl think he loves her when he can’t even remember her name half the time. Why? Because audiences would see Reiner’s hero as the real villain. Admittedly, the movie came out before the Lewinsky scandal, but none of Clinton’s other dalliances could be made into a movie without making Bill look like a jerk either.
I always think it’s fascinating how Hollywood needs to change the facts (See “Good Night and Good Luck” for example) in order to make their real world outrage seem plausible. If the rightwing “persecution” of Bill was so wrong on its face, why did Reiner have to make the President a widower? Because the only way you could unequivocally make the conservatives the bad guys was to make them do something they’d never actually do.
*Note: Richard Dreyfuss ranks third, after Ed Asner and Donald Sutherland on my list of liberal actors who enjoy playing evil rightwingers. There are just some actors who you know will play villainous conservatives with gusto because they think it’s political-artistic duty “to get inside the heads” of such horrendous malefactors and “raise awareness” about the true extent of their evilness.
Update: from a reader:
I have no doubt your throw away comment at the bottom of that post will elicit
25 emails by lunch!
As for me: Good grief, man! How could Alan Alda not make the big three???
Murder at 1600 is the tip of the iceberg.
…Alan Alda: He played McCarthyite Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster in “The Aviator.” Also “Murder at 1600,” where he’s a jingoistic national security adviser, if I recall. You can probably add his role as prez in Moore’s “Canadian Bacon,” but I’ve never seen that all the way through.
I think Brolin deserves a special place on your list for portraying a real Right winger (Reagan) in a false light.