Where Have You Gone, Roland Emmerich? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You


Over at the liberal-but-good Boston Phoenix, Peter Keough has that rarest of things – an interesting analysis of upcoming films' political overtones. Before breaking down the anti-Bush, anti-GOP overtones of films like The Departed and Marie Antionette (but not Death of a President) he dials the wayback machine for the (Bill) Clinton era.

Beginning in 1996, when Bill Clinton handily won a second term, the films being released were almost uncannily prescient of the doom to come.

Alongside president-as-action-hero films, such as Roland Emmerich's 1996 Independence Day (President Bill Paxton leads a triumphant counterattack against the aliens) and Wolfgang Peterson's 1997 Air Force One (President Harrison Ford battles terrorists who have hijacked the title plane), emerged more realistic plot lines. As the Whitewater investigation plugged along and Paula Jones pushed her law suit, filmmakers started pitching hints of the president's extracurricular activities as box-office bait. In Absolute Power (1997), Clint Eastwood is the only witness to the adulterer in chief's murderous disposal of his latest Oval Office tryst, and in Murder at 1600 (1997) presidential hanky-panky again goes hand in hand with homicide and conspiratorial cover-ups.

The analysis of upcoming films with anti-administration subtexts is intriguing, and could go even further. As much as Hollywood-bashing provides the cultural right with a steady revenue/outrage stream, the Medveds and Bozells of the world haven't internalized just how decisively most Americans have turned against Republican rule.