The reality show that is the US presidency is one of the most ostentatious and expensive productions the world has ever known. Its producers are massive corporations, political parties, financial institutions and military interests. Its actors hail from the best universities, families, and fraternal societies across America. Seeing an actor give a tour de force performance in a movie or television show can have the effect of coloring your opinion of them from then on. Making it hard to distinguish or appreciate them when they play another role. Other actors are trapped in their past and end up typecast into a series of roles based upon the character they’d played at some prior date.
The public image of any president, for better of for worse, is dramatically altered by the time their terms are up. Examining the maelstrom of media coverage concerning current president Donald Trump. media analysts may, if they can remove the chastity belts of partisanship the wear so proudly, look to investigate the media’s presentation of presidential hopefuls in the past and how public perception shifts over time. Ensconced in a hyperreality of mass news and social media communications we now experience the phenomenon of public figures ‘coming out of no-where,’ juxtaposed with the actions of known public figures either being buried or constantly reintroduced into the news cycle.
Due to the power of narrative driving by media outlets, which nowadays seek to run parallel with public trends rather than serve as somewhat non-partisan reporters, candidates can be recast in new roles with a speed and efficacy never before imagined. In this last election we saw a New York billionaire braggart transformed into a populist hero going to Washington to drain the swamp of career politicians and greedy oligarchs.
That character ran against another media invention. This time it was a humble woman of the people, public servant and feminist who — despite being having been a well known political figure and source of controversy for decades — had been reborn as a as a kind, loving, hot sauce in her purse carrying, strong female leader unafraid to wage war wherever and whenever possible.