Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The first female president of the United States. News at 11.

Last night was the premier of "Commander-in-Chief", a new television series about the fictional first female president of the United States. Before yesterday, the only information that I had about this show was a column in Time which described the show as:
What will the first female president of the U.S. be like? Very tall. Thus predicts ABC, which cast six-footer Geena Davis as Mackenzie Allen, a Vice President who comes to power when the President dies of a stroke, in the drama Commander in Chief, debuting Sept. 27. That's fair enough. Given the prejudice she would face, the nation might feel safer with a female leader possessed of great height, athleticism (Davis nearly represented the U.S. in Olympic archery) and robust, bee-stung lips. I look forward avidly to the Jolie Administration.

But Allen is a first in another way: she's the first President of the U.S. whose party status is independent -- a university chancellor recruited to give media attention to a G.O.P. ticket. Well, that's convenient, right? TV is a numbers game: Why alienate half the audience? But Commander in Chief doesn't seem to be worried about neutrality. Its bad guys are all Republicans, from the vile Speaker of the House Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland) to the White House staff members who urge Allen to resign, saying the world is not ready for a painted fingernail on the nuclear button. (Clever move: daring you to prove you're not a sexist by watching the show.)
Imagine my surprise upon finding out, despite an attention-grabbing gimmick, a ridiculously elaborate set-up, and easily identifiable stereotyped villians, that this wasn't a sitcom.

For someone who pays attention to politics as much as I do, the real surprise isn't that a female president could be elected president of the United States. The perpetual "Hillary!" and "Condi" draft campaigns attest to that. Instead, the real surprise is that the modern Republican party would succumb to Tyler-Fillmore disease in a desperate bid for media attention during a presidential election year. And let's face it, is there any woman out there, much less any woman university chancellor, who would actually consent to participating in a presidential campaign that needed to recruit an empty suit to drum up votes?

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