It’s that time of year again. This Wednesday, Northwestern students will vote to elect their new leaders. Whether in schools, Illinois or on the national level, elections are often entertaining in real life. With all the mudslinging, scandals and larger-than-life personalities in politics, it’s no wonder why so many film and TV plots revolve around political campaigns of some kind. As we get ready to elect a new ASG regime, take a look at some of the most humorous, suspenseful and heartwarming elections in entertainment.
Although it’s just about a high school class presidential election, this 1999 comedy sums up the world of politics better than any film out there. Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is a high school overachiever in suburban Omaha. When she receives a nomination to run for class president, her teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), does everything he can to try and stop her from winning due to his deep-rooted hatred for her. Election shows the lengths each go to stop the other from winning and provides smart commentary on politics and living in suburbia. You will also never look at bees the same way again.
“Vote for Pedro” T-shirts and buttons were all the rage back in 2004. Love it or hate it, Napoleon Dynamite has the best election speech – er, dance – ever. You can’t help but root for the loveable misfits Pedro and Napoleon as they try to get the soft-spoken Pedro elected as class president. The campaign runs pretty smoothly for Pedro overall, but after he learns he has to perform a skit after his final campaign speech, Pedro almost throws the whole election away. Napoleon saves the day with his unexpectedly fluid dance moves to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat.” Yes, I did download the song to my iPod, and yes, I did try to learn the dance. Don’t try to act like you didn’t do the same.
Community: “Intro to Political Science”
When Vice President Joe Biden decides to visit Greendale Community College as a part of his Biden-Time Talkin’ ‘Bout Teachin’ Tour, the school must quickly elect a student body president to greet Biden. Annie is the only student who truly wants the responsibility, but all our series regulars, from Jeff to Pierce to Starburns throw their hats in the ring. Highlights of the episode include Dean Pelton’s Uncle Sam outfit, which he claims belongs to his sister, and Jeff’s 1997 audition tape for the cast of The Real World where he sings “You gotta have Jeff” to the tune of George Michael’s “Faith.” Politics doesn’t get any wackier than this.
Saturday Night Live
In its 36 seasons, Saturday Night Live has provided some of the best parodies of the campaign trail. No political figure, event or scandal is ever safe from being poked fun at. Phil Hartman’s impersonation of President Bill Clinton campaigning at a McDonald’s is classic. Tina Fey’s recurring role as Sarah Palin revitalized Saturday Night Live and gave the show some of its biggest ratings in recent years. Not to mention that her performance – and resemblance — as the tea partying, gun-slinging, Russia-seeing politician was spot-on, allowing us to laugh instead of cry at all those “Did she really say that?” moments during the 2008 Presidential election. Kristen Wiig’s recent spoof of Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m Not a Witch” commercial seemed to come right out of the Senate-hopeful’s 2010 campaign. Sometimes in politics, the real thing is already a joke.
Wag the Dog
This 1997 black comedy starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro puts a spotlight on the people who make — or make up — the behind-the-scenes of a political campaign. When the president is involved in a scandal in the midst of his re-election campaign, a spin doctor named Conrad Brean (De Niro), is brought in to avert the public’s attention from the controversy. Brean enlists Stanley Motss (Hoffman), a Hollywood producer, to create footage of a war in Albania in the hopes that the media will focus on the conflict and not the president’s scandal. Even though it’s fiction — I hope — Wag the Dog makes you question just how much the public may be manipulated through political campaigns and leaves you with an eerie feeling in between laughs.
Boy Meets World: “I Am Not a Crook”
I couldn’t resist putting in this favorite from my childhood/tween years because, though it may be cheesy, I can’t stand to see Shawn and Cory in a fight – even if it is just for one episode. Shawn takes on the role of managing Cory’s campaign for 7th grade president after nominating his best friend for the position. When Shawn advises Cory to make promises he can’t keep just to win the votes of his classmates, Cory fires Shawn. The next day, Shawn emerges as Cory’s newest opponent. Don’t worry. The feud lasts for as long as a commercial break on ABC Family, and Topanga rightfully emerges as the victor. “I Am Not a Crook” gave prepubescent kids everywhere the valuable lessons of honesty, integrity and of course, friendship. And I would totally vote for Topanga.