Waiting for the Obama Cinema

J. Hoberman pokes around looking for an Obama cinema and doesn’t find much beyond Chrysler’s Super Bowl commercial. While acknowledging Clint Eastwood’s right wing/libertarian politics, Hoberman likens the commercial to the “Morning in America” ad for Ronald Reagan. There’s no evidence that the Chrysler commercial was intended to endorse Obama, the imagery (which Hoberman discusses like a film critic) and rhetoric fits into an emergent narrative about the United States’ slow economic recovery.

As for a full-fledged Obama cinema, Hoberman can’t really find anything except for a proto-Obama cinema in which a “longing for Obama (or an Obama) can be found in two prescient 2008 movies—WALL-E (the world saved by an endearing little dingbot, community organizer for an extinct community) and Milk (portrait of another creative community organizer—not to mention a precedent-shattering politician who, it’s very often reiterated, presented himself as a Messenger of Hope).”

Allegory hunting during the Bush years was easy. The Dark Knight was one among a number of films readily identifiable as being about the president, although not everyone agreed on what the allegories ultimately meant. Perhaps it’s a commentary on Obama’s ambiguous position in American culture at the moment that no comparable set of film allegories has emerged. As Hoberman notes, “Obama hasn’t really come up with a persuasive story beyond cleaning up Bush’s mess and that’s hardly great movie material.”

A related problem is that the allegorical referent for Obama is hard to define. Bush, for better or worse, was easily caracatured, making him fertile ground for allegory. Hoberman suggests an allegorical type: “As Obama is an American president unlike any other, he naturally suggests the opportunity for comparably unlikely figures in otherwise standard scenarios.” But neither Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Social Network seem to work. 

Maybe in the second term.

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