Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Frequent Portrayal Of Black Presidents In Hollywood Blockbusters, Advantage For Obama

A slew of African-American presidents portrayed in film and television has helped US voters get used to the idea of electing the country’s first black commander-in-chief, analysts say.

Whether it’s a seven-year-old Sammy Davis Jr in the 1933 comedy Rufus Jones for President or Morgan Freeman in 1998’s Deep Impact, Hollywood has been installing blacks in the Oval Office before anyone had heard of Barack Obama.

But academics believe the increasingly frequent portrayal of black presidents in blockbuster films or hit television shows has helped to make the electorate more receptive towards Obama than they otherwise might have been.

John W. Matviko, author of The American President in Popular Culture, believes that Obama’s overwhelming popularity amongst young voters may be partially explained by the Hollywood factor.

“Part of Obama’s popularity amongst the younger demographic might be because there have been some very positive portrayals of black presidents. So the idea of it has become commonplace, and not really an issue anymore,” he said. Since 1972’s The Man, starring James Earl Jones as what is viewed as the first major screen portrayal of a black president, only a handful of films and television series have had similar roles.

Actor Dennis Haysbert, who played one of the most high-profile black presidents during two seasons on the hit television show 24, told the Los Angeles Times that he was in no doubt his character has helped change mainstream attitudes.

However, Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University, says, “Hollywood might have played some role in shaping attitudes towards Obama, it was more likely that the Illinois senator’s popularity was rooted in his own personality." (DNA News)



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