[percy-l] "West Wing" and shadows of the "Real"

marcus at loyno.edu marcus at loyno.edu
Sat Aug 16 10:54:14 EDT 2003

There's an article worth reading in The New Left Review. 
Some ideology, but more semiotics.  Despite focus problems,
I would have recommended it to WP.  Here's an excerpt and
the link.

Marcus Smith



“The elaborate underground system of bunkers is not the
only shadow government. The Bush White House is also
paralleled by the fictional presidency of Josiah Bartlett in
NBC’s West Wing. Inaugurated during the Clinton era,
Martin Sheen’s rendition of the president was a
left-liberal dream. While Clinton was busy instituting a
neo-conservative economic agenda and driving coffin nails
into welfare and health care, Jed Bartlett was fighting to
maintain the country’s social-safety net. Because The West
Wing was so clearly Clinton’s foil, many devoted viewers
felt the show would lose its relevance with the Bush
presidency. The fictional Bartlett and the real Bush would
simply be polar opposites, unable to generate grist for
utopian desires.
“While West Wing narratives are indeed liberal fantasies,
the key to understanding the role the show plays may be
found in yet another fictional shadow government. Unveiled
on CBS’s 60 Minutes, a revival of Point, Counterpoint is a
weekly wrangle between Clinton and Bob Dole. In their
debates, the former president and the former presidential
candidate shadow the Bush government with alternative
visions of what once was or might have been. Thus, viewers
can experience a full range of parallel realities (for
example, Bartlett intervenes to prevent a Rwanda-like
genocide), all the while de-realizing the Bush narrative.
Here, the question is not which presidency is a fiction and
which real, or whether the unseen vice president is the true
puppet master. Rather, the structure of all these clones
reveals what many Americans believe to be the truth of the
Bush presidency, that it is itself a fiction produced out of
voter fraud and Supreme Court chicanery.”


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