Of course Hollywood movies and TV shows have been looking to government crises and historical events for dramatic inspiration for years, from “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) and “Advise and Consent” (1962) and up through "Primary Colors" (1998) and "The West Wing" (1999 to 2006).
What is different now is how much people in government are paying attention to these portrayals. As mass media and pop culture have become the go-to spots for a media-savvy generation, Washington is taking pop culture ever more seriously.
“To get hard things done, the president has to lead,” noted Sen. Roy Blunt (R) of Missouri, after a screening of "Lincoln" in the thick of fiscal cliff negotiations.
“Virtually every member of the Senate, I think, has seen this new movie on Lincoln, and the lesson of that movie is that to get hard things done the president has to decide he wants something done,” he adds.
America is a nation of over-sized narratives, says Oliver McGee, Howard University professor, former Clinton adviser and author of “Jumping The Aisle: How I Became a Black Republican in the Age of Obama.” Hollywood or the entertainment industry as a whole, he says, “is the force that is telling the American stories to the world.”
And now, more than ever, that industry is telling the American story to Americans themselves.
“How great is it that people are actually learning about the difference between an executive order and a law?” says Bill Rosenberg, political science professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who teaches courses in politics, entertainment and political propaganda.