Is she with Hillary?
At first glance, VEEP’s Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) doesn’t seem to have much in common with real life presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — besides gender, political ambitions and perhaps the occasional unflattering haircut.
But they do share one important thing: the uncertainty over whether their constituents are ready to elect a female leader.
VEEP‘s past season culminated on election night, with a tie for electoral votes between President Meyer and her opponent. This being an actual election year with a female candidate IRL, it begs the question of what impact the outcome of the Veep election might have on the real US election.
Perhaps if President Meyer can pull it out, and continue to act ‘presidential’ [if discussing Keith Richards’ ball sack qualifies as such], America can finally envision what so many nations [Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Ireland, Nicaragua, Liberia, Brazil, India, Central African Republic … you get the point] have already embraced — that a woman can be a perfectly fine choice to run their country.
Fortunately, there’s a precedent here.
When Barack Obama was elected as the first black US president, pop culture pundits said they saw it coming. After all, Americans had been welcoming a black president into their homes since 2001 — the year TV show 24 introduced us to President David Palmer, played by Dennis Haysbert.
By election night 2008, Americans were acquainted with a host of fictional black presidents, from Tom Beck [played by Morgan Freeman, natch, in DEEP IMPACT], to the ornery yet effective Black Bush [played by Dave Chappelle on his sketch comedy show.]
And these characters were worthy presidents — they earned it, they owned it, and they slayed it as commander-in-chief. Black presidents are so prevalent in American fiction, you can peruse a marathon Wikipedia entry devoted to “Black president in (US) popular culture.”
Now try finding the Wikipedia entry for “Female president in (US) popular culture.”
Before Selina Meyer, TV had offered up a mere skosh of female presidents, most notably Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis in COMMANDER IN CHIEF); Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones in 24); and Caroline Reynolds (Patricia Wettig in PRISON BREAK). Yet only one of these four was even elected. The rest slid into office either by fluke, or because the ‘real’ president suddenly found himself deceased. So those women weren’t exactly blazing any trails.
24’s Taylor was Madame President perfected — competent, ethical, and decisive — the ideal precursor to pave the way for America’s first female head of state. Unfortunately, President Taylor’s been off the air for so long, her paved way is all but abandoned, now choked with weeds and used mainly as a dog run.
So for their reference point, Americans today look to President Meyer — basically Allison Taylor in retrograde. And we’ve watched the self-infatuated Selina mishandle every political grenade lobbed in her direction. It’s like having Dunder-Mifflin’s Michael Scott as the US president, only with more snark.
Her own staffer Amy Brookheimer growls to Selina, “The fact that you are a woman means we will have no more women presidents. Because we tried one, and she fucking sucked.”
But recently, President Meyer seemed to grow into her newfound leadership role. Viewers witnessed a female president do a half-decent job as commander in chief — brokering peace deals and championing legislation — while deftly campaigning for the votes of the people she serves. [She even managed not to get indicted, which was no small task in Season 4.]
By the season’s end, President Meyer had catapulted from her dismal third place showing in the New Hampshire primary to the dead heat finish on election night. Conversely, Clinton’s presidency seemed a slam dunk a year ago, and now she’s both feeling the Bern and getting soundly Trumped.
If Selina’s momentum nudges her back into office, even the fictional win could offer Clinton a shared spotlight and a subconscious, collective surge of good will.
And what if Selina ultimately loses to her opponent, or even to her own Veep? Would it be the nail in Hillary’s campaign coffin?
Would President Trump be the one hammering it?
Selina Meyer can’t hide her contempt for this anything-goes election, snarling to her staffers, “The rule book’s been torn up now, and America is wiping its nasty ass with it.”
That might well be a sentiment Clinton secretly shares.
Veep returns to HBO on April 24th.