Once we’re done voting for real, we might need a stiff drink and some political comedy.
Praise the Lord, this election season is just about over. It has truly been a roller coaster of a ride that late night television shows have been loving (I can almost hear Lorne Michaels asking what he did to deserve such material to work with). Chances are that if you are just as tired of it all as I am, that you need a good laugh. Thankfully, Hollywood has offered up enough political satire to take off some of the tension from this election. Here is just a handful of movies that will help brighten your spirits with their whip smart dialogue and laugh out loud moments. Happy voting everyone and may the odds be ever in our favor.
If Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods had been willing to fight dirty to get what she wanted in high school, she would have been Election’s Tracy Flick (it also helps that both characters are played by Reese Witherspoon). Tracy is your classic Type-A high school overachiever who is ruthlessly determined to win the race of student body president. Her less than ethical tactics to do so are noticed by the popular government teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) who will do anything to take her down. Written and directed by Alexander Payne, the humor is a dry and self-aware look at the parallels of student government to real government: sex scandals, muckraking, personal vendettas, and controversies galore.
I am normally not one for Will Ferrell humor, but oh my goodness is The Campaign funny and eerily reminiscent of a real election for all its hyperbole. Ferrell plays Cam Brady, an incumbent who is opposed by underdog Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) for one Congressional seat. There are so many moments that ring a little too close to home when watching this movie. For example, attack ads are more frequent than positive ones, wives or women in campaigns are heavily criticized for their hairstyles or clothing, and the amount of times a candidate mentions America and freedom in a speech is a life and death situation. As absurd as it is, it does offer a vaguely realistic view at what happens when an incumbent (or presumed winner) is challenged by a ridiculous opponent for a political office.
Is there a more iconic tagline for a movie than “Vote for Pedro?” Given its huge cult following, it is hard to remember that Napoleon Dynamite is a film centered on a school election. The election in question is between Pedro Sanchez (Efren Ramirez), an awkward transfer student, and Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff), the most popular girl in school. Both candidates are seriously lacking in charisma and voters in the film are likely thinking that they have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Maybe it will be the social awkwardness that makes you laugh or maybe it will be because this is type of humor is your thing, but either way, everyone can laugh at the iconic dance scene it gave us.
Listen, I know Woody Allen has just about the sketchiest personal life, but that does not change the fact that Bananas is hilarious. In it, Allen plays average New Yorker, Fielding Mellish, who happens to fall in love with a political activist. After she dumps him, however, he drastically moves to a small Latin American country, becomes involved in its latest rebellion, and even becomes its president. For a film released back in the 1970’s, it is still now every bit as relevant and satirical as it was back then. There are even aces quotes like this that still hold up: “New York garbage men are striking for a better class of garbage, and the National Rifle Association declares death a good thing.”
Wag the Dog
This election has shown us that sex scandals can no longer make or break a candidate in the way they used to. The media is one of the most powerful tools a candidate can wield in an election season, regardless of what it is reporting, especially in Wag the Dog’s case when the news is fake. This one rings extremely familiar as it revolves around the sitting president being accused of sexually assaulting a young girl only a few days before the election. To distract the voters, the White House brings in spin-doctor Conrad Bean (Robert De Niro), who then enlists Hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Dustin Hoffman) to stage a fake war with Albania using the American media. Wag the Dog is a sharp, pitch black look at how citizens can be so naïve when it comes to political news.