On Film, a Black President Is Nothing New

From 24 to The Fifth Element
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2008 5:57 PM CDT

(Newser) – America may be on the verge of electing its first black president, but pop culture is way ahead of reality. James Earl Jones portrayed the first in The Man (1972), and several have followed. As an entertainment-obsessed nation, asks Slate, might these fictional forebears affect our perception of the real thing?

  • 24 (2001-present): Dennis Haysbert. Haysbert has suggested his portrayal of David Palmer—a dependable leader with a friendly baritone—might’ve warmed up American voters for Barack Obama’s bid.

  • Deep Impact (1998): Morgan Freeman. Like Haysbert, Freeman plays the commander in chief with a conventionally presidential style.
  • Head of State (2003): Chris Rock. Assumes sudden deaths and coincidences are the only ways an African American can become president. Rock’s prez is part John Edwards, part Bulworth.
  • The Fifth Element, Idiocracy (1997, 2006): Black presidents are relatively common in sci-fi, usually signifying that time has passed and racism diminished.