George W. Bush and pop culture's perception
More than all his predecessors, Bush may see his legacy shaped by the barrage of new media.
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“Pop culture is like cartooning,” says Mr. Kelly. “It creates a sharp image which reflects more, probably, about the mind of the individual who creates the image, than reality – although that doesn’t mean the image is wrong. But, also, it tends to pass.”Skip to next paragraph
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Still, Kelly says, some pop-culture images do linger. For example, a combination of Johnny Carson jokes and Chevy Chase impersonations on “Saturday Night Live” created an enduring image of Gerald Ford as being more prone to pratfalls than Inspector Clouseau.
But there’s a profound difference in today’s media landscape, argues Donick Cary, creator of the Comedy Central cartoons “Lil’ Bush” and “The Adventures of John McCain.” “Forty years ago, a comedy take on a president would be 13 episodes of ‘Saturday Night Live’ in a year,” says Mr. Cary. “Now, every day, as soon as there’s a [presidential] debate there’s literally 100,000 takes on the Internet as well as ‘The Daily Show,’ ‘Colbert Report,’ Bill Maher.”
Indeed, YouTube and the blogosphere have produced thousands of new commentators fixated on presidential politics.
“Presidents, more and more in this country, are seen as Olympian figures who have the power to fix everything,” says Reason magazine writer David Weigel. “It makes sense that the culture revolves around them.”
Bush well understood the importance of the popular-culture vote. During his 2000 campaign, he accentuated his image as a regular guy. “I don’t think it’s an accident that, for a number of years, we always heard about [Bush] going back to the ranch to clear brush,” says John Matviko, editor of “The President in Popular Culture,” and professor at West Liberty State College in West Virginia.