Are you stressed? We are. It’s Election Day here in the states, and American citizens are casting their ballots right now to determine the future of the country. The decisions will influence the future of business, science, foreign affairs, and everyday life.
We don’t endorse outright escapism. Today must be met head on. But after you vote, join us as we relieve the anxiety of the real world by revisiting great election moments in fictional worlds.
Science fiction and fantasy in particular are excellent at picking apart and isolating the hope and terror surrounding our political processes. This year’s election resonates powerfully with some of our favorite genre moments on television and film, from how we view political figures and the issues, all the way down to the how power changes hands.
Consider this a break from fretting over the world of tomorrow by visiting it today.
The Election, Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica’s second season finale culminated with an edge-of-your-seat election between President Laura Roslin and Vice President Gaius Baltar, an election that represented two different directions for the survivors of Caprica to go. There’s some interesting parallels to the present election: a female policy-driven politician is up against a charismatic newcomer in a race that will have drastic consequences for humanity.
When the crew of a Raptor ends up at the wrong jump point, they discover a habitable planet, which becomes a major political issue in the remaining weeks of the election. Roslin wants to use it as a stopping point on a longer journey, while Baltar wants to settle on the planet. The show did an excellent job at portraying some of the complexity of the political system, while also portraying the importance of a peaceful transition of power from one party to its opposition.
It’s a Two Party System, The Simpsons
With so many in the country committed to voting their conscience as opposed to voting for major parties, classic episodes of The Simpsons continue to feel deeply (and depressingly) relevant. Back in 1996, mere weeks before President Clinton was voted back into office for his second term, the venerable series aired the “Citizen Kang” segment of Treehouse of Horror VII. Here, evil aliens Kang and Kodos pose as Clinton and Republican nominee Bob Dole as a way to take over the American government. Homer manages to reveal politicians are actually space monsters, but Americans are in a bind. It’s either vote for them, or vote for a third party candidate. Sure, no one wants to vote for a monster, but why throw your vote away?
Senator Armstrong’s Speech, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Winning the award for perhaps the most prescient depiction of the 2016 election is a monologue from Senator Armstrong, the loud-mouthed, nanomachine-infused politician who serves as the 2013 video game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s final boss. In the speech, Armstrong calls for power and justice to return to the hands of the people, derides the media, and flagrantly appropriates MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Oh, and there’s the ending of the monologue, where Armstrong claims that “America is diseased,” and that only by wiping the slate clean and purging the weak will the strongest members “make America great again.” Though Armstrong isn’t a presidential candidate, the clip does hit a little close to home.
Vedek Winn Adami’s Ambition, Star Trek: Deep Space 9
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 is arguably the most political of all the Trek series. It deals with diplomacy, treaties, religion’s effect on politics, and war. Vedek Winn Adami, played by Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher, might be the most politically minded and ambitious character in the entire series, constantly grasping for power and working behind the scenes to get what she wants. (It’s actually become an ugly joke among Trek fans on Reddit this election season to compare her to Hillary Clinton.) In a move that would have led to her becoming her planet’s religious leader, she aligns herself with an extremist group who plan on cutting the planet off from the Federation. But after it’s discovered that the extremists have ties to the planet’s enemies, she quickly betrays them to save her skin. But never count her out: she schemes her way into becoming leader a whole other way.
President Snow’s “Execution,” The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
At the end of the Hunger Games franchise, the revolution has been won. President Coin, the leader of District 13 and the rebellion against the Capital, stands victorious, and Katniss Everdeen is called upon to publicly execute the ousted President Snow, orchestrator of all her miseries. But Katniss instead (and, uh, spoilers?) shoots Coin, having realized that Coin, not Snow, had been responsible for murdering dozens of civilians (including Katniss’ sister, Prim) in an attempt to turn public opinion in the Capital against the already dying Snow.
Katniss realizes that despite the battles she’s fought, politics is sometimes a circular game, and that the people of Panem had merely traded one tyrant for another of a slightly different shade. It’s certainly a nihilistic take on politics, but this is fiction! The people we elect to lead us do matter! And besides, none of the candidates will try to institute a murderous teenaged thunderdome sport! Probably.