The Best and Worst Fictional Presidents
On Presidents' Day, we want to both honor our real-life presidents and turn our eye to fictional leaders of note. Leading us through magical dictatorships and zombie apocalypses, pure or corrupt, they're inspired in part by the men and women who have impacted our society in the real world. Here, Bookish lays out our favorite fictional presidents, and whether or not we would vote for them.
Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic
Many presidents are put in tough situations and forced to make unpopular choices, but then there are those who consistently are given opportunities to turn it around and continue to make the worst decisions imaginable. Cornelius Fudge was sour in our mouths from the start: In Chamber of Secrets, though seemingly seeking Dumbledore's guidance, he still goes against the Headmaster's judgment and sends Hagrid to prison, despite the lack of evidence. In Prisoner of Azkaban, he makes the decision to not tell Harry that the serial murderer on the loose is likely hunting him down and instead gives permission for soul-sucking creatures to roam the grounds of Hogwarts. Then he allows himself to be bullied by Lucius Malfoy into supporting the execution of Buckbeak (grow a backbone, man!).
Come Goblet of Fire, he decides it's much easier to pretend that Voldemort isn't reborn and denounces Harry as a liar. A whole lot of drama and death could've been avoided if he just trusted the 14-year-old… OK, fine, it sounds bad when you put it that way. The next year, in Order of the Phoenix, he replaces Dumbledore with Dolores Umbridge—kickstarting a reign of terror and abuse against the students. Thankfully, this is his last term as Minister. He appears again, however, once announcing Sirius Black's death without so much as an apology for persecuting an innocent man, and then again to attend Dumbledore's funeral. Some nerve.
Bookish Votes: IMPEACH! How was this man allowed to reign for so long? The above atrocities are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how far he went to save his own skin and deny the truth. He's no leader of the wizarding world. #TeamKingsley
Not much is said about President Johnny Gentle in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, but we do know quite a bit about his political leanings. Gentle is staunchly pro-hygiene and stands with the C.U.S.P., or Clean United States Party. He's a former lounge singer and was instrumental in the decision to turn a large chunk of land near the former U.S./Canada border into a dumping ground for hazardous waste. This sets off a massive political firestorm over the land in question: DFW writes that it is overrun with feral infants and hamsters, and there's much public debate over whether to refer to it as the Great Concavity or the Great Convexity (the U.S. and Canada, each not wanting to claim it, have opposing viewpoints on the matter).
Bookish Votes: We don't love the sound of "massive, feral infants." No thanks.
Reluctantly taking on the vice presidency when the VP has to resign after a sex scandal, Jack Ryan suddenly inherits the presidency when, moments after he's sworn in, a terrorist attack eliminates the POTUS. In subsequent books, Ryan warms to his position of power, averting war countless times and pardoning the necessary criminals. He even comes out of retirement to pwn the new president and take a second term.
Bookish Votes: All that aside, we can't help thinking that Ryan never really wants the position. So, we'll vote no.
Big Brother is the stuff Orwellian nightmares are made of. This totalitarian ruler is always watching and listening, lest you commit a thoughtcrime. Surveillance and censorship run rampant—and if the Party says two plus two equals five, you had better go along with it. Perhaps most alarmingly, Big Brother is the muscle behind the Ministry of Love, which is where thought criminals are sent to be tortured into submission. This is the fate that befalls protagonist Winston at the novel's conclusion, evidenced in the haunting final words of the novel: "He loved Big Brother."
Bookish Votes: Absolutely not. Enough said.
President Peter Ryman
Ryman's presidential campaign is the impetus for bloggers Shaun and Georgia to get involved with the Kellis-Amberlee zombie conspiracy, as it's on the campaign trail that they are continually sabotaged and attacked. It's very fitting, then, that the final book of Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy has the After the End Times crew coming full circle and meeting up with President Ryman again. His part in the conspiracy is both surprising and a perfect allegory for politicians forced to back policies they don't actually believe in.
Bookish Votes: Yes—but only if his family or any other pressure points for blackmail are nowhere to be found.
People get into politics for a variety of reasons: Some seek the power, others want to ignite change, and then there are the noble few who enter the field in search of vengeance. Armed with an axe and the brawn to wield it, this version of Honest Abe runs a nation by day and slays vampires by night. But can all of his vampire hunter training save him from a fateful night at the theater?
Bookish Votes: Second term! This is a guy who gets stuff done and then some. Even in a fictional vampire universe, Lincoln continues to be a president to look up to.
Presidents Snow and Coin
If you thought that dystopian presidents couldn't get worse than a Santa Claus-looking despot with a predilection for roses and disturbingly bloody breath, you would be right. Coriolanus Snow is the kind of faux-comforting but snake-like leader who would dream up the Hunger Games. But then we meet the president who wasn't supposed to exist—Alma Coin, scheming under the radar in the supposedly-destroyed District 13. Turns out that desperation and secrecy make for an even more chillingly pragmatic leader who will trigger her Mockingjay's PTSD and who will do anything to make sure the Capitol goes down. Anything.
Bookish Votes: No—but thankfully, we don't have to determine their fates, because Katniss takes care of that.
President Margaret Valentine
As the Secretary of Agriculture, Margaret has no expectations of becoming President. But, when a plague brings kills all the men—and the woman who ranks higher than her, in a plane crash—she's suddenly shuttled to the top. Despite very little political experience, she manages to keep the United States together in the subsequent chaos. She wins re-election in 2004, though she acknowledges that it's because she's the most famous woman in the world, since "no one knows where Oprah is hiding."
Bookish Votes: "Second-best to Oprah" describes a lot of us, so yes, we'd seek a third Valentine term. If she could literally change the world, then we have faith in her.
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