All The President’s Men

I’ve been watching Commander-in-Chief, and my impressions are mixed. As a quip recap (spoiler warning!!), the male President dies, and on his deathbed, attempts to get his female VP Mackenzie to resign, leaving the position free for the Speaker of the House, a power-hungry piece of work, Templeton. McKenzie refuses, and from then on it’s a bitter fight with Templeton and his (mostly male) supporters, not to mention all the conservatives who don’t like the idea of a female President.

At times, McKenzie proves to be a more-then-capable leader, facing down challenges and resistance that would make most people – men and women – throw in the towel. She’s being faced down from adversaries willing to do whatever it takes to bring her down and handles them with determination and innovation, and not a small amount of steel-strength backbone. In many ways, she is just another president, who’s gender matters little except where the conservatives are concerned.

But in other ways, she acts like a woman. For starters, Geena Davis in a six-foot, fairly solidly built female. If a man had the same proportions as her he wouldn’t be considered all that petite. Have the writers made a point that a woman can only do a man’s job if she has a similar physical size to a man? I vote Kate Moss for President!

In the first episode, as Templeton is telling her to stand down because she lacks the power hunger to be President, she replies “˜I don’t want power’. Yeah, because no woman ever wanted power. Why can’t a woman want power, damnit? While we’re talking fictitious women in fictions circumstances, I vote we resurrect Scarlett O’Hara and have her run for President; I’m yet to come across a woman who had such a naked hunger (greed, even) for power.

And then Mac makes a point, episode after episode, for acting on “˜womanly’ things. Her first order as President is to “˜rescue’, by illegal military operation, a woman being held in a middle eastern prison, on death row for having a child out of wedlock. Yeah, trust a woman to commit the military to an illegal rescue mission to save another woman from a brutal patriarchal society. I’m not saying it wasn’t a noble mission, but it seemed so womanly to me.

And then, for her first executive order, she decides against the late President’s wishes to create another space program, and enacts a free tertiary education program instead. Now, as a believer in fixing up the problems on this world before we go meddling into others, I understood her reasoning. But I still thought it was a womanly solution; forget the space race, let’s talk education for our children.

In the next episode, we see her finally getting the dirt to put Templeton away for good, except it looks like she doesn’t want to stoop to his level. I say, stoop away; or better yet, blackmail him into becoming her biggest supporter; people like him need to be neutralised of as a matter of practicality, because it’s in their nature to make grabs for power. If she hands over the evidence and says “˜I did you a good turn so you do me one’, I’ll stop watching, because it’s such a trusting, womanly thing to do and first and foremost the President has to be wary and alert, regardless of gender.

Commander in Chief has some good points. Geena Davis plays Mac well, and you can sympathise the position she’s in. But for her to really earn my respect, she’s got to start thinking more like a politician and less then a stereotyped woman. If she does, she could be one ballsy President whom I would vote for.


  1. Maartje says

    I have never seen ‘Commander in Chief’ but from what you descibe it sounds more like they’re trying to form an ideal president than a quintessential female president. Like education in stead of space- it shows she hasn’t lost touch with ‘the people’ and knows what they need. The illegal rescue mission sounds like a ploy to show that she is hardheaded/determined enough to act when the cause is right. One of the results of the patriarchy is the view of women as automatic victims, we’re supposedly weak, if you put a man in need of rescue the cause wouldn’t have been right because he is strong and should have been able to save himself.
    Saying ‘I don’t want power’is SUCH a political thing to say. They always say that before bribing someone to nominate them for whatever powerful position. ‘Me? No of course I didn’t WANT them, they just convinced me I was the right (wo)man for the job.’
    A female politician would play different than a man because people react differently to her. Other things get results for her. I hope that she will drop the whole ‘womany’ thing sometimes and tear the bad guys new ones but in the mean time she has to keep the façade if she wants to have a shot at re-election (the Christians will never vote for a butch woman, and they seem to have a lot of those in the US).
    Just my two cents, do you recommend the show or is it no good?

  2. scarlett says

    As I said, CiC is farly mixed. On the one hand, Davis is a very capable leader and Mac is faced with such pretty ruthless competition, which she mostly seems to deal with. I’m really interested in how they play this having-dirt-on-Templeton thing that will air tonight.
    But that Davis herself is quite a tall, bulky woman says a lot to me; a woman can only do a ‘man’s’ job if she has a similar physical size to a man. And she always seems to solve problems in a woman’s way; in one scenario, when the Russian president has backed away from a deal he made with the late American President, Mac cajols and flatters him into keeping his side of the agreement. It wasn’t quite ‘pretty please? for me?’ retch-worthy but I couldn’t see a man doing the same thing, it would be beneath his dignity.
    I actually think Mac’s feminine solutions could be an assett to her, if she intersperses them with harder solutions. I’d like to see her solving one problem ‘a woman’s way’ and the next ‘a man’s way’ to illustrate that both ways are approproiate in certain circumstances, hence NEITHER is a man or woman’s way.

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