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.