In a time when the current president is fighting an unpopular war and the opposing party doesn’t have a clear front-runner to challenge him in 2004, it seems fitting that the country would turn to Chris Rock for the answer. Even if it’s just for a laugh.
While Head of State, which has Rock’s character become the first black president of the United States, is highly unrealistic in its approach to real-world politics, it still serves as an alternative to the present situation.
And in doing so, it allows black audiences to see what it would be like if someone who actually cared about their cause represented them rather than relying on a white liberal who’s just trying to get their vote. The problem of the film is not that a black person can’t be president, it’s that Rock wouldn’t make the best candidate. Although the comedian’s rhetoric — in his stand-up routine and in the film — is as funny and intelligent as anything that comes out of Dennis Miller’s mouth, he provides many problems, but few solutions. Plus, foreign policy is never touched upon in the script.
Not that Rock, who made his directorial debut with Head of State, set out to do anything more than make a few people laugh. By using the office of the president as his forum, he simply followed in the footsteps of such recent comedies as Dave and The American President and NBC’s current drama, The West Wing. In each Hollywood variation of the White House, the protagonist serves as an alternative to the real-life version.
In the case of President Bush, Head of State‘s Mays Gilliam (Rock) and West Wing‘s Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) are as far removed as one can get.
In last week’s episode of The West Wing, Bartlett was described as “the most liberal president this country will see in some time,” which is a far cry from Bush’s epitaph.
But that’s where entertainment can come in and pick up the ball for those fed up with the real thing. Liberals can simply flip the channel from CNN or go see a movie to get the president they want.
So while Sheen portrays a man too good to be true and Rock’s comedy borders on farce, they still serve their purpose for a means of escaping reality, even if it’s for a few hours.
And during that time, one can’t help but dream: “Oh, if it were only this good, for real.”