*Last weekend saw the release of the second “White House is taken over by terrorists!” film of 2013, the action-thriller “White House Down.”
The film comes on the heels of the similar “Olympus Has Fallen,” which boasted almost the exact same plot when it came out in March. That previous one starred Gerard Butler as the lone-wolf Secret Service agent trying to rescue the president (former Harvey Dent Aaron Eckhardt); the new one stars Channing Tatum as a Capitol Police officer teaming up with the president (Jamie Foxx) to battle the bad guys.
It’s been fascinating to see – as the buzz has built around this movie – the complete and utter lack of one talking point: the fact that there’s a black man playing the president in “White House Down.” Of course, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise; after all, the real-life leader of the free world really is a black man. It’s no longer something to really be discussed.
However, it really wasn’t that long ago where Hollywood casting an African-American as the American president really did raise eyebrows. It’s worth seeking out “The Man” from 1972 – starring James Earl Jones as a black man thrust into the highest office in the land, it’s a flawed but fascinating movie, one that deserves to have more attention put upon it as a cinematic groundbreaker.
Morgan Freeman was a natural presence as the president in the asteroid-hits-the-earth thriller “Deep Impact” in 1998 – in fact, his role is pretty much the only thing anyone ever remembers about that film. Let’s also not forget the groundbreaking work the great Dennis Haysbert did in the television series of “24,” playing an intelligent, wise and tough-as-nails commander-in-chief.
In all of those programs, the color of the man in the oval office was at least part of the discussion surrounding the film or television series. That provided some welcome, open dialogue for the public. For “White House Down,” it hasn’t been present. It’s just been one line of description in the screenplay; that’s a real testament to how far we’ve come.