It’s been said that being a geek is pretty accepted in mainstream culture these days. It’s true that for many people an interest in superheroes and sci-fi is no longer something to hide like it once was. So much so, that we’re starting to see politicians mix with sci-fi and fantasy fandom in interesting ways. Sometimes these political forays into fandom are amusing, sometime they are accidental, sometimes they are cringe-worthy and sometimes they are supposedly scandalous. But every one of these instances proves that these beloved works of fiction are seeping into the national consciousness more every day. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable times politicians braved geeky waters.
Jeb Bush and Supergirl
The most recent instance of politics and fandom mixing was definitely pretty high on the “cringe” scale. On October 21, during an interview with the LIBRE initiative, presidential candidate Jeb Bush was lobbed an easy question, “Who’s your favorite Marvel superhero?”, but he dropped the ball. He struggled a little with the question before saying something about Batman, who is not a Marvel property. But that’s fair enough, after all, comics knowhow isn’t required for running the United States (as much as we might wish it was).
However, professionalism is, so Bush’s next comment was a little suspect. He stated that he liked what he’d seen of the previews for the new Supergirl TV show and finished up that “she looked pretty hot”. Truly, a deep insight into what America values in a hero. That’s the kind of answer you’d except from a socially awkward tween boy, not an adult running for the Oval Office.
Even Bush himself seemed to realize the comment was sophomoric, because he asked the interviewer “You want to get me out of the hole I just dug?” Sadly, that particular mild-mannered reporter was no Superman, and was thus unable to rescue Bush from said hole. Bush realized that the comment was probably going to be on the news and he was correct.
When Melissa Benoist, Supergirl’s actress heard of the comment, she broke down in laughter. “I heard about it, but I don’t know what I think about it. I’m glad he’s excited to watch the show.” In an effort to redirect attention to the actual content of her work, she followed the statement up by saying she wanted to the show to inspire and reach out to young girls.Advertisement
Herman Cain and Pokemon
As awkward as Jeb Bush’s comments on Supergirl were, nothing beats the amusing awkwardness of Herman Cain accidentally quoting the Pokemon movie.
The Republican hopeful presidential candidate first used uttered the verse “Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It’s never easy when there’s so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There’s a mission just for you and me” when he kicked off his campaign in May 2011 and continued to quote it again and again,first at the Republican Leadership Conference and then at a debate. He attributed the quote first to a song from the 2000 Olympics and then to “a poet”. I suppose you could call Pokemon a sort of poetry, moving people’s hearts with its beauty…with Pikachu’s squeaking as the refrain…
It was eventually bought to Cain’s attention the quote actually came from the theme song of Pokemon The Movie: 2000, “The Power of One”. Cain got very flustered, denying being a closet anime fanboy. He eventually figured out where he’d heard the lyrics, claiming it was from a “collage NBC put together after the 2000 Olympics”. I guess some NBC crew member was the real weaboo culprit.
When Cain gave the speech ending his campaign, he used the quote once more, but finally attribute its proper source. “I believe these words came from the Pokemon movie” he said grandly. David Graham wrote a thinkpiece on the whole Pokemon fiasco where he concluded that the mistaken use of the Pokemon quote was emblematic of Cain’s campaign and platform as a whole. He stated it was Cain’s legacy to be someone who reaches for “for snappy, glib, inspirational phrases—often, it seemed, without having thought them through.” Ouch.
Barack Obama and Star Trek and Superman
While these presidential candidates were laughably clueless about pop culture, the current Commander-in Chief has geek cred aplenty. He’s professed his love for Star Trek- flashing the “Live Long and Prosper” and even teasing the First Lady that her belt was studded with “dilithium crystals”. He’s also posed in front of a Superman statue and once joked “I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-El to save the planet Earth”.
It’s not overly surprising Obama has some geek cred as it’s a fairly common thing these days. The new Prime minster of Canada, Justin Trudeau is also a Trekkie, after all.
But the news media’s reaction to it was unintentionally hilarious. There were TONS of actual news articles debating whether the president really qualified as a “geek”. We were always inches from having “Barack Obama- Fake geek boy?” as a headline. Many articles tried to educate the audience in the subtle differences between “geek”, “nerd” and “dork” to assure readers Obama didn’t fall into the latter two categories. Some wondered if he was “too cool” to be a geek. He doesn’t even live in his mother’s basement. One article even tried to determine his “geek quotient” using a fine-tuned formula. The debate rages on to this day.
Colleen Lachowicz and World of Warcraft
The 2012 Democrat candidate for the Maine State Senate had geek cred so hardcore her opponents tried to attack her over it. Her Republican opponents discovered that Colleen Lachowicz had a persona named Santiaga in the popular RPG World of Warcraft. A persona that was fond of dickpunching her foes and claimed to be part of a socialist guild, no less!
The opponents set up a website called “Colleen’s World” dedicated to shaming this persona, calling Lachowicz’s behavior “crude, vicious and violent” and stating “Maine needs a State Senator that lives in the real world, not in Colleen's fantasy world”.
However, the move backfired. It garnered national attention and Lachowicz responded by rightly pointing out that her hobbies weren’t relevant to the campaign issues and that millions of people played games. She even called the Republican party “out of touch”, Gamers together to support Lachowicz, raising money for organizations supporting her under the title “Friends of Santiago”. In the end, Lachowitz won the election. She celebrated like a true geek- playing the Final Fantasy IV track “Victory Warfare” on her Facebook page.
Jake Rush and LARPing
There are Republican geeks too though, of course. Another case of a politician’s geeky passions being used against them in an election come from the 2014 Republican primary race between Jake Rush and Ted Yoho for the Florida seat at the House of Representatives. Supporters of Yoho uncovered that Rush had an interest in roleplay. He’d cosplayed as several characters, including the Flash and was part of a live-action roleplay committee devoted to Vampire: The Masquerade.
There was much to-do about Rush’s "bizarre double life", but he compared it to acting and stated that “there was nothing wrong with being a gamer”. However, he did eventually delete some of the photos from the internet stating that they were “a little embarrassing” and he didn’t want the issue to overshadow his campaign.
Rush wasn’t as successful as Lachowicz and ended up losing the primary to Yoho. But maybe the 15 minutes of fame his LARPing granted was enough spotlight for a lifetime.