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The Prime-Time Presidency

The West Wing and U.S. Nationalism

Trevor Parry-Giles

Publication Year: 2006

Contrasting strong women and multiculturalism with portrayals of a heroic white male leading the nation into battle, The Prime-Time Presidency explores the NBC drama The West Wing, paying particular attention to its role in promoting cultural meaning about the presidency and U.S. nationalism. Based in a careful, detailed analysis of the "first term" of The West Wing's President Josiah Bartlet, this criticism highlights the ways the text negotiates powerful tensions and complex ambiguities at the base of U.S. national identity--particularly the role of gender, race, and militarism in the construction of U.S. nationalism. Unlike scattered and disparate collections of essays, Trevor Parry-Giles and Shawn J. Parry-Giles offer a sustained, ideologically driven criticism of The West Wing. The Prime-time Presidency presents a detailed critique of the program rooted in presidential history, an appreciation of television's power as a source of political meaning, and television's contribution to the articulation of U.S. national identity.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Our interest in The West Wing began, like so many other avid viewers, with the show’s debut in 1999 and has not waned since. Our academic interest in the program began at almost the same time, and along the way numerous individuals have contributed to our thinking about the program, the issues it raises, ...

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Introduction: The Presidency, Prime-Time Popular Culture, and U.S. Nationalism

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pp. 1-20

On December 13, 2000, millions of Americans turned to their television sets at 9:00 p.m. EST to view a program about presidential politics.NBC promised viewers that Wednesday evening a gripping and insightful exploration of an assassination attempt on senior White House staff members. ...

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1. The West Wing as a Political Romance

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pp. 21-53

In 2001 the Council for Excellence in Government conducted a survey that asked Americans for their perceptions about government employees. The study discovered that elected officials had the “second most improved image” among all occupations, moving them ahead of business leaders and teachers in public esteem. ...

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2. Gendered Nationalism and The West Wing

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pp. 54-86

For many scholars the concepts of nationalism and gender are inextricable. As Jean Pickering and Suzanne Kehde argue,“Nationalism is the field over which gender differences are played out, making possible what otherwise seems an irrational if common disposition of putative gender differences.”1 ...

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3. Racialized Nationalism and The West Wing

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pp. 87-117

From its very constitutional beginning, race and citizenship were contested issues for the United States. In Article 1, section 2 of the Constitution, significantly, the measure of taxation was calculated “by adding the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, ...

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4. Militarized Nationalism and The West Wing

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pp. 118-150

Article 2, section 1, of the Constitution declares, “The executive Power shall be vested in the President of the United States,” who will likewise serve, section 2 commands, as the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militias of the several states, when called into the actual Service of the United States.” ...

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5. The West Wing's Prime-Time Nationalism

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pp. 151-172

On the morning of September 11, 2001, a worldwide audience watched in horror as the World Trade Center collapsed, a portion of the Pentagon was destroyed, and another airliner crashed into a Pennsylvania field. That date has joined other extraordinary moments in U.S. history—December 7, 1941, November 22, 1963, and April 19, 1995 ...

Appendix A: The West Wing Episode Directory

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pp. 173-178

Appendix B: The West Wing Character Directory

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pp. 179-182


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pp. 183-202


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pp. 203-222


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pp. 223-231

E-ISBN-13: 9780252092091
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252030659

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2006