Nobody behind the Resolute Desk? He's there. You just can't see him.
"Well, who did you
expect to see — the
— Droopy Dog, in the theatrical cartoon Droopy's Good Deed.
It is, in some contexts, not legal to use the actual image of the President of the United States for commercial purposes (Contact
, a film starring Jodie Foster
, came under some fire for recontextualizing actual footage of Bill Clinton
for their own purposes).
Most likely the lawyers have it wrong to some extent. As far as the President, he has just as much rights to exclusive use of his name and face as any other famous individual. However, as a political figure—whether a current or former president—there are First Amendment rights to use the name or likeness of the President in a film when it would be appropriate to do so — such as parody, satire, etc.
There is, however, a law on the books which prohibits use of a president's name or likeness as a trademark for a product during his lifetime or the lifetime of his widow. This is the only actual legal prohibition other than the standard one that applies to all famous persons including politicians. Famous people can stop exploitation of their image based on a right to commercial exploitation (but the President himself has no greater right, and in fact, may have less because he is a politician), thus it is believed that an actual current or former President cannot be used in a film or TV show.
As a result, whenever a scene calls for the President, but the show is meant to be set "in the real world" (and thus, a fictional president is undesirable, and an impersonator
wouldn't be sufficiently convincing), the President is generally implemented as He Who Must Not Be Seen
, especially The Faceless
. If the President is vague to the point that even his name is never said, this is done keep the show from being dated once his term is over (think of how Bart and Lisa Simpson
have been through the entirety of Bush Sr. and Clinton's terms before the show stopped portraying real-life Presidents). The transatlantic counterpart would be the appearance of the outstretched hand of the Queen or Prime Minister, unseen on the other side of the door.
See also No Party Given
. For celebs that are neither politicians nor actors, see Invisible Celebrity Guest
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Anime & Manga
- Axis Powers Hetalia flip-flops between showing leaders and hiding their faces. Given the nature of the series, readers can usually guess who the leaders are.
- Averted in the case of Austria (Maria Theresa), Prussia (Frederick II), Russia (Stalin) and possibly Sealand (Roy Bates or his son).
- Played with for the US Presidents. While their faces are never fully seen, there are subtle cues that hint to who they actually are, such as with Franklin D. Roosevelt in the World War 2 strips.
- A scene of Death Note has one of the organizations talking to the President of the U.S, but is referred to as "Mr.President".
- But only in the anime. The president is David Hoope in the manga. He commits suicide after Mello threatens him with the Death Note in order to prevent nuclear war.
- Heroman plays this...a bit oddly: the President of the United States appears onscreen and has quite a few speaking lines, but looks a lot like former Japanese Prime Minister Jun'ichiro Koizumi.
- Averted in Golgo 13 - whenever the United States Government hires the title character, the then-current President will usually appear. (Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton have both had reason to do so.)
- Hellsing obscures both the faces of Her Highness the Queen and His Holiness the Pope. And yet Alucard still flirts with the former.
- During the Beach Episode of A Certain Magical Index where a worldwide spell switches everyone's bodies, Touma sits down in a lounge and watches Kuroko make a presidential address in place of Obama.
"Yes. We. Can!"
- In Cold Turkey President Richard Nixon appears in the town of Eagle Rock after the town wins the Cold Turkey Challenge. Lampshaded when the news producer present complains that none of his cameramen can get a clear shot of him.
- WarGames features a photograph of the incumbent President on set.
- It's standard practice in US government offices to display pictures of the sitting president and the relevant cabinet secretary (the Defense secretary, in this case, since it's a military base). However, repeatedly zooming in on a picture of the Gipper in a movie that deals with the threat of nuclear holocaust has been seen as a Take That by the director.
- Invasion U.S.A. (1952): an unusual version is used. We see the president's back and part of his face. MST3K parodied this with the line: "Sir, we're over here."
- Wag The Dog almost always has the main characters talking to "the president" on the phone. The one time he's on camera, it's in shadows and from the back only. On the other hand, his opponent is frequently shown in TV ads and on talk shows.
- In the Rowan Atkinson comedy Johnny English, the queen's hands are shown, and her voice is heard, but everything else is just outside the frame.
- The 2007 Transformers movie featured a president whose face was blocked by a pair of feet wearing red socks, who asked an assistant to bring him a Ding-Dong with a Texas accent. This is his only appearance in the film, though the Secretary of Defense later mentions that the current crisis could define his presidency, and after the climax, he dissolves Sector 7 and orders the remains of the Decepticons be dumped in a very deep ocean trench.
- The 2009 sequel doesn't show the President at all, and in all scenes where an actor is talking about him he is referred to only as "the President"...except in one quick blurb that is delivered offscreen from a news bulletin, where he is specifically named as President Obama. This makes sense when you realize that the film was being shot during the 2008 election race and they could only add a name in post-production. Word of God is that Bay added the name as a sort of tribute to him, which is odd considering the main government representative is an Obstructive Bureaucrat who spends the movie trying to kick the Autobots off the planet, and it's implied the administration is considering negotiating with the Decepticons. Also notable is that every time the Bureaucrat does something to annoy, obstruct or hinder the heroes, he does it under the direct orders of the President. The only things he can truly take the blame for are his poor people skills and callous attitude towards the team.
- Then the 2011 sequel averts this, showing the president in name and face.
- The 1967 film comedy The President's Analyst shows the title character entering and leaving the Oval Office, but never shows the president or mentions his name. Even the country's intelligence agencies are aliased to the FBR and the CEA (possibly under pressure to do so), but it's clearly LBJ; one character describes himself as liberal in the same tradition as the president ("you know...we're for civil rights!") In an exterior location shot, we see his beagles being walked on The White House lawn.
- Another obvious Invisible LBJ "appears" in the 1966 film Batman: The Movie. A close-up from the "President's" perspective (thus faceless) shows him reclining in his seat, stroking his dog, and congratulating the Dynamic Duo on the phone, in a cartoonishly stereotypical Texan accent (he even says "Howdy!") provided by Fort Worth-born Van Williams of The Green Hornet.
- Our Man Flint from 1966 has a scene where the president, addressing the world to announce capitulation to the bad guys, is told to stall — he hems and haws in a Johnson-esque drawl.
- The second movie of National Treasure both plays it straight and subverts it. In the reenactment of Lincoln's assassination by John Wilkes Booth, only Lincoln's back and a part of his head was shown even though it is very obvious that it's him and using his name and likeness is legal under the protection of the First Amendment.
- Fast forward to the present time, the current President is fictional. Yet he is still unnamed, only being referred to as "The President".
- The 10th Kingdom has Virginia answering a bland, "The President!" when the trolls are interrogating her on who rules her land.
- A short from The Three Stooges has them prospecting for gold and inadvertently breaking into a federal gold vault. They explain they were trying to pay for a sick kid's operation to a heard but not seen FDR, who pardons them and pays for the operation, because he's a swell guy.
- The Iron Giant has a brief shot of President Eisenhower being briefed on the situation with the Giant, seen from the back. A portrait of Ike is visible in an earlier scene, hanging in the mayor's office.
- Sister Act shows the Pope from behind as he listens to the nuns' concert. (It's clearly meant to be Pope John Paul II, as shown by his coat of arms.)
- The Crazies (1973). A Video Phone link is set up with the President so he can, if required, authorize the use of nuclear weapons to contain the virus. However as the President spends the entire conversation bizarrely sitting with his back to the camera, one wonders why George Romero didn't just have him talking over a telephone speaker.
- Used for satire in Water 1985. The President (implied to be Ronald Reagan) is sitting in the Oval Office with his back to the audience as his staff (facing towards the audience) urge him to invade Cascara to preempt a communist revolution.
"The decision appears to be unanimous, Mr President. [Dramatic Pause
] Well, shall we wake him?"
- The opening chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince book has a scene with a new Prime Minister that visibly strains to avoid naming him or his party. Entertainingly, it still manages to be specific enough to cause a Continuity Snarl — based on other indications about when the books were set, the PM during Half-Blood Prince should have be John Major, but it refers to his predecessor (who would then be Margaret Thatcher) as "he".
- Apparently some of the PM's mannerisms were based on those of Tony Blair, who was PM at the time the book was written (but not at the time in which the book is supposedly set).
- Stephen King's novel Dreamcatcher was finished in mid-November 2000, at which time the outcome of the US presidential election was still in doubt; as such, when the President gives a national address regarding the events of the novel, the book strains to avoid mentioning whether the president was meant to be George W. Bush or Al Gore.
- In The Stand, the President is also never named.
- Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series:
- In an unusual case, Executive Orders does not refer to the President of Iraq by name when he is assassinated. What little characterization there is is entirely in line with Saddam Hussein (who was still in power when the book was published). Noteworthy in that Saddam Hussein was one of the few heads of state who would probably have been referred to by name in normal conversation, and that the book also uses invented leaders for Iran, India, and Russia.
- In Rainbow Six, the President is referred to as "the President" almost exclusively, with one "Jack" slipping in to suggest the novel's events happened during Jack Ryan's presidency.
- In Angels & Demons, the deceased Pope's name and nationality are never stated, although it's pretty obvious that he was a highly-fictionalized John Paul II (Incumbent at the time of its writing).
- The film adaptation names him "Pius XIII", from a brief glimpse of his ring before it's destroyed.
- The President during the time period that The Adventures of Fox Tayle takes place (late 2005 to early 2006, so far) is George W. Bush. Fox Tayle was created in a canceled government project and he escaped, and now the FBI is after him. His long-term goal is to talk to the president to try to get some personal rights and to stop being chased (so far, Bush has only been mentioned twice in the story).
- There's a double-whammy in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Dying Days; it's set in 1997, but at the time of publication (1996) both the American and British national elections were being contested, thus meaning that the identities of both the President and the Prime Minister are deliberately kept vague.
- In book 21 of Animorphs, the main characters break up a summit of several world leaders, and go to great lengths to not refer to the president, or any of the other heads of state, by name. They even decline to mention what country one of the leaders represents, as he had had a little too much to drink and refuses to get out of the way of a rampaging elephant. Averted in the last book, which explicitly refers to President Clinton.
- The President is never seen or mentioned by name in Stargate SG-1 until a new one gets elected in the show's seventh season (though prior to that there's at least one fake-out involving a Body Double).
- Spy Game: we never see the president. All that is shown is his voice level analysis graph on the communications monitor.
- The President on The West Wing was originally intended to be almost entirely unseen — Martin Sheen was originally only contracted for four episodes of the show's first season. In his one scene in the pilot episode, he was so amazingly impressive that they changed their minds and effectively made him the main character.
- The Queen and Prime Minister both appeared as outstretched hands from behind doors in Are You Being Served?.
- The Doctor Who serial The Green Death also portrayed the Prime Minister as an outstretched hand and as the unheard half of a telephone conversation with The Brigadier. In the phone conversation, he was called "Jeremy", a reference to the then leader of the Liberal Party (who was never Prime Minister).
- More recently, Doctor Who has used archival footage of the Queen's coronation for an episode set during the event.
- And during one of the Christmas specials in which the Queen and her staff (and corgis) first evacuate the palace and then wave to a passing spaceship, she is only seen from the back.
- In "Aliens of London", the Doctor asks Rose (after accidentally landing a year late to her home time) who the Prime Minister is. She stares at him cluelessly, and explains it has been a year. This was because the episode was to be broadcast very close to the General Election, and there was no way of guessing the outcome. The corpse of the Prime Minister himself is later found in the episode, though they make sure not to focus on his face.
- Dharma and Greg and fake Southern accents and Al Gore. Enough said.
- Without a Trace features a photograph of the incumbent President on set.
- Similarly, on an episode of Hustle, the Queen's feet were shown, as was her corgi. Earlier in the episode, in a scene at Buckingham Palace, a bell marked 'HRH' was seen to ring in the butler's pantry, suggesting that the Royal Highness in question was calling for assistance.
- The Pentagon drama E Ring had an extreme example where the president was never even mentioned, even though in real life he'd be heavily involved in the military missions each episode featured.
- One episode of the Golden Girls shows Dorothy meeting the President right in her own home, but all the viewer gets to see is the President's hands through the open door.
- The Australian series The Hollowmen is based around a department designed to add positive spin to any and all of the federal government's policies. Despite there being at least a dozen meetings with the Prime Minister and various other politicians over the course of the series, not one of them is ever shown - the audience only ever gets to see just inside the door of the PM's office.
- While Hacker was Minster for Administrative Affairs in Yes, Minister, many characters mentioned the Prime Minister, but the PM never actually showed up on-screen despite occasionally determining the outcome of an episode. Averted once Hacker got the top job himself. Notably, the PM was referred to as 'him' despite Margaret Thatcher being in office at the time. This aided the goal of obfuscating Hacker's party membership: referring to the PM as "her" would have led many the erroneous conclusion that the show was specifically a satire of the current government and/or that Hacker was a Tory. (The series stuck very closely to No Party Given.)
- Old and very funny example. There was a The Lucy Show episode where Lucy and a Girl Scout troop went to visit President John F. Kennedy at The White House. Lucy (Lucille Ball) feels faint and sits down on a historical piece of furniture, Abraham Lincoln's boyhood rocking chair. The chair is too small, and gets stuck to Lucy's adult-sized posterior. As she is stumbling around trying to get this thing off, a voice off camera in the oval office says "It's nice to meet you. I see I am not the only one around with a personal attachment to rocking chairs." This, of course, was an impersonation of JFK. Lucy wattles into the oval office as dignified as she can, patriotic music playing in the background.
- Another old example. The original Get Smart show. CONTROL had a direct phone line to the president. When Chief makes contact, the voice of the president is coming from a stuffed steer head mounted to the wall. The voice was an impersonation of LBJ. "Let us reason together".
- One episode had Max needing to convince his pal (Don Rickles) he was a spy; he puts Rickles on the hot line and he says "Uh-huh. Right. And I'm Sidney Bird." After he's convinced, he tells Max "Hey, I never met the guy, but I use his baby powder all the time!"
- In The Thick of It, Prime Minister Tom Davis is never seen. His predecessor was known only as "the Prime Minister".
- The leader of the opposition, 'JB', is also never seen.
- In Veep, the Transatlantic Equivalent of The Thick of It'', the President is never seen, and his name is not revealed until he resigns at the end of season 3.
- In the season 1 finale of Veronica Mars, the Kane family throws a party where the Governor of California is a guest. Based on the episode's air date and a few chance remarks, it's pretty clear that the governor is intended to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, but his name is never mentioned and he never appears onscreen.
- Doonesbury carries this to its logical extreme by literally showing the president as invisible. This began with George H.W. Bush, to poke fun of his weak stance on issues. Later presidents were shown with floating symbols — Bill Clinton as a waffle (as in "waffling on the issues"); George W. Bush as an asterisk, a cowboy hat, and (after 9/11) a Roman centurion helmetnote . This extended to other politicians, such as Dan Quayle (a feather) and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (a Cartoon Bomb).
- Fallout 3 may or may not be an exception, with President Eden being a computer.
- It probably counts as an exception, since we do — in a manner of speaking — get to see his face. That is, his monitor. There is also some uncertainty as to whether he legally speaking is the President, since the person to tell the surviving Enclave that he was a part of the previous President's cabinet was Eden himself, and we do know he lies and bends the truth...
- President Graham from Resident Evil 4. We never see the president himself (except possibly in some incredibly blurry photographs right before the final boss fight), but we do meet his daughter.
- Two games later, you do meet him in person... and then blow his head off after terrorists finally succeed at infecting the white house.
- The Earthworm Jim cartoon used a generic president. The practice was lampshaded by whomever was meeting/kidnapping him and always introducing himself with "I'm one of those generic presidents they use to keep cartoons from becoming dated."
- The Droopy cartoon Droopy's Good Deed used this at the end, after Droopy's character, a Boy Scout, had won a visit with the President. Droopy lampshaded this after The Unreveal with the page quote above. This also subverted MGM cartoons' tendency towards surprise live-action cameos at the time.
- Also, at the beginning of the same cartoon, when Spike first learns that the winning scout would meet the president, a thought bubble appears over his head as he imagines himself at Washington DC shaking hands with the president, whose body is all but shown entirely, his head out of the thought bubble's frame. So even if the president did appear in the ending, he would probably be given the same treatment that Spike's fantasy gave him.
- An episode of the 1981 Spider-man cartoon has a faceless President refusing to give in to Doctor Doom's demands, and promptly ordering an air strike on his nefarious device (this puts Spider-man's life at risk, since he's there trying to thwart the plan himself, but he doesn't know that). Later, however, at the climax of the show's world-conquering Story Arc, the President — now in complete silhouette — is forced to give up his seat to one of Doctor Doom's robotic proxies.
- In the Batman / Superman crossover "World's Finest" Superman stops a hijacking of Air Force One. After the rescue, they cut to Superman saying "Thank you, Mr. President," through the window of the President's limo, which then drives off.
- In a meta version of this trope, Clint Eastwood appeared at the 2012 Republican Convention and appeared to have a conversation with an empty chair representing President Obama. Immediately, the internet was awash in pictures of vacant chairs, and a new meme was born.
Anime & Manga
- Because they have to sign off on the hiring, whenever the US government hires Golgo 13, the president in office at the time of the story's writing will make an appearance.
- The Read or Die OVA has an unnamed fictional US president in two episodes. He spends most of his time on screen cringing, and caps off both appearances by wetting himself (though on both occasions with good reason; first the White House is getting blown up by a flying man shooting electricity, the second because US fleet just had no effect on a weapon about to destroy the world).
- Often averted in comic books. Kennedy appeared more than once on page (Superman infamously revealed his identity to him in an issue published after his death, and Teen Titans featured an Elseworlds story wherein Kennedy became a space-traveling hero) and Barack Obama was famously given a back-up story in an issue of Spider-Man (after reporting that Stephen Colbert won).
- We see the back of JFK's head in an early '60s Dennis The Menace (US)(!) comic book, uttering his famous "Let me say this about that...", and he's talking off-panel in a Wonder Wart Hog comic of the era.
- After the aforementioned Spider-Man backup story, most every time Obama is pictured in Marvel Comics, he either has his Face Framed in Shadow or is shown from the back. The closest they ever got was with some partial (although heavy) shading on his face in an early issue of Dark Reign, when he has a meeting with Norman Osborn and Doc Samson.
- In Black Summer, the protagonist — a renegade superhero called John Horus — brutally kills President George W. Bush and his colleagues for sending America into the second Iraq war. Bush is seen dead on the cover of issue 0.
- Richard Nixon appears in a relatively early issue of Daredevil, specifically identified as Nixon.
- Then-president Bill Clinton actually delivered the eulogy at Superman's funeral. His face was clearly visible, and Hillary was there, too.
- In a less glamorous moment for Slick Willie, his Marvel Universe self also personally kicked Captain America out of the country after Cap had been accused of treason. Of course, once Cap's name was cleared, he welcomed him back.
- Bill and Hillary also played a significant role in several issues of Supreme, and while he was never shown, Obama was mentioned in the revised 2013 series.
- Until recently, the usual unwritten policy at both Marvel and DC was that the president's face could be shown, but his name never be used; he would always just be called "Mr. President". Marvel broke this rule recently with a few appearances by Barack Obama in which he's referred to by name.
- DC went the opposite route in 2000, when Lex Luthor was elected president. Ever since then, the president in the DCU has always been a fictional character, which obviously allows them to do whatever they want with him.
- Savage Dragon does this quite a bit. When the protagonist wakes up in the first issue with a specific form of amnesia, he mentions that George Bush (senior) is the president but has no information regarding his own name. Later in the series, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all make appearances while in office. This trope is also played with since Dragon himself nearly became the president at one point.
- One Marvel UK issue of The Transformers had Optimus Prime and the Autobots seek an audience with Ronald Reagan. Optimus wanted to explain the Autobots' reason for being on Earth, but were attacked by Decepticons and retreated before their meeting could be concluded.
- A double-sized issue of Captain America has Cap (in his alternate guise as USAgent) trying to stop a Serpent Society plot to contaminate the drinking water of Washington D.C. with a chemical that turns people into Lizard Folk. Cap ends up at the White House, where he gets attacked by a reptillian Reagan. When the effects of the toxin wear off, Ron is dazed and confused, but otherwise unharmed.
- Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt play a fairly large role in the adult comic Doc Dare.
- Played with in the Runaways/Young Avengers Secret Invasion crossover miniseries. During the final battle against Chrell, Speed grabs Molly Hayes and Klara Prast and dumps them somewhere far away from the fighting. Klara looks around and suddenly exclaims "Mr. President!" It turns out they've been dropped off in front of Mt. Rushmore.
- ITS MY LIFE!: By the end of the first fan fiction "the President" appears to give most of the protagonists medals, but it is not revealed who he is. (And, because of the confusing writing, one would assume he is Cave Johnson.) By TEEN FORTRESS 2 we figure out that he is... Abraham Lincoln.
- In a highly controversial exception, the film The Death of a President digitally superimposes the face of George W. Bush onto an actor as he is killed by a sniper.
- A clip of Ronald Reagan appeared in the film of Alien Nation, the producers using the "If not us, who? If not now, when?" quote from his second inaugural address to reference the legislation that recognized the aliens as refugees (and future citizens).
- National Lampoons Senior Trip, which ostensibly takes place in the mid-1990s, depicts a fictional President who looks less like Bill Clinton and more like Franklin Roosevelt (minus the wheelchair).
- The part of the second Austin Powers movie that explicitly takes place in 1969 shows Dr. Evil communicating with a nonexistent American President (played by Tim Robbins) who looks considerably younger and better-looking than Richard Nixon.
- The Naked Gun, in a famous sequence, depicted Queen Elizabeth II attending a baseball game, which turned out to be the setting for an assassination attempt.
- A photograph of Ronald Reagan was prominently displayed in the NORAD command room in War Games. (Probably there because it's Truth in Television - US federal government buildings usually display a photograph of the current President, as with the French example below - but admirers of the "Gipper" have accused the movie of Anviliciously cutting away to his picture every time the Def Con alert was raised.)
- To Live and Die in L.A. had William Peterson as a Secret Service agent trying to take out a terrorist during a speech by President Reagan. We don't see him, as the scene takes place on a rooftop, but audio clips of "the Gipper" are played to make it seem like the speech is in progress. The President doesn't appear again, as the film is about the other job of the Secret Service: stopping counterfeiters.
- In The X-Files: I Want to Believe, Mulder and Scully walk into a government office, where Mulder spies a picture of George W. Bush. He gives Scully a wide-eyed look. Cue the X-Files theme.
- The Queen is a major character in Roald Dahl's The BFG. Admittedly, she's never directly called Queen Elizabeth II... but in the animated version she is drawn to look exactly like her.
- Literary example: World War Z: Howard Dean, Colin Powell, Paris Hilton, Bill Maher, Ann Coulter, and Nelson Mandela are all described in such explicit detail as to leave no doubt who they mean, but characters go to great lengths to avoid naming them. Fidel Castro is mentioned by name, as the leader of Cuba who gives in to democracy — unfortunately, in a context from which actual history has marched on.
- One of Robert Rankin's rather insane stories (his most common thread involves Elvis with a time-traveling sprout lodged in his head) features Prince Charles as a love interest for one of the semi-protagonists, including some quite surprising scenes...
- A recent mockumentary in the UK featured footage of Tony Blair used to talk about a stock market crash.
- Footage of Blair and Bush appeared in an episode of Spooks about a state visit of the latter.
- A Season 1 episode of Third Watch had Hillary Clinton, then the first lady, walking past the main police officers en route to a debate with Republican Rudolph Giuliani during the 2000 Senate campaign.
- NCIS steamrolled this trope in their first episode. The president getting who enters Air Force One is, to all intents and purposes, George W. Bush in practically every respect. He's actually played by Steve Bridges who certainly isn't unfamiliar with playing the role. Archive footage of GWB is also used in the series, such as one of him getting into a helicopter as the NCIS learn of an attempt to take down the helicopter.
- Real footage of Prince Charles was used and redubbed for the finale of Look Around You, to make it look like Prince Charles was actually presenting the Look Around You Award. They even go so far as to make him express an interest in a sex-change device and later get attacked by a mad scientist with a skin spray.
- While the actual president never appeared in The X-Files, a large photo of Bill Clinton was clearly visible in Skinner's office throughout several seasons. However, no pictures of George W. Bush ever appeared after his election.
- However, in the recent movie, both Mulder and Scully notice a picture of Bush in the hallway, walk over to it, and stare at it, as the theme music plays.
- Canada's last two Prime Ministers, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper, both claim cameo appearances as themselves on Corner Gas. Many Canadian politicians have also been known to cameo in sketch comedy shows such as the Royal Canadian Air Farce.
- A first season episode of JAG used stock footage of Bill Clinton jogging through a park, edited to look like Harm, who was jogging the other way, passed him.
- The second season opener starts with Bill Clinton presenting Harm with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Again stock footage was edited into the show.
- In one episode, Bud Roberts carried the so-called "football" for George W. Bush, and archived footage of the President was used in the episode.
- Stock footage of the presidents of the time were often seen in the background in the bullpen scenes. Later seasons featured regular background footage of then-SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld.
- Averted in two ways in Lie to Me. The show has a habit of using still images of famous people to illustrate whatever emotion they're talking about, and a solid majority of these seem to be recent US Presidents (as well as Presidential candidates and Vice Presidents). In addition, President Obama has been referred by name to at least twice so far by the characters in the show.
- Margaret Thatcher famously appeared as herself in a sketch she wrote for Yes, Minister.
- In The Jeffersons (season 4, George and Jimmy) President Carter was invited by George Jefferson to stay at his house.
- When the Prime Minister is the main character, you can't very well keep him invisible, and hence Yes, Prime Minister averts this trope.
- Tony Blair appeared as himself in a Comic Relief sketch of The Catherine Tate Show.
- In the Community episode "Intro to Political Science", the Vice President visiting the college is explicitly identified as Joe Biden, but we only see the back of his head and hear his voice.
- In an episode of Hannah Montana the Obama girls are big fans of Hannah's (just like every other living person under 13) so she is visited by the president. He is shown only from the back and addresses her as "Miley." When Lily gasps "How did he know?" Miley brushes it off with "Well, he is leader of the free world. I think he can keep a secret."
- This was deliberately set up and then subverted in the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics. Given how many portrayals of the Queen in fiction are limited to a shot from behind of a (usually voiceless) grey-haired head in a pastel pink hat, with a corgi trotting around nearby, when Daniel Craig-as-James Bond walks down a Buckingham palace corridor and steps through a door, that's precisely what he seems to be met with. Then she turns around, and it's the real deal. And There Was Much Rejoicing. (There were seditious rumours that it may not have been the actual Queen who followed Bond in parachuting out of a helicopter into the stadium, however.)
- Although current prime ministers and presidents in Doctor Who are usually fictional characters, historical ones are usually accurate. The Eleventh Doctor has met both Richard Nixon and Winston Churchill, for instance.
- Zig-zagged in "The End of Time," which identified the U.S. president as Barack Obama and used actual audio of him, but only showed him from the back or with his face obscured.
- While he is never named, President Obama can be clearly seen in photographs on the wall of Konrad's penthouse in Spec Ops: The Line.
- A fictional US President, whose name is never mentioned, is clearly visible in World in Conflict cutscenes.
- If you are a bad enough dude to save him, President "Ronnie" will treat you to a hamburger.
- Duke Nukem 3D's expansion pack Duke It Out in D.C. had what was for all intents and purposes Bill Clinton, tied to a chair and kept in stasis at the end of the game. Clinton and Janet Reno both appear in framed photographs in the Atomic Edition's 4th episode, as well.
- British Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared as himself in an episode of The Simpsons in 2004, becoming the first serving leader to do so.
- Al Gore, then Vice President, appeared as himself in Futurama in 2000. He reappeared 3 years later as his future self, "Al Gore, First emperor of the moon and Inventor of the Environment."
- Al Gore's daughter just happens to be a writer for Futurama...
- And of course, the President of Earth in 3000 is Richard Nixon's Head.
- A fictional president bearing a passing resemblance to George Bush appears in Justice League, albeit in a parallel universe run by the Justice Lords, who now decide when (or if) elections are held.
- Played straighter in Unlimited, where in the aftermath of the Watchtower being overridden and firing on Earth, J'onn receives a call from the President, who is not clearly shown.
- Bill Clinton ended up with quite a bit of animated screen time in Animaniacs, Freakazoid! and Pinky and the Brain as the current President. (Prior series Tiny Toon Adventures used Abraham Lincoln as a generic President). Al Gore doesn't get quite as much, but he does show up a few times. Of course, this isn't quite the actual image, merely an animated version several times.
- Bill Clinton is in the opening credits of Animaniacs, with the line "Bill Clinton plays the sax."
- Of course, an exception for Tiny Toons was the Very Special Episode about Media Watchdogs, where the cast went to the capitol to pick on the Bush administration in person (the highlight was, of course, Quayle).
- Arthur had a Bill Clinton-like President in one episode, and a George W. Bush-like one in another.
- On The Cleveland Show, Cleveland initially does not realize that the Barry Obama he beat at basketball as a child grew up to be President.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Plastic Man doesn't recognize President Obama at the end of "Cry Freedom Fighters!"
- Family Guy has never shied away from portraying sitting Presidents, having done so with Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
- In an episode of The Flintstones, Fred dreams of teaching a prehistoric version of LBJ (and some of his Cabinet) "The Twitch. "
- French films or live-action TV are an inversion of this trope. In France, every police station and town hall is required to display the official portrait of the current president. And during last a half century, every president had a very long term (the mandate was originally seven years, and Mitterrand was able to run two full mandates). So, it is very common in French films or live-action TV to display the president's portrait, even if the show is about people way too unimportant to deal with the actual president.
- The same holds true in several countries with regimes at least nominally modeled on that of France. This is most especially common in the Middle East, where semi-presidential authoritarian regimes abound; the portrait of Hosni Mubarak in particular became famous across the Arab world because of all the Egyptian musalsalat in which the characters have to go to a government office only to stare at his mug hanging over the head of some petty official.
- Every diplomatic mission of the United States has a portrait of the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State; very often this is at the security checkpoint. So if you go into the gatehouse of the American Embassy pretty much anywhere, you will, as you empty your pockets and submit to scanning, be treated to the smiling faces of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.