Useful Notes: John F. Kennedy

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

" we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier—the frontier of the 1960's—a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils— a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats."
John F. Kennedy, Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination for the Presidency of the United States, July 15, 1960

Often simply referred to by his initials of JFK, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 — November 22, 1963) was President of the United States from 196163, after Dwight D. Eisenhower and before Lyndon Johnson, whose assassination in office gave rise to a million Government Conspiracy theories. He was known for his particularly inspirational turns-of-phrases in his speeches and overseeing an era of American history rife with social and political turmoil. Kennedy was also the first Irish-American and the first (still only) Roman Catholic to be elected President as well as the last (thus far) President to die in office.

A youthful, glamorous and invigorating figure, along with his attractive wife Jacqueline Bouvier and his young family, Kennedy was seen as introducing a new and liberating era to American political and cultural life after the stifling and stuffy days of The Fifties, and his time in office was dubbed "Camelot" soon after his death. Despite this, his short term was filled with crises and political upheaval, such as the CIA-directed 'Bay of Pigs' invasion of Communist Cuba, which went belly-up. This failed invasion soured relations with Cuba (never that strong to begin with) and eventually led in 1962 to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Domestically, the Civil Rights Movement proved a vexing political problem. The Democratic Party's power base was in the South, so Kennedy was really reticent to alienate his supporters there. However, Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellows were not about let this stop their crusade for racial equality and justice. To that end, they forced the issue by staging nonviolent protests and similar actions to provoke white racist authorities and mobs to go berserk against them. Although this was of course dangerous with casualties, Kennedy could not ignore the resulting footage of such white supremacist brutality and eventually moved to support their cause.

On November 22, 1963, Kennedy visited Dallas, Texas as part of campaigning for his upcoming run for re-election. As his motorcade passed the Texas Book Depository at Dealey Plaza, shots were fired; Kennedy was hit in the head and torso, and rushed to hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Although a single gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, was later arrested and identified as the main suspect of the assassination, numerous irregularities in the record — along with Oswald's own assassination, by a mob-connected nightclub owner named Jack Ruby — soon gave rise to numerous conspiracy theories about who had really killed Kennedy.

Due to his iconic status, Kennedy is still liable to be invoked by fanboys and wannabes, who thereby tend to make themselves very much liable to the Wannabe Diss - just ask Dan Quayle. His popular success as President and his assassination also largely killed American prejudice against at least lay Roman Catholics as a minority group.

When portrayed in fiction (and when he's not there purely to be killed), expect to hear a highly exaggerated version of his quite distinctive New England accent. He was famous for his harnessing of mass media to rally support, and as a result, he remains somebody who can be recognized simply by the sound of his voice. To this day, many attempts at "Bawstin" accents try to simply copy Kennedy's speaking patterns, even though many New Englanders will be among the first to tell you that the Kennedys are the only people who actually speak like that.

Kennedy in fiction

Note: Please only add examples where Kennedy appears as a character. If he is only shown in order to be assassinated, put the entry under Who Shot JFK?.

  • Comedian Vaughn Meader made his name as a spot-on impersonator of JFK; his album of Kennedy skits The First Family was very successful, until Kennedy's assassination killed it, along with Meader's career.
    • Though JFK himself once said in a press conference, "I've listened to Mr. Meader's record but I think it sounded more like Teddy than it did me."

Comic Books
  • In Watchmen, JFK is seen, meeting Dr. Manhattan on the White House lawn. He asks what it's like to be a superhero and is told, "You should know, Mr. President." Attention is drawn briefly to the oddity of his assassination by Manhattan. The Comedian was in Dallas that day, as the bodyguard for Nixon, and Ozymandias briefly implies he either knew about the shooting beforehand or was actually the one who carried it out. The movie adaptation drops the ambiguity and outright shows the Comedian sneaking away from the grassy knoll after making the shot.
  • A 2007 Teen Titans comic book written by Silver Age author Bob Haney and deliberately emulating that era's wacky hijinks has the team rescuing JFK from alien mods who kidnapped him, replaced him with one of their own, and made them their ruler to fight a tribe of savage space hippies. In the end, JFK and the Titans convince the two warring races to work through their differences, our young heroes return to Earth to find that the alien impostor had solved the Cuban Missile Crisis and been assassinated, and swear to keep JFK's true whereabouts a secret while the President leads the mods and hippies in a war against evil robots. Whew!
  • In the "Damnation's Flame" arc of Hellblazer, Kennedy appears, complete with head wound, in a bizarre afterlife filled with twisted versions of American symbolism, trapped there by the American people's reverence for him. He partners up with John Constantine in exchange for help with ousting the "incumbent President": Abraham Lincoln.
  • Superman met President Kennedy on several occasions in the Silver Age. For instance, there was a story where Kennedy impersonated Clark Kent to help Superman hide his Secret Identity. This also include the classic tale "Superman's Mission For President Kennedy," which was originally to be published in late 1963 but was pulled after JFK's assassination. The story was finally published several months later, per the request of President Johnson and the Kennedy family. Thanks to comics' sliding-scale timeline, the above tale was rewritten in The '80s as "Superboy's Mission For President Kennedy."
  • Supergirl also met President and Mrs. Kennedy soon after her existence was revealed to the world in February 1962. Jack said "I know you'll use your super-powers not only to fight crime, but to preserve peace in our troubled world!" She said, "Thank you, Mr. President, I will," but what she was thinking was "The President's wife looks gorgeous!"

  • Actually, it isn't fiction, but the groundbreaking 1960 documentary Primary records the contest between Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey in the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic primary.
  • Thirteen Days focuses on the Cuban Missile Crisis from the point of view of Kennedy and his senior advisors.
  • Forrest Gump meets him when he becomes a member of the All-American team. And tells him that he really has to pee.
  • CSA: The Confederate States of America features JFK as the first Northerner elected since the American Civil War. He supports the abolition of slavery as well as giving women the vote. Ultimately, he gets shot in this timeline as well for those views, essentially killing any progress he made toward his goals.
    • Somewhat interestingly in this alternate timeline, the major political party realignment in the 20th Centurynote  never happens, so in the 1960 election, Kennedy is the Republican candidate while Nixon is the Democrat.
  • In An American Carol a political comedy that uses the structure of A Christmas Carol, he shows up as a Jacob Marley Expy.
  • Is played by James Marsden in Lee Daniels' The Butler
  • Parts of the JFK assassination was featured in the movie The House of Yes. One of the main characters modeled herself after Jackie O.

  • The Last Hurrah has a character named Kevin McCluskey, who runs against the incumbent mayor, Frank Skeffington. McCluskey is a telegenic but politically inexperienced candidate with a fancy education, a pretty wife, smiling kids, a respectable war record from his service in the Navy, and more good looks than brains. It should be noted that James Michael Curley, the alleged real-life basis for Skeffington, served briefly in the United States Congress, and the person who replaced him in his Congressional seat was a young but ambitious neophyte politician named John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It should also be noted that the original novel was published in 1956, four years before Kennedy became President, making this a strange real-life case of Retroactive Recognition.
  • Kennedy appears in The Two Georges (which also features his old enemy Richard Nixon in a prominent role) as a newspaper publisher sympathetic to an extremist 'liberation' movement operating within a North America which, after a peaceful resolution to what would have become the American War of Independence, remains subject to a British hegemony. He tries his legendary charms on the main female character — who, notably (and apparently rarely) is actually discomforted and repelled by his advances, considering them borderline sexual harassment.
  • Stephen King's novel 11/22/63 deals with a man traveling back in time to 1958 to stop the Kennedy assassination. It ends rather badly. The Vietnam War ends with Saigon being nuked, India and Pakistan have a limited nuclear exchange. Russia collapses, and Maine ends up becoming part of Canada. Also, due to terrorism, and the aforementioned nuclear exchange, most of the planet has to deal with terrible radiation poisoning. Even worse, due to the amount of times history has been changed by the protagonist, and others, going back in time, the entire universe is in danger of destroying itself. Luckily, he hits the Reset Button.
  • Alternate Kennedys, a 1992 anthology of 25 Alternate History stories revolving around the Kennedys; David Gerrold contributed "The Kennedy Enterprise", which has an alternate JFK as an actor who went on to portray the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
  • Kennedy appears in the backstory of the alternate history novel Resurrection Day and is at the center of yet another conspiracy. Most of the world reviles Kennedy as the insane monster who started the Cuban War, obliterated the Soviet Union, and reduced the United States to a third world pariah reliant on British foreign aid. Most people believe Kennedy died when Washington was bombed, while a few more assume he's incarcerated by the ruling military government as a war criminal along with his surviving administration. A small minority of conspiracy theorist thinks Kennedy is innocent and that he's just hiding, waiting to come out and lead America back to greatness. Turns out the conspiracy theorists are only partially right. Kennedy did die during the bombing of Washington, but only because he refused to leave, working to the very last second to try to broker a cease fire with the Soviets and Cubans after one of his more hawkish generals went over his head and invaded Cuba.

Live-Action TV
  • Played by Martin Sheen in the 1983 TV miniseries Kennedy.
  • Red Dwarf presents an unusual solution to the mystery of his assassination: Kennedy himself did it. From the Grassy Knoll. Or rather, Kennedy from an Alternate History in which he survived his assassination attempt and was later impeached due to his affair with the mistress of a mob boss, which led to the Soviets winning the Cold War.
  • In the episode "Profile in Silver" of the 1980s version of The Twilight Zone, a distant descendant of JFK who is a professor of history uses a time machine to travel from the 22nd century to 1963 to "witness" Kennedy's assassination. He prevents it instead, which in turn triggers World War III. At the end of the show the professor ends up taking Kennedy's place at Dealey Plaza and is assassinated, while Kennedy ends up in the 22nd century and teaches history.
  • A MADtv skit showed him encouraging Bill Clinton to continue with his philandering.
  • The Kennedys, a 2011 miniseries looking at the Kennedy family's rise to public prominence and their Glory Days during the 1960s, focuses heavily on JFK. It received a certain amount of controversy because of allegations of historical inaccuracy and highlighting some of the negative aspects of the family, which was helped by the fact that several of the producers (including Joel Surnow) are outspoken conservatives).
    • That being said, the series actually ended up portraying the family—and in particular Robert F. Kennedy, played by Barry Pepper in an Emmy-winning performance—rather sympathetically. Though JFK's philandering is obviously there and alluded to, the series doesn't actually include any sex scenes, and it makes it clear that he does love Jackie. (Which is ironic, as one of its early critics' main concerns was that it would be an overly sexed-up version of history.) It's also fairly accurate, compared to many other works of historical fiction.
  • In the Alternate Universe in Fringe, Kennedy is still alive (having served a full two terms as President) and is just preparing to resign as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

  • The 1960 scene from the musical Merrily We Roll Along has the number "Bobby and Jackie and Jack," sending up the extended Kennedy family and JFK's cultural aspirations.

Video Games
  • In Assassin's Creed II, it's implied that JFK was part of the Assassins. And it is all but outright said that Lee Harvey Oswald was a Templar who shot him, apparently to recover a Piece of Eden, then used another one to make a hologram of the two guys on The Grassy Knoll.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops, being set in the 1960s, naturally features JFK. In the regular story mode, Kennedy meets Alex Mason, the player character, and authorizes the assassination of the Big Bad. Later, it's revealed that Mason was brainwashed to kill Kennedy by the Big Bad, which he may have actually done. In The Stinger of story mode, Kennedy and Robert McNamara, along with Richard Nixon, interrogate Castro on the recent missile crisis. Then, zombies invade the Pentagon. And you get to kill them as Kennedy.

Western Animation
  • JFK's clone is the Jerk Jock and one of the main characters of Clone High. Foa suppah, he, er, uh, wants a pahty plattah.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Simpson Tide", Abe Simpson beats up Kennedy after mistaking him for a Nazi ("Ich Bin Ein Berliner").
    • In "Little Girl of the Big Ten," he appears in a fantasy sequence for Lisa.
    • Uh, not to mention the fact that Mayor Quimby's character is based off of Kennedy, from accent to womanizing to mob ties, even "Ich bin ein Springfielder."
      • More likely, Quimby is meant to be a parody of Ted Kennedy although one could argue that he is a Composite Character of all three Kennedy brothers.
    • In "Duffless", a flashback shows a young Homer watching a Duff Beer commercial with Kennedy endorsing it, prompting him to briefly impersonate him.

Alternative Title(s):

John F Kennedy