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Artistic License Politics

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"[T]he climactic scene of Rob Lurie’s Oscar-nominated The Contender features the film’s chief executive (played by Jeff Bridges) delivering a rousing speech before Congress in which he shames the opposition into confirming his female vice-presidential nominee … This is apparently because shaming people into realizing the blindly self-evident nature of your political predilections has a long history of success in affairs of state."

Regardless of the stereotypes attached to it, at the end of the day, politics is a job. And a boring one at that (how many of you watch the local legislative channel?) Some legislations might have the occasional fight from time to time, but for the most part it's just a bunch of people talking about boring things following rules that may take years to fully understand.

Which explains why many writers don't even bother to try.

Writers will present a simpler vision of politics for storytelling reasons. Since many stories regarding politics tend to be Wish Fulfillment, the story will show one side to be in the wrong, and the other to be the protagonist's side. And actual policy-making tends to be discarded for as much drama as can be added. The Political Strategy Game genre tends to take artistic liberties with political systems in order to reduce their overwhelming complexity to something actually playable.


Compare Artistic License – Law for other bureaucratic and Acceptable Breaks from Reality.

  • 0% Approval Rating: No matter how radical or despised a public officer might be, someone will support them, so it's impossible for any candidate to not receive any votes at all.
  • 100% Adoration Rating: As with the previous trope, no matter how mainstream and beloved a public officer might be, they will have dissidents, so it's impossible for any candidate to receive all the votes.
  • All Elections Are Serious Business: Few people care enough to go and vote for any office that is not the highest one.
  • Decided by One Vote: Vote counting is not an exact science. If an election ends either with a single vote win, or a perfect tie, rather than wacky hijinks what normally follows is a recount, because it's likely that some votes might have been missed.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Can happen from time to time, but in real life it tends to really anger not only the host country, but also the sending one who, if the crime is that despicable, will be happy to retire the immunity of their own diplomat.
  • Easy Evangelism: Politicians are unlikely to completely change the view of all people with a single well-rehearsed speech.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Truth in Television. The power of the president can vary a lot from country to country, from almost dictatorial powers to just a ceremonial post. Though rarely will the president be fighting directly in the front lines.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: More prominent in the past, today many people prefer that their royals do very little (those that actually remain, that is).
  • Ultimate Authority Mayor: Mayors still have to deal with higher authorities and bureaucracy for many projects, even if they will only affect their own cities.
  • We All Live in America: The laws and bodies of each country are different. As well as how powerful each of them are. So it would be wrong to show the election for president of France, Mexico, or Spain as a two-way race as in the United States.

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    Comic Books 
  • The entire premise of Civil War hinges on the notion that the United States Congress managed to pass a Super Registration Act with bipartisan support within weeks of the Stamford Incident. Even under normal circumstances, the idea of passing such large-scale legislation in a matter of weeks is unthinkable. What's more, this was back during the 109th United States Congress (2005-2006), one of the most notoriously dysfunctional sessions in recent American history.
  • Watchmen: With his increased popularity after victory in Vietnam, President Richard Nixon makes a successful push to overturn the 22nd Amendment and win a 3rd term. Amendments are notoriously difficult to pass and even harder to repeal, the latter compared to the likelihood to living to 80 and being struck by lightning. This is on top of the United States having a strong tradition of only two presidential terms ever since 1789, before the 22nd Amendment made it official in 1951.

    Film-Live Action 
  • In Godzilla (1998) has a scene where a US Army is inquiring what a Frenchman is doing at the scene of the clawed freighter. The problem? It's in Tahiti, a French overseas territory. The US troops are the ones who shouldn't be there. No wonder the French sent their secret service after them.
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington:
    • The whole premise starts with the governor unsure of who to appoint, and when using a coin flip to choose between his two top choices, the coin rolls under a piece of furniture, so he forgets the whole thing and decides to choose Smith, an extremely inexperienced but reputable person who is (presumably) malleable to his corrupt needs. However, given the ambition for lower politicians to take opportunities to move up in the political world, the governor picking someone out of the blue with absolutely no political experience or ambition would be met with extreme uproar among the state's politicians, especially those who wanted the spot. While ambitious politicians can tolerate losing a spot to another politician, losing it to someone like Smith would not be tolerated, even among many voters.
    • Smith is able to order the entire Senate to be forced to attend his 24-hour filibuster because the entire assembly (save Smith) storms out in protest over him, making him the "majority party" and thereby able to order everyone else back inside. In reality, Senators are well-acquainted with this tactic and at least two others would stay behind and keep one from passing such singular motions.
    • Since none of the other Senators support Smith, they should be able to shut down his filibuster with a two-thirds vote (3/5ths after 1975).
    • Smith is able to sustain his filibuster by reading the entire United States Constitution. In reality, the Constitution (particularly around 1939) is not long enough to sustain 24 hours worth of reading.
  • At the end of My Fellow Americans, after President Haney resigns and former President Douglas reveals he recorded an incriminating conversation that will get Vice President Matthews thrown out of office Douglas states that under the 25th Amendment the Speaker of the House will become President. The 25th Amendment doesn't address that - it only addresses how the VP becomes President, how a President can appoint a new VP should there be a vacancy, and when the President is incapacitated or unable to discharge his duties. The Presidential Succession Act describes who becomes President if the President and Vice President die, resign or are removed.

    Video Games 
  • Republic: The Revolution is a Political Strategy Game that reduces democratic process to a Three-Stat System that represents both ideology and resources of each political party and voting group: Wealth, Influence, and Force. The fourth parameter, representing the general support by the populace, is derived from the first three and from the success or failure of about a dozen different political operations your faction performs before the elections.
    Web Original 
    Western Animation 
  • In Amphibia, the episode "Hop Popular" included Hopadiah Plantar running for Mayor in the town of Wartwood, challenging Mayor Toadstool. At the end of the episode, Hopadiah loses the election because, even though the entire town voted for him, the rest of the valley also had a vote.
  • George of the Jungle's episode, "Kings Back To Back", a wealthy narcissist Seymour Nudnik challenges George of the Jungle for his title, King of the Jungle. While Seymour had enough capital to buy the votes of the natives, George let loose his Signature Roar, which summoned a legion of hippies (George intended to summon hippos, but erred). Somehow, these newcomers that outnumbered the natives were allowed to vote, swinging the election in George's favor.
  • Played for laughs in Gravity Falls. Quentin Trembly, the 8th and a half President of the United States, is said to have declared war on pancakes and appointed 4 babies to the Supreme Court, although it is stated that he was taken out of office due to this (among other things) the fact that he was actually able to implement them in the first place would be impossible.
  • In Rick and Morty, the President of the United States actively dismisses Brazil's sovereignty when he learns of first contact with an alien species that set up a settlement in the Amazon rainforest. He orders his forces to proceed to the site and activate their deficit-tripling portal technology just so that he can get the credit for making first contact. He openly touts that the United States is the dominant superpower and essentially rules the world, which gives him the clout to ignore other countries completely.


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