English 345 (Blog Post #5: Independence Day)

Let’s consider the two 1990s films we’ve seen for this course. How do their views of the U.S. government differ and/or align?  What do you think viewers are supposed to take away on this point in terms of a group response that is—like all genres—therapeutic?

17 thoughts on “English 345 (Blog Post #5: Independence Day)

  1. I think that The American President and Independence Day are very pro-government. Both have the President as one of the main characters and both depict the representative of the U.S. government overcoming an obstacle. The two films do differ in their way of showing their appreciation for the U.S. government. The American President gives a glimpse into the inner-workings of politics and uses its main characters to show that not all politicians are bad. On the other hand, Independence Day takes a military route and shows that the U.S. government can come together with the rest of the world to defeat an alien if called upon. Both scripts contain unrealistic scenarios (a President having a girlfriend while in office and not getting mocked for all eternity?), but use said unrealistic scenarios to make the U.S. government seem like a superpower of good morals and unwavering bravery. The two films do contain one striking similarity, though. Towards the end of both films there is a powerful speech by the U.S. President to the people. Bill Pullman’s voice in the speech scene in Independence Day is unforgettable, and the similar scene in The American President is heart wrenching because it is almost a conversation between two lovers. While these two films may seem completely different on the outside, they contain a lot of similar themes when you take a closer look.

  2. I think The American President and Independence day have very similar views of the U.S. government and I think this is especially seen through the character of the president in both films. Both versions of the U.S. president in these movies are sensitive young men that have suffered heartbreak, alongside the American people in some sense (especially in Independence Day), through the loss of their wives and are left to protect and raise a young daughter. By the end of both films, this President becomes very in touch with the needs of the American people and has realigned their goals to meet such needs. In The American President it is his shift away from solely trying to achieve political success to making a real effort to provide for the American people by introducing policies that will work. In Independence Day, it is his willingness to fly alongside the hodge-podge of American citizens fighting against the alien ship. Both of these Presidents also have a moment that shows how this role can be more than just a figure-head. In The American President it is his speech at the end of the film in which he reaffirms his dedication to the American people, and in Independence Day it is the moment when he fires the insensitive and corrupt Secretary of Defense, choosing to do what he knows it good for the American people and not the government. Both films show the president in this light as a way of humanizing the role, reminding us that at the end of the day the President is an American citizen just like us. Both these movies reassure its audience that the President, and therefore the government, can be trusted to have the backs of the American people, and if they begin to lose sight of this they will always be able to come back and remember their true purpose. This is what makes the idea of an organized group response so therapeutic to the viewer. Seeing a President that even when faced with corruptive powers, is able to remember his dedication to the people to do the right thing, leading the country to victory against any and every threat to our democracy.

  3. These movies were made within 2 years apart but differ extremely on many parts. 1st: The differences in plot are extreme. The American President was a romantic comedy where the conflict was re-election and love. Independence Day was a science fiction movie where the conflict was alien invasion and total annihilation. One could argue that the importance of survival in these two movies are very different; the world wouldn’t end if Shepherd was not re-elected in The American President, whereas if the characters failed the goal of stopping the alien invasion in Independence Day, the entire world would perish. Another difference is supporting characters, Independence Day was full of side characters that added to the plot and helps viewers have an emotional attachment to the movie. Besides the characters themselves, diversity in this movie was much better, seeing characters of different races besides Caucasian.
    As for similarities, the aspect of America being the most important, powerful country align in these movies. Seen in both plots, the President looses power (or is threatened to lose power). It is due to motivation and skill that these characters win their personal wars and save their reputation (seen much more so in Independence Day by saving the literal world).
    Overall, the therapeutic aspect is: America will always prevail! Placing trust in American government to make the right decision in the end is something that takes patience and dedication to America, which seems to be an important aspect of 1990’s films.

  4. Between the two 1990s films we have seen, their views of the U.S. government are presented in different ways. In the case of Independence Day, the government is shown as having the capability of banding together despite political differences in times of crisis. I see this as a means to encourage the audience that the people of the U.S. are all citizens together at the end of the day and will fight together when lives are threatened. With The American President, the U.S. government is shown as a place of disagreements, but with individuals with varying ideas that compete. I do not want to say it shows a lack of unity in our government, but when compared to a movie showing the government working together, it just shows two very different attitudes within it in different situations. In terms of audience response, in The American President, the audience sees the government finally figuring out a situation. This is therapeutic in its own way because it shows the government is capable of making decisions, but as this movie is supposed to be a romantic comedy, the audience was probably more concerned with the fact that the actions that took place were for love. The act of the government banding together and beating a common enemy in a spectacular way in Independence Day is therapeutic because it shows the government is capable of working together…oh and explosions are cool too.

  5. Both The American President and Independence Day seem to have a positive view of the U.S. government, but show it in different ways. Independence Day has a much clearer message that shows the U.S. government solving the world’s problems. Everyone all around the world seems to be waiting on word from the U.S. and is relieved when they finally have the answer. The final speech near the end of the film also shows this. The U.S. is uniting the world on our independence day and making it a world wide independence day. The audience is supposed to feel good about the government and support its strength. This movie is therapeutic in the cathartic action scenes, but also in the way the audience leaves feeling good about their country. The American President also paints the U.S. government in a positive light, but does so in a different way. It shows the people in government as real people who are more approachable than they can seem like in real life, instead of showing the pure strength that it’s capable of. The audience is supposed to feel good about the government in a more hopeful/feel good way.

  6. I believe that the views of the U.S. government portrayed in Independence Day and The American President differ. The American President portrays the two political parties and their different agendas. The two parties are working against each other, showing that the U.S. government is divided. In Independence Day, the U.S. government and the world unite to defeat the alien invasion. The presidents’ personalities also differ between the two films. President Shepherd, from The American President, was worried about taking lives during the bombing and hesitated to commence with the bombing. President Whitmore, from Independence Day, did not worry about taking alien lives and he tried to bomb the alien mothership himself. I think that viewers were supposed to take away the point that the government can unite and work together in a time of need. In Independence Day the government and people united, overlooking different agendas, races, and religions. The viewers are left with a positive view of government and a good feeling because of the happy ending.

  7. While both films were made during the same period and are both very obviously pro-government, they both portray the life of the president in different ways. In The American President, public opinion almost wins over dictating what President Shepherd can and cannot do. The president’s goal seems to be to present himself as a “normal guy” especially early on in his pursuit of a relationship with Sydney. However, in Independence Day, President Whitmore is the one with the ultimate power to control public opinion on the alien attack because he is the one who decides what information will be released during the press conferences. This exercise of restraint in not urging citizens to evacuate the cities under attack in an attempt to avoid mass hysteria leaves the president feeling extremely guilty after so many citizens are killed during the explosions. Similarly to President Shepherd, President Whitmore does not make himself out to be extraordinarily special, and he even goes as far as jumping back into fighter pilot mode to serve his country one more in its gravest moment (and his advisors and security detail let him do it?). Both films are also similar in their policy goal: to save the planet. In The American President, this comes through the desire to pass the emissions legislation while the issue is literally saving the entire planet from destruction in Independence Day. The anticipated group response is similar for both films in that the big message is the power and importance of American pride, but The American President also speaks to the individual agency each of us have to go against the norms and make true change. Independence Day, however, does not let us relish in the power of the individual. Rather, it shows us the importance of connecting as human beings and going beyond ourselves to work together towards survival. This is clearly illustrated in the short conversation between Jasmine, her son, and the First Lady in which Jasmine admits she “voted for the other guy”, but this seems trivial and almost comedic in the face of everything the characters have survived to that point.

  8. Both of these movies hold similar views of the government. The government is portrayed as good and idealistic, but they differ in terms of their agendas. The American President is a romantic comedy, with the government’s agenda being getting the president re-elected (while the president pursues a romantic interest). Independence Day, on the other hand, is an action sci-fi movie where the government’s goal is to save the world. In terms of what viewers are supposed to take away from these films, The American President is more of a feel-good movie that is supposed to personify the government, making viewers sympathize with the president who wants to find love while helping the country. Independence Day seems to attempt to make viewers feel safe and protected by the all-powerful government.

  9. The American President and Independence day, although similar in some regards, vary entirely on the amount at stake in each film. The overall plot of The American President centers around a man trying to gain re-election, which does not have ultimate negatives for the world if he does not win. If Shepherd does not win for re-election it is not the end of the world (see what I did there?). In Independence Day, the stakes are so much higher. The plot of this science fiction movie centers around the impending end of the world. If they do not stop the alien invasion, the world will be in great trouble. If Shepherd does not win, the world will carry on. So, the two films hold the importance of government at two different levels.

    The two films are therapeutic in their own way. Independence Day is therapeutic in that after all the anxiety surrounding the literal world ending, we get to see it survive. The American President is therapeutic because the guy gets the girl in the end and restores our belief in true love as a force that can conquer all. Either way, both films view the U.S. Government as a positive force.

  10. Both of the ’90s films that we have watched have been big champions of the U.S. government, and the therapeutic response of the audience I think is meant to be in our embrace of a strong and prevailing national identity. In “The American President” there is more of a domestic threat of what is clearly portrayed as a less respectable, less progressive political opponent in Bob Rumson, while in “Independence Day” the threat is of course alien invasion. At the end of both movies, audience members can sit back and smile at the idea that the U.S. government and Americans in general are wonderful people and will always come out on top. Of course, this is not always true in real life, but it’s the idea the movies present.
    Where the movies differ is in their focus on an issue, and this feels telling about what the filmmakers see the demise of the country (or world) system as likely to be. One movie suggests that the problem will be political enemies and a sort of growing media presence that extracts and blows up scandal until nobody can trust anyone else. On the other hand, alien invasion is presented as the fatal event, which requires a much different response and really sets the viewer up to consider government as a militaristic body and nothing else. The politics are mostly unseen or completely absent in “Independence Day”, while there is very little military presence or even violent threat of any kind in “The American President.” Thus the movies put one aspect of government front and center and largely reduce it to that, bringing up the worries of audience members in that regard before easing their worries with the happy ending.

  11. Both The American President and Independence Day have positive outlooks on the U.S. government but show that positivity from different angles. The American President shows the political side of the government, where the President is fighting for re-election. Shepherd attempts to have a romantic relationship with Sydney but politics get in the way and he has to choose between them. In the end, though, everything happens to work out because of the speech he makes, which gets him reelected and get Sydney back. This shows the President as a real person and not just a figurehead and someone who has compassion for people, like when he was cautious to bomb a building. Independence Day is showing the strength of the US government as it fights against an alien invasion. At the end of the movie, it’s the U.S. that brings the world together to fight and is the only one to have an answer on how to defeat the enemy ships. It tells watchers to trust in their government to fight against all odds for the safety of the country. Though the plots of the movie are very different, one is a romantic comedy and one is a sci-fi action film, both are therapeutic in the end with the triumph over the enemy and a positive view of our government.

  12. The first thing I noticed between The American President and Independence Day are the presidents’ characters. How both presidents have genuine intentions for the better of the country. Especially when in Independence Day, the president and the people with him go to Area 51 and the researcher describes the last 24 hours as exciting, but the president disagrees strongly. Between the two movies, just like the presidents, the people closely working with them are just concerned with the problems at hand. They seem to genuinely care whereas in other movies, there always seem to be the one who only cares about control and power with no regard to what happens to citizens.

    The one major difference between the two movies is the focus of the plot. In The American President, the focus is on Andrew and Sydney falling in love. The policy issues are just the thing that brings them together. Whereas in Independence Day, the characters’ relationships are on the sideline. The focus is on this extraterrestrial crisis.

    On an unrelated note, I always find it interesting that in most alien sci-fi films, aliens are always far more advanced than we are. I wonder why that is. Why do we think that they have more advanced technology and knowledge than we do?

  13. Alien invasion films (especially ones that have a significant amount set in a dominant city or capital, such as Washington, D.C.) speak volumes about the current state of governmental trust among people in a particular society, and Independence Day (1996) is no exception. This film has some of the most patriotic scenes in sci-fi films that I’ve ever seen, particularly from scenes with the President and his role in defeating the extraterrestrial intruders. I think it is notable to mention that the U.S. is central in the defeat, the aliens would not have been defeated without our virus and this fact is crucial in understanding the P.O.V of this film. America is the ultimate hero of this story, while it is somewhat an international effort overall, the American-made virus and efforts by Americans are how the technologically superior aliens are inevitable defeated. This is a patriotic story above a sci-fi, alien invasion flick. The 1990s was a time of economic growth and low unemployment, paired with a strong trust in the government, or at least that is the angle this film wanted to portray. The American President (1995), which could be considered a rom-com over a patriotic film, still leans in the favor of being pro-government. The film doesn’t sugar coat issues with bureaucracy, highlighting a growing political divide in Washington, but at the end of the film it is clear that this film is reflecting a general trust in the “American way”, in our history, and overall in our idealized, rose-tinted version of American values. In both films, viewing them for our current perspective, I don’t think a film like these could be made today, or if they were, they would most likely be produced by some right-wing extremist group. These films don’t feel patriotic in the same way “pro-American values” films were made in the farther past and especially in our post-Trump reality, but they do seem more pro-government than a typical sci-fi or romance film. The location and characters are central to the themes of these films, these are not merely films set in D.C., but they are films with a clear political message of trust, strength, and hope for what is seen by the writers as American strength and perseverance.

  14. Both Independence Day and The American President take positive views on the U.S. government, although Independence Day’s is definitely more overt. Both films show the American president as a central character, and both of presidents are seen as thoroughly good and honorable men who want to do what is best for the country. There is none of the corrupt leaders from earlier films like All the President’s Men and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The government and the president are an honorable and positive force.
    The two films differ in that the American President focuses more on politics, and does take a slightly critical view on politics and political maneuvering. In the end, however, the president gives an impassioned speech and all is well. Independence Day does not have focus on politics or criticism of the government. As the title indicates, the film is highly nationalistic, depicting the U.S. government as competent and powerful as they save the entire world from alien invasion. Independence Day also has the added element of pro American military propaganda present in virtually every action movie featuring the American military.

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