Is the President in Civil War Based on an Actual Politician? Is He a Republican or Democrat?

Alex Garland conceived ‘Civil War’ as an allegory about polarization. In the dystopian thriller film, authority and varying political views lead two groups of the same nation to fight against each other. At the center of this war is the President of the United States, who addresses his remaining citizens with confidence and righteousness. Soon, the narrative makes it clear that the politician is not as “good” as we think him to be. His fascist actions slowly get exposed, leaving the viewers with enough breadcrumbs to compare him with political figures in real life we are familiar with. However, as far as Garland is concerned, such a comparison is not necessary!

The President With No Inspirations and Sides

As the Civil War between the United States government and the Western Forces unfolds, viewers are expected to be tempted to compare Nick Offerman’s POTUS with real-life politicians, starting with none other than Donald Trump. Like the President in the movie, Trump is a polarizing figure whose political career is infamous for unrest. The Capitol attack that occurred on January 6, 2021, alone may convince a group of audiences that ‘Civil War’ is a reaction to the same. However, Alex Garland doesn’t hesitate to dismiss this comparison. For the filmmaker, the President is a neutral figure or tool created to serve the grand narrative of polarization.

That’s also one reason why Garland didn’t want any of his characters to utter two of the most consequential words in the contemporary American political climate: Republican and Democrat. “Nowhere in this narrative does it let you know what political side this President began on,” the filmmaker told The Atlantic. “He may be a fascist at the point we meet him, but he presumably in his first term didn’t say [that]… The film puts that in the viewers’ hands,” he added. As Garland made it clear, the viewers alone can decide, individually, whether Offerman’s character is based on a real politician.

It was important for Garland and his creative team to conceive the President without any real-life counterparts. First of all, it is understandable that he likely didn’t want to polarize the viewers by presenting the President as either Republican or Democrat while discussing the evil side of polarization. “[The film] is so unrelated to any actual factions or politicians. […] Everybody on any side of the aisle or any faction has a lot to say, and we’re all immediately divisive and partisan in our conversations. Everybody is mad about those other jerks, and this movie transcends that. It’s about all of us,” Offerman told The Hollywood Reporter about why his character doesn’t have a real-life counterpart or faction.

Garland envisioned ‘Civil War’ as a story that transcends the boundaries of the United States. He wants the crux of the narrative to be universal enough to be applied in the cases of Israel, Asia, South America, Europe, and his home country, the United Kingdom. Therefore, he had to create a President without any roots in particular real-life figures or parties. “Now, if one is talking about polarization, extremism, the Fourth Estate, all of those things, would it be wise to make a Republican-Democrat conversation that immediately shuts down the other half?” said the filmmaker in an interview given to The New York Times.

Therefore, Offerman’s dictator can be paralleled with any fascist from any country who has turned against his/her/their people with a craving for unlimited authority. Kirsten Dunst, who plays Lee Smith, described ‘Civil War’ as a film about “humanity and what happens when people stop treating each other like human beings.” The traces of the character can be seen in any real-life politician or ruler who propagates division among the citizens and treats the opposite side as inferior. Still, if the viewers are inclined to place him alongside a real-life politician, that’s exactly why Garland chose to ignore inspirations to create the President.

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