Her political career may not have the ups and downs of say, a William Howard Taft (it’s also lacking fat-guy-in-bathtub anecdotes), but there’s some unseen force determined to give Hillary Clinton her own movie. This unseen force, whatever it may be, does not have a stellar track record. First came the conservative-produced Hillary: The Movie, which linked the former first lady to a series of seriously not-good scandals (despite what Scandal has lead us to believe, real-life scandals rarely involve steamy presidential love triangles that everyone can enjoy). The film was slated to release right before Mrs. Clinton’s performance in the 2008 Democratic Primaries, but the federal government intervened and shut the whole thing down. Hillary: The Movie was actually set to air solely on VOD, so the folks willing to pay for it would be the only ones affected by its various sordid accusations, but the mere threat of media-election tampering was enough to spurn on government action.
Then it happened again. This summer, CNN had plans for a documentary on the First Lady-turned-Senator-turned-Secretary of State, but the entirety of our political spectrum stood up to proudly say “we hate this idea and you need to stop trying it.” Republicans, in protest of the documentary, voted to ban CNN from airing a all Republican debates in the coming election cycle. Meanwhile, every Democrat with aspirations to serve under a hypothetical President Hillary (which is essentially all Democrats) wouldn’t give CNN the time of day. CNN quickly folded; as did NBC, who was planning a Diane Lane-starring Hillary Clinton miniseries.
Now, the great Clinton war continues with Rodham.
This one’s been in the pipeline for a while; the screenplay (by Young Il Kim) ranked high on last year’s Black List and director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) has been attached to the project for several months (Carey Mulligan was also rumored to star). But the newest biggest news is that Lionsgate is in early talks to back this latest Hillary Clinton project. Such talks are described as “early in nature,” and “may not work out,” but if Rodham is to move forward, so must the ensuing anti-Rodham backlash.
Now, technically, there’s no law that states you can’t make a film about a politician mid-campaign. There is, of course, the equal-time rule, which states that radio and TV must give equal time to each candidate in an election period. This is why, as you may recall, Fred Thompson’s episodes of Law & Order were yanked off of NBC during the 2007 primary season; Thompson was one of many Republicans vying for the nomination, and it wouldn’t be fair to give him extra broadcast time via Law & Order unless NBC was willing to give every single candidate a guest spot (Ron Paul would have made a terrific D.A.).
However, documentaries and news broadcasts don’t count as part of the equal-time rule, so while Law & Order required censorship, something like Hillary: The Movie technically did not. Also, none of this actually applies to something like Rodham – the equal-time rule applies specifically to television and radio, whereas Rodham is neither of those things.
This, of course, is how documentaries like 2016: Obama’s America, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sarah Palin’s The Undefeated, which clearly intended to influence the 2012 election, could be released in theaters without any kind of government foofaraw.
So even if the Republicans throw a hissy fit and the Democrats give everyone the silent treatment, Rodham could still forge ahead and end society’s constant struggle to make a Hillary Clinton movie. But should they? Il Kim’s script may be some unbelievable work of art, but if the real Clinton decides to make a run at the White House and Rodham releases anywhere near 2015/2016, it’ll be ripped to shreds no matter how good it is.
Just imagine if Oliver Stone’s W. had released during the 2004 elections, or if some Will Smith-Obama biopic had hit theaters in early 2008. If Rodham’s any good, the Democrats will wield it like a weapon while Republicans will piss and moan. If Rodham’s no good, the exact same thing will happen, except the words “Democrats” and “Republicans” will be switched around. I’m sure Lionsgate is, at this very moment, mulling over whether it’s worth facing the inevitable media onslaught that will occur if Rodham hits theaters. Let’s just try to think of things in a positive light, shall we? If Lionsgate passes, think of all the petty politicking you’ll never have to hear about. And if Lionsgate says “go,” then think of all the material Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will have to work with come 2015.