Max Headroom and the 2012 Election
It’s now just a few days to the US General Election and I need to get something out of my system, with this disclaimer: this will be my one and only political post for this election year.
I am increasingly annoyed by blogs, news organizations and Twitter feeds that habitually refer to Mitt Romney as a reincarnation of Max Headroom. Nothing could be further from the truth. I also do not believe that his opponent, President Barack Obama, is Max, either, or any other politician for that matter.
The gleeful misidentification of a particular politician as Max begins back in Max’s heyday, the closing years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, when cartoonist Garry Trudeau decided that President Reagan acted as a Max Headroom-esque character (Trudeau referred to him as ‘Ron Headrest’).
Here’s the bad news for everyone who wants to compare Max to a politician: it’s just not possible. Trudeau revealed his ignorance in the mid-1980’s, and others have been following his lead ever since. The fact is, Max Headroom would be the one who would be calling politicians out for their lies and manipulation, not joining them.
Keep in mind Max’s origin: he was created in Bryce Lynch’s lab at Network 23 by downloading the memories of star crusading journalist Edison Carter into a massive database which then took on a life of its own, as Max. Do you see the disconnect here?
During the short-lived run on ABC, the series made it very clear that Max said the kind of things Edison would have loved to have said, except that he had a built-in professional filter that would have kept his internal monologue more or less internal. Edison often did say the same kinds of things as Max, but only in the safety and security of his close friends and colleagues. Max is wide open with everyone, and his transparency made him a fan favorite on Network 23.
If folks want to make political comparisons with Max Headroom characters, the series was more than obliging. There was Simon Peller, Network 23’s sponsored politician, was willing to round up all the ‘Blanks,’ or people with no digital record on the grounds that they were dangerous, when he really believed that their presence was “untidy.” The Blanks would have been denied basic rights for the simple reason that because they were undocumented, they didn’t exist, and no rights were due them. Anyone want to make comparison to Gitmo and the Patriot Act? Feel free.
Another politician that people could point fingers at and make comparisons with is Harriet Garth, rival Network 66’s candidate. I am surprised that no one has tried to make a comparison between Harriet Garth and Hillary Clinton before now, but I think the resemblance is striking.
Harriet found herself at the heart of a moral scandal, yet was able to respond philosophically “A couple of weeks is a long time in video politics. This week, ruined; next week, revered. One good show with the right ratings I’ll be back in days.”
Max, on the other hand would be the first one to call shenanigans. He would be insulted to be compared with Romney, Reagan, or any other political figure. Can we please stop the madness?