They’re pollies Jim, but not as we know ’em.

The fictional ones aren’t always better.

Here’s a question: Do politicians crush on their fictional counterparts in the same way us ordinary folk do?  If they can see themselves the way we do, they surely must, right?

I recently finished watching The West Wing again from the beginning – in part because I believe one must relive the fictional Bartlet presidency regularly to cancel out the reality of GWB. This is accepting the premise that while theoretically two presidencies can happen at the same time, they could not do so in the same reality, only in alternate ones. And I choose Bartlet in my reality. So the other happened…somewhere else.

Now that I’ve reached the end of the series…well, I’m back to reality. You know reality. Where neither our PM nor the alternative are liked by voters. Where not even the regular prospect of desperate drowning souls off our coast can help our leaders find a bipartisan happy place. Where here in Queensland, all the new government’s given me is a growing shopping list of frustration, sadness & disgust.

But for all the grief I give the real pollies (in my head mostly – I’m not loading up a Tarago & following them from town to town), it’s not entirely fair to compare them to the fictional versions. 

The best fictional leaders aren’t perfect. I mean, I almost broke up with President Bartlet over assassinating that Qumari dude, Shareef. Seriously! Eventually I sucked it up & moved on. Because it’s easier to forgive fictional leaders their wrongs. No matter how vested we are in their world (which is a lot in the case of me & West Wing), on some level we know they’re not real and neither are the things they do. I sure as hell wouldn’t be so forgiving of an actual, for realz state-sanctioned assassination! 

And the things that our fictional leaders do that inspire us? They’re the very reason we love them more than the real guys, and we’re quick to hold them up as the ideal to which they should aspire. There’s nothing wrong with that, but aren’t we comparing apples and oranges? We’re weighing how they can do the job in a real-life situation against how we’ve seen a fictional person do it, in an entirely fictional situation.  Writers influence the outcome of events in the fictional world – not to mention the stirring words that come out of leaders’ mouths. Sure the spin doctors have an impact on the real world versions, but for the most part things are a crazy, unpredictable, all bets are off, 100% human free-for-all.

We need to tell our leaders when something is not good enough. We should find fault with lazy government or partisan policy-making. We must critically question our leaders decisions. But let’s keep it ’real’.

That said, if you hold a lot of love for President Bartlet, he’s on Twitter you know!

Follow @Pres_Bartlet – it’s a little weird, and a lot great! But don’t blame me if you start finding yourself disappointed with the real leaders all over again.

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