Call for Papers

You're Voting for WHO? Elections in Popular Media

by PopMatters Staff

8 September 2016

With the contentious 2016 US presidential election looming before us, this is an excellent time to cut through the hype and the rhetoric to explore the nature and depictions of elections, both within reality and in fiction.
From Primary Colors (1998) 

The US presidential election of 2016 is scheduled for 8 November 2016, where the 45th President of the United States will likely be determined. Discussions and debates surrounding the event have been charged, to say the least. This is an excellent opportunity to cut through the hype and the rhetoric to explore the nature and depictions of elections, both within reality and in fiction.

To be a part of this historic conversation, PopMatters seeks submissions about elections in popular media, including but not limited to: presidential elections as they are represented in the media, political elections within film and television; high-school / sorority elections in media; film policy shifts, pledges, and promises; award voting controversies; the sci-fi and western genres and elections; nominated / randomly / unwittingly selected participants; and electoral commentary in videogames, cartoons, literature and other media. 
While we welcome creative approaches (including humor), we are strictly interested in the intersection of political elections with popular media. Proposed essays should focus on the cultural artifacts of elections (as opposed to politics and politicians themselves) and take an informed, critical approach. Personal rants will not be accepted. Possible topics may include:

Presidential Elections: How are they represented in the media? How are they reflected or explored within different types of media? How are the presidential election debates presented in the media? What can a site such as or Spike Jonze’s unaired Al Gore campaign documentary tell us about the relationship between the politician and society / culture?

Political Elections (within Film): There are a substantial amount of election-themed films, such as Primary Colors, Wag the Dog, All the President’s Men, Milk and The Ides of March. Why is it so enduring as a genre, or is it cyclical? Are such films a reflection of an ideology (and if so, then whose, and to what end?) or are they an idealized depiction of a historical reality? Do films such as Taxi Driver complicate the relationship between the ‘average’ voter and the politician? 

Political Elections (within Television): How can shows such as The West Wing, BrainDead, and Parks and Recreation present and sustain ‘election fever’ over an arc of multiple episodes for a viewing audience? What is the relationship between late-night talk shows such as Late Night, The Tonight Show, or the The Daily Show / The Nightly Show and the electoral process? How might this relationship be historicized?

High-School and University Elections: From the high-schools in Election and Napoleon Dynamite, through to the sororities like those in Scream Queens or the elite fraternities that can be seen in The Skulls, what is it about elections, nominations, and voting subterfuge that fits so well with the notion of youth? 

Voting: From the depiction of the historical struggle for women to have the right to vote in Suffragette through to the recent controversies of the ‘Oscars so white’ debacle, how have voting systems reflected the ideologies of the dominant classes and the desires of those that have been marginalized? Furthermore, what role has the media performed in the depiction of these tensions? What can the voting system in reality TV shows, and the way in which it is treated within the program, tell us about society?

The Selection Process: With politics, you usually put yourself forward as a candidate for a position, but with films such as Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, and Cabin in the Woods, the decision has already been made. Whether they have been unwittingly nominated through random choice or with a design in mind, how do the selection processes from fictional realities mirror real-life processes, and how do they commentate on society? 

Genre and Politics: The genre narrative often provides a safe space to explore societal issues, so what then, are we to make of the electoral process in Sci-Fi products such as Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace or Battlestar Galactica. In the recent Zack Snyder iteration of Superman or Marvel’s Civil War, how important are the concepts of elected power and the consequences of abandoning democratic civil rights?

Cultural Influence: In 1867, Harper’s Weekly printed an engraving called “The First Vote”, which depicted an African American man casting his ballot. In 2016, you can buy a visual novel video game called Cat President, or play one of many ‘fighting President’ games on a mobile phone. Seemingly, for every type of media there is also a reflected history of the electoral process and the apparent regard with which society holds it. What is this relationship between culture and a political system, and how can they influence each other?

Deadline for Features pitches: Monday, 10 October

Deadline for final, polished articles: Monday, 31 October

Please submit your pitches and features using the PopMatters / Submittable interface.

Be sure to identify your article as ELECTION16 in the header, and make it clear that your article addresses film, TV, books, music, games, etc. specifically, so that we can readily assign the appropriate editor.

We look forward to reading your informed, critical analysis of media depictions of the democratic process that we call “elections”.

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