The Sounds of a Short Satirical Presidency


Alan Bigelow tells the tale of a fictional president’s first 100 days in office in his 2007 hypertext piece When I Was President. A black screen displays the words “There was no campaign, no nomination, no election” before displaying the main screen. From there the reader clicks on any letter in a circle and is redirected to a screen with flashing text and .gifs superimposed on pictures of famous Washington D.C landmarks with an array of sounds playing throughout. The messages are flashed one word at a time (with the longer ones scroll across the screen) while an image of the fictitious president doing various things inside the word. The sounds in the background directly correlate with the messages on screen and how satirical they are. One screen tells how the president changes the image on the dollar bill to his nude butt and that it increased the worth of the dollar more than ever as a laugh track plays. Another has more somber music playing throughout as a message about wars ending a “peace with a purpose” being a worldwide mantra. The messages displayed deal with things ranging from race to world peace to healthcare, some of the major topics at that time.

At a closer look this piece can be interpreted as a commentary of Obama’s potential presidency. It covers the main things that Obama addressed during his campaign and even his race to an extent. The person portraying the president in the .gifs resembles Obama in some of the scenes. I believe that Bigelow is mocking the first 100 days of a new presidency to an extent. All the actions that the fictitious president makes are either hilariously ridiculous or impossible to achieve in 100 days and with the aid of sound and music the author emphasizes that. Bigelow is calling attention to the fact that being president isn’t the type of job where you can snap your fingers and make things happen to make the world a better place. By hyperlinking the more serious messages in the last 3 or 4 letters of “president,” he’s saying that the things that are most important to progress take time. He also says that not everyone will be happy with the changes and that there are certain risks that come with it. The piece in with the president’s 100th day in office. A message flashes across the screen saying that he was killed by a suicide bomber who was a teacher from Iowa who said that she didn’t like the way he changed the country and that things needed to go back to the way things were. This is what really sticks with me and makes me think this could be a commentary on Obama’s presidency because so many people have said over time that he’s changed the nation and it’s not what it used to be.

  2 comments for “The Sounds of a Short Satirical Presidency

  1. Dylan Tibert
    February 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Interpretation of this piece as a commentary on American expectations of presidential change worked on multiple levels here- For example, my reading focused on the emphasis on the clear paradigm shift brought to the table by this hypothetical presidency, it spoke to me as a deconstruction of the oppressive structures perpetuated by current political thinking and action. In the given narrative we see a president successfully changing the world by looking for solutions to issues from completely different perspectives, only to be killed by a high school teacher who desired the restoration of the status quo ante. Of course, a performative element of the piece certainly aimed to evoke a perturbed sense of disbelief from the viewer by proposing solutions that are easily reducible to the realm of the impossible or unrealistic, but in that sense I feel like this piece was calling attention to the idea that ideas that are truly going to spark change are the ones that will feel ludicrous and uncomfortable. I see this piece as a reminder that, instead contextualizing issues entirely as problems that derive entirely from corrupt or oppositionary big Government hegemony, we must remember that we are simultaneously perpetuating the status quo through our desire for stasis. In that light, I see a deconstruction of the seemingly unquenchable cry for change all around the country. On a related note, I thought that having a high school teacher assassinate the president was a very interesting choice- where else would the knowledge practices that perpetuate the current social structures and paradigms originate but in the “socializing” processes of mandatory public schooling.

  2. egajeton
    March 16, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Especially concerning the earlier sections of this piece, I read it as satirical. For me, I found several of the proposals to be absurd, like changing the days of the week or changing money. However, that only furthered my thought process of the satire because I think it speaks to the fact that many of the promises candidates make are absurd. This piece only goes out of its way to point that out. Combining this with the more serious and realistic aspects like universal health care only provide the juxtaposition of the reality of the situation, joining the ridiculous with the realistic. The music was also effective in conveying a tone. It was loud and with proper effects (what seemed like laughter and applause). It was especially effective when the president was assassinated, and it left with me an extremely uncomfortable and eerie feeling. With all aspects combined, I think this was a very successful piece in that it was able to stir up some kind of reaction from its reader. It can be viewed as nonsensical, serious, satirical, or spine chilling, and the piece is all the more powerful because of those reactions.

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