It’s Not Just Donald Trump: Here’s Why Presidents Are Also Celebrities

Through the years, American presidents have become more and more like celebrities in the public eye. Read on to take a look at some of our past presidents’ acting resumes, as well as why, today, U.S. presidents are seen as famous people.

1. We ask a lot of our presidents

former presidents Bush, Obama, Bush, Carter, and Clinton in a row, all in dark suits

These days, presidents need to be a lot more. | Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

The role of the president begins to cross over into celebrity territory when we begin asking more and more from our country’s leader. The Atlantic surmises that Americans are, perhaps, asking too much.

“We ask them not just to champion legislation, to lead powerful armed forces, to be heads of state, to be heads of political parties, to be constantly campaigning; we ask them also to lead us in a way that is fuzzier and yet, in some sense, more meaningful. We ask them to entertain us. We ask them to inspire us,” says Atlantic writer Megan Garber.

2. They’re the ‘closest thing to royalty’ we have

Black and white image of Theodore Roosevelt and family

They’re the closest thing we have. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

“People like the Roosevelts were the closest thing to royalty we had,” says a woman in the documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate HistoryWhen you look at our fascination with the royal family, it’s easy to see how the American people would start imparting the same glamour and expectations on our U.S. presidents. We don’t have our own queen to obsess over, but we do have a president for at least four years at a time.

3. When the media changed, so did the presidency

John F. Kennedy In the oval office with TV Cameras

TV cameras changed everything. | Getty Images

In the very beginning of American democracy, it was harder for the president to leave a lasting impact on the American people. He affected people in a big-picture sort of way, but you couldn’t simply turn on your TV to tune into the president’s speech. When the radio was invented, and later the television, the presidency changed for good. Americans could now see, hear, and get to know their president, no matter where they were in the country.

4. They need to do more than lead us — they need to charm us

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt with their dog

The Roosevelts started it all. | Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When the television became a popular item in almost every American home, the U.S. president suddenly needed to be very good at public speaking. Charm became an important factor.

“[The Roosevelts] are in some part the reason that we ask those who seek its office not merely to present us with policy proposals, but also to charm us. To seduce us. To convince us that we would like to have a beer with them,” Garber writes in The Atlantic.

5. Ronald Reagan really was a celebrity prior to becoming president

American actor Jane Wyman and her husband, actor and politician Ronald Reagan, attend an unidentified event, 1939. Wyman carries a purse and wears a fur coat over an evening dress while Reagan wears a tuxedo. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Ronald Reagan started out as a Hollywood star. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before becoming president, Ronald Reagan was quite the seasoned actor. He starred in such projects as The Killers, Kings Row, Desperate Journey, The Hasty Heart, and many more. His IMDb profile reads, “Ronald Reagan had quite a prolific career, having catapulted from a Warner Bros. contract player and television star, into serving as president of the Screen Actors Guild, the governorship of California (1967-1975), and lastly, two terms as President of the United States (1981-1989).”

6. Obama’s 15 minutes of fame

President Barack Obama waves as he exits The White House wearing sunglasses

Barack Obama appeared in several hilarious videos. | Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama occasionally got into the celebrity spirit, as well. Though he was never the host of The Apprentice, Obama did a few fun videos throughout his time as president, such as when he pretended to be Daniel Day-Lewis in this hilarious spoof or when he did this BuzzFeed video about registering to vote.

7. Donald Trump’s acting resume

Donald-Trump in Home-Alone

He had plenty of acting roles before becoming president. | 20th Century Fox

We may see our presidents as celebrities, but Donald Trump takes things to a whole new level. Trump’s acting resume beats out Obama’s by a long shot. Prior to becoming president, Trump was known for being the host of The Apprentice, and starring in such films as Home Alone 2, Two Weeks Notice, and Ghosts Can’t Do It.

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