Politics as Media Spectacle - Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor

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Politics as Media Spectacle - Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California recall election gubernatorial victory demonstrates the

increasing collapse of the boundaries between entertainment and politics in an era of media


Over the past decades, major struggles around politics, race, gender, and sexuality have

played out in the media. In the 1990s, the O.J. Simpson trial, the Clinton sex scandals, and

the proliferation of tabloid journalism made serious political issues and conflicts the stuff of

popular entertainment and culture.

Moreover, presidential politics on the level of campaigns and governing have also exhibited

a growing politics of the image
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As with the action-adventure hero of his films, Schwarzenegger appeared as the outsider,

not beholden to “special interests.” Arnold was “the terminator” who would stride in, chase

out the villains, and restore order to the polis. In the media frenzy surrounding the election,

viewers and voters saw Schwarzenegger wade into crowds, make entertaining statements

while playing on economic fears and amorphous anger, and repeating to audiences his stock

phrases like “Hasta la vista, baby!” (to Gray Davis) or his famous “I’ll be back.”

In particular, men were angry because of economic woes or cultural grievances projected

onto women, immigrants, gays and lesbians, or other groups associated with liberals and

Democrats. Schwarzenegger presented himself as the tough enforcer who would take on the

bureaucrats and “special interests” and restore strong leadership to California.

Schwarzenegger had cultivated a manly, macho image since his days as a professional bodybuilder

and his political persona reflected this ideal.

Five days before the election, The Los Angeles Times published an article citing reports that

six women claimed that they had been physically groped by Schwarzenegger on movie sets

and over the next few days more women came forward with

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