JFK and the celebrity presidency

John and Jackie Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy at the Inaugural Ball, January 20, 1961. Source: Wikimedia Commons

5/23/17 |

The marriage of celebrity and politics has always earned more criticism than celebration, but it is effective, thanks to John F. Kennedy.

Kathryn Cramer Brownell
Kathryn Cramer Brownell

That’s according to Kathryn Cramer Brownell, an assistant professor of history at Purdue University who researches celebrity political culture and the emergence of entertainment as a central feature of American politics. Her most recent book “Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life,” explores Hollywood’s influence on American politics and the rise of the celebrity presidency.

The 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birthday is May 29. One of his lasting legacies is the celebrity-president persona.

“Kennedy was so successful in implementing a political version of the Hollywood dream machine that other politicians have since adjusted their campaigns to emulate his media strategy,” Brownell says.

“JFK’s campaign managers recognized his personality was appealing. People were interested in him; not just his policies. By using humor and entertainment, he reached audiences directly, appealing to them as media consumers first, voters second.”

– Amy Patterson Neubert, http://bit.ly/2qWP21e