Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Political Reelism: A Rhetorical Criticism of Reflection and Interpretation in Political Films

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

John Makay (Advisor)


The purpose of this study is to discuss how political campaigns and politicians have been depicted in films, and how the films function rhetorically through the use of core values. By interpreting real life, political films entertain us, perhaps satirically poking fun at familiar people and events. However, the filmmakers complete this form of entertainment through the careful integration of American values or through the absence of, or attack on those values. This study provides a rhetorical criticism of movies about national politics, with a primary focus on the value judgments, political consciousness and political implications surrounding the films Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Candidate (1972), The Contender (2000), Wag the Dog (1997), Power (1986), and Primary Colors (1998).