8 insights into Barack Obama's pop-culture tastes
The Commander-in-Chief loves Homeland, Jay-Z, and, as proven by a recently released photo, classic Star Trek — earning the giddy approval of the cultural elite
Barack Obama "shored up the hardcore geek vote" Wednesday when a photo surfaced of the "first Geek-in-Chief" flashing the Vulcan hand salute alongside original Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on the series, says TJ Dietsch at Spinoff. President Obama's unabashed love for Star Trek, the most popular sci-fi TV show of all time, is just the latest evidence of his wide-ranging, and some would say impeccable, taste in pop culture. Here, his big Star Trek moment and seven other reasons the nation's often left-leaning critics approve of how he spends his leisure time:
1. The Vulcan saluteThe photo of Obama and Nichols, which the actress tweeted out Wednesday even though it was taken in February, confirms an affinity for Star Trek at which the president's long hinted (at a 2009 press conference, he referenced Mr. Spock's penchant for all things logical). Nichols said that Obama admitted he'd harbored a huge crush on Lt. Uhura while growing up, confirming that he's "definitely a Trekker." "Some think Barack Obama is our first nerd president," says Jamie Peck at Crushable, which might be going a bit far. But "some of the world's most important positions are occupied by nerds."
2. He sneaks in episodes of HomelandAccording to Homeland's Damian Lewis, who stars as a former POW suspected of being a turned terrorist, the President is such a fan of the Golden Globe-winning Showtime drama that he sat the actor directly across from him at the recent State dinner for the British Prime Minister. But when does the president find time to watch the series? "He said, 'Michelle goes out with the kids [to] play tennis on a Saturday afternoon,'" Lewis explained to TV Guide. "'I tell her I'm going to work and then I go in my room and watch Homeland.'"
3. He loves Modern Family and Boardwalk EmpireThe two must-see TV shows in the White House are coincidentally the two the Emmys deemed TV's best last year: Modern Family and Boardwalk Empire. In an interview with People, the president copped to loving the Best Comedy-winning ABC sitcom, which he says the whole First Family watches together, but prefers "darker" shows when watching alone, including the aforementioned Homeland and last year's Best Drama Boardwalk Empire. Basically, says Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress, these TV choices confirm that Obama is both a "perfect parent and semi-hipster in his pop culture consumption habits."
4. He called The Wire the greatest show of all timeNew York recently named the HBO crime drama The Wire the best drama of the past 25 years — but President Obama upped the ante when he insisted in an interview with Bill Simmons that The Wire is actually "one of the best shows of all-time." ("Our president's a cool dude," says Tanya Ghahremani at Complex.) Obama named Omar Little as his favorite character, which is so awesome that it may just sew up the election, says Videogum.
5. His Spotify playlist is impressiveWhen we first heard that Obama was joining the music site Spotify, it seemed like one of those times "when an uncool, older relative… joins your favorite website and tries tirelessly to fit in with the 'crowd,'" says Ghahremani. But Obama's Spotify playlist is "actually pretty good!" With tracks from the likes of Arcade Fire, Noah and the Whale, and Florence + the Machine, it's certainly "hipster-friendly," but balanced with a range of artists from different genres including country (Sugarland), R&B (Raphael Saadiq), and rock (Bruce Springsteen). Sure, he may not have assembled it himself, but "we can still give him props" for approving it.
6. He hates the KardashiansWhen People asked Michelle Obama if her husband forbids their daughters from watching any TV shows, she said the president draws the line at Keeping Up With the Kardashians. This news thrilled the legion of TV watchers opposed to the vapid, possibly-staged reality show. "President Barack Obama likes The Wire, but doesn't like Keeping Up With the Kardashians?" says Aly Semigran at Entertainment Weekly. "Could there be a better endorsement?"
7. He's into hip-hopThe president has been a Jay-Z super-fan since he was a senator. As the hip-hop mogul himself relates, he once called Obama and could hear his album The Blueprint playing in the background. But in a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Obama revealed that his hip-hop tastes have since broadened. "Thanks to Reggie [Love, the president's former personal aide], my rap palate has greatly improved… Now I've got a little Nas and a little Lil Wayne and some other stuff." He also admitted that his daughters are getting old enough to "start hipping me to things." "Hipping," says Jim Newell at Gawker. "God, he's so likable sometimes."
8. His favorite movies are The Godfather and The Godfather II (but not III)Obama's favorite movie is one that routinely tops any fan-voted list, says Maggie Van Ostrand at Film School Rejects: Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 classic The Godfather. His second favorite: The Godfather II. But what of the third installment in the saga? The discerning Obama is not a fan. "III, not so much," he'd said of the critically-maligned sequel.