Happy 99th Birthday, Richard Nixon: Great Pop Culture Nixons

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Today Richard Nixon would have turned 99 years old, though he passed on to the big country club in the sky back in April 1994, at the age of 81. His wife Pat passed on the year previous, and Nixon was active until the end of his life, still making appearances and granting interviews, as the stains of Watergate began to wear off as he aged.

Nixon has always been a prominent political clown in pop culture, a sort of shorthand for evil politicking trickery and shady dealings. It didn't help that his nickname was Tricky Dick and that his hangdog visage was ripe for anger and parody. Younger folks who weren't alive during the Watergate scandal and fallout can't fathom how hated he was at one point.

Oddly enough, Nixon seems the hardest to pin down for actors who undertake playing him. Too many of them play the stereotypical Nixon, the "I'mma nawt a crook!" Nixon, and few make him human. Even worse is the makeup used to help an actor portray Nixon, like the president's brief scenes in last year's J. Edgar. The last dramatic Nixon we saw that knocked it out of the proverbial park was Frank Langella's beleaguered former world leader in Frost/Nixon, going up against David Frost.

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The iconic Nixon mask has made plenty of appearances in film, too. Remember the teen sex scene in The Ice Storm, with Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood? Cult hit Point Break featured a robber wearing a Nixon mask, and you get triple points if you remember that in 1990's Men at Work, garbage men Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez put a Nixon mask on a politician's corpse in a convoluted plot line that we forget now.

For our money, the best Nixons are the animated ones, though Dan Hedaya's Nixon in the 1999 teen comedy Dick isn't so bad. Impressionist Rich Little's Nixon is suitably cheesy, and is a classic impression in Little's massive canon of voices. Actor Richard M. Dixon made a killing post-Nixon in the '70s and '80s as a Nixon look-alike, too.

8. Anthony Hopkins in Nixon (1995)

Hopkins's makeup in this Oliver Stone hit-piece is the most distracting thing in the flick. His Nixon sounds a tad British too, sadly.

7. Richard Nixon's Living Head on Futurama

Easily the best Nixon ever, with...

6. Harry Shearer's Richard Nixon on The Simpsons

...this Nixon a close second.

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4 comments
Evan
Evan

We will teach them to fear the madman Nixon!

Pepperrancher1092
Pepperrancher1092

Well, it's futile to try to reason with anyone obsessed with the dreaded Main Stream Media, which is apparently code for "any media source not owned by Rupert Murdock." Sort of like point out that it's kinda hard to be a Muslim socialist and the best President Wall Street ever had at the same time.

However, extensive reading and life experience with Nam vets makes it pretty plain that it was Kennedy's hubris and arrogance that got us into a land war in Asia. Nixon's claim to fame is that in 1972 he spent a week in the White House movie theater watching "Deep Throat" 17 times until he got it down pat.

Chris Long
Chris Long

Indeed, ask the  question to the young, uninitiated, or ignorant, "Who was responsible for American involvement in Vietnam?", and the answer is almost invariably: Nixon.  Where on earth did they ever 'learn' that, if not from the MSM?

Katy
Katy

I dunno. Did the MSM make him break into the Watergate or merely insist on (eventually) reporting it? Did the MSM make him record himself saying shocking things on tape, order the firebombing of think tanks, etc? 

I'm not sure who these people you know are who "invariably" get history wrong.But while I've heard plenty of bad stuff about Nixon (and there was the whole illegal bombing of Cambodia and other war crimes) in the media, I haven't heard him get blamed for Vietnam lately.

I'm not sure the MSM can be blamed for Americans not being able to find Iraq on a map... or calling Lincoln one of the Founding Fathers... or saying that Paul Revere rang a bell to dare the British to come take our arms. 

Bad education is bad education, and when it comes to history, it goes deeper than party politics. It sounds like the people you know might be more poorly educated than most.

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