Character as Celebrity

Following our (brief) discussion of character in class today (9/23), I came across Maureen Dowd’s Op-ed column in the New York Times. Dowd enlisted The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin to write a scene, a dialogue, between Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama and Fictional Democratic President Jed Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen).

You can read the full article here.

Politics aside, the column appears to me as an example of how a fictional character can gain celebrity status in its own right. As fans of the show will recognize, Jed not only analyzes the current campaign situation, but does so in bona fide Bartlet style. This is clearly Bartlet speaking. Not Sorkin, not Sheen. Bartlet.

In a strange synergy of fiction and reality he discusses Sarah Palin with classic Bartlet wit and sarcasm, and even relates Obama’s image-issues to those he experienced in his own (fictional) campaign. It is a rare and oddly satisfying occurrence in which a character has breached the divide between reality and its own story-world.

Last week, Matt Damon ran the talk-show gauntlet and gave the world his take on the campaign. This week, it’s Jed Bartlet — “living” proof that a character can achieve celebrity status.

  1. Leslie Stonebraker’s avatar

    Interesting aside: fictional characters from television shows can, and do, have celebrity facebook pages. Facebook has moved beyond allowing real people to constructed personas for themselves. You could become a fan of Peter Griffith, view his recent activity and receive updates at


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