The Hill just reported that “President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series for Netflix, potentially including scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features…In his last two years in office, the former president, 56, hosted a film festival at the White House and expressed an appreciation for big-screen projects.”
Earlier, in March, it was announced that former Obama administration official Susan Rice had been named to the Board of Directors of Netflix. It seemed an odd choice. After all, her only apparent experience with filmmaking was in orchestrating the claim that the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi was due to an offensive anti-Muslim video, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of a filmmaker, who is now homeless as a result.
The stock market seemed nervous about Rice’s appointment, with Netflix shares falling 5% on the day of the announcement, a loss of $6 billion in market value. That might have something to do with the reaction of subscribers, many of whom quit or threatened to.
But the relationship of the previous administration to the film industry isn’t just about Netflix. As the Guardian reported in 2015, “In the past seven years, Obama has presided over a grand bargain between Washington and Hollywood that has brought the two cultural forces closer than ever before.” The connection runs deep.
Obama and his administration have always been about the narrative. Indeed, Obama himself was boosted early on by his own narrative, lovingly recounted, some would say fabricated, in his autobiography, some would say biography, Dreams of My Father. Reason reported on the former president’s unusual control of the visual narrative, through the continual release of staged photos, which his adoring press then released as though they were just chance photographs that just happen to be iconic. And Obama even hired an aspiring novelist, Ben Rhodes, as Deputy National Security Advisor, a peculiar choice if you are trying to make good foreign policy decisions but the perfect choice if you are trying to create and control a narrative.
And too, the 20 acre Obama activist training center — cough, cough, excuse me — Obama Presidential Center will include “a studio where [Obama] can invite Spike Lee and Steven Spielberg to do workshops on how to make films…[and] a recording studio where I could invite Chance or Bruce Springsteen, depending on your tastes, to talk about how you could record music that has social commentary and meaning.”
Obama is not going to fade into a courteous and honorable background like former presidents before him. He is itching for continued influence — expect to see him soon, offering another left-wing “teaching moment,” only this time on your television and even the big screen.