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The Kid's Table: My Date with the President's Daughter

By Anthony Lauriello     3/10/11 6:00pm

Today, anger, malaise and fatalism pervade American politics. Listening to our leaders' speakers, one might infer that our very way of life is under constant threat. For those in need of some good old-fashioned American optimism, I recommend viewing the 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie, My Date with the President's Daughter, a film not only about fashion, blooming sexuality and fatherhood but also about a government by and for the American people. The movie covers one night of madcap hijinks and romantic tension between the president's 16-year-old daughter, Hallie Richmond (Elisabeth Harnois, Ten Inch Hero), and the longhaired Duncan (Will Freidle, "Boy Meets World"). The two meet in a local mall after Hallie runs away from one of her father's (Dabney Coleman, You've Got Mail) cliché-ridden campaign events to go live life as a regular teenager. Ignorant of her important stature and desperate to prove to his friends that he can get girls, Duncan asks Hallie to the local school dance. Duncan then steals his father's (Jay Thomas, Mr. Holland's Opus) BMW and in one of the greatest scenes of the film, realizes that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is no regular house. The two then embark on their date, quickly ditching the Secret Service at a movie theater, and run amok and unsupervised along the streets of Washington, D.C., forcing President Richmond and Duncan's father to join forces to locate the wayward teenagers, as the Secret Service proves inept.

What truly allows this plot to flourish is Hallie's character. Miss Harnois does an excellent job portraying a young lady whose sexuality and freedom are not only stifled by her parents, but also by the organs of the state as well. An example of this is her escape from the Secret Service agents. At a movie theater, Hallie pounces on Duncan and the two land on the floor, which leads to their escape from the confused agents. This clearly symbolizes Hallie's chaotic and irrational entry into womanhood and contrasts with the rigid forms of government. This transformation continues throughout the TV movie: When Duncan first picks her up, Hallie is wearing a conservative and prudent light blue outfit that one would expect a politician's child to wear on the political stage. While Duncan thinks the outfit looks "nice," Hallie wants to look, in her words, "hot," and purchases a sexualized pink dress, highlighting the dramatic change from daughter to sex object.

The movie also touches on political subjects. Duncan's father begins the movie with open hostility towards President Richmond but through shared paternal bonds he learns that the president is simply another American father and a man of the people. While the incompetent Secret Service shows the dangers of government intrusion, the first family shows the nobler calling of public service and the personable sides of democracy. While many of us love My Date with the President's Daughter for the character interaction and humor, it is the combination of Hallie and amazingly sly and witty quips about American government that truly make the film something to treasure.

The Kid's Table revisits your childhood favorites with a somewhat more mature, but not much, viewpoint. Up next: Razor Scooters. Anthony Lauriello is a Wiess College sophomore.

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