Assassination of John F. Kennedy in popular culture
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The assassination of John F. Kennedy has been referenced or recreated in popular culture numerous times.
Fictional detectives investigating the assassination 
The novel Gideon's March by J. J. Marric, published in 1962 by Hodder and Stoughton in London, gives an eerily prescient look at the Kennedy assassination. Inspector George Gideon learns of a plot to assassinate President Kennedy during a state visit to London. The assassination is to take place during a parade, by means of a bomb; the assassin is a Southern bigot who hates the President for his Roman Catholic faith and his civil-rights initiatives. The assassin is given the distinctly Irish name of "O'Hara". The novel's publication, a year before the actual assassination, is reminiscent of Morgan Robertson's 1898 novel Futility, which depicted the sinking of a massive ocean liner called "Titan" fourteen years before the sinking of the Titanic.
Sherlock Holmes in Dallas (Dodd, Mead 1980) by Edmund Aubrey, brings the renowned consulting detective (who, by 1963, would have been approximately 109 years old) out of his Sussex retirement to investigate the Kennedy assassination.
In the long narrative poem Wyatt Earp in Dallas: 1963 (Seraphim Editions, 1995-ISBN 0-9699639-0-4) by Steven McCabe, Earp received a prophecy from a prisoner foretelling the invention of television and the death of President Kennedy. Earp, motivated by this prophecy, time-traveled to Dallas to prevent Kennedy's assassination.
Television and film portrayals 
The assassination and the subsequent conspiracy theories surrounding his death have been the topic for many films, including:
- the 1966 Emile de Antonio documentary Rush to Judgment, based on Mark Lane's book;
- David Miller's 1973 Executive Action;
- Nigel Turner's 1988, 1991, 1995 and 2003 continuing documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy.
- Oliver Stone's 1991 JFK, based in part upon the book On the Trail of the Assassins by former Orleans Parish (Louisiana) District Attorney Jim Garrison.
- The Rat Pack, a 1998 HBO TV film about the group of entertainers giving their contribution to Kennedy's election in 1960. He was portrayed by William Petersen.
Other filmmakers have drawn inspiration from the assassination, rather than portraying it directly:
- The 1974 film The Parallax View is about a senator who is assassinated, with the assassin himself dying violently quickly thereafter. The protagonist, an investigative reporter played by Warren Beatty, is on the verge of solving the mystery when another senator is murdered. This time, he gets blamed for the murder, also posthumously.[vague]
- The 1979 French film I comme Icare takes place in a fictional Western country, and tells the story of a presidential assassination from the viewpoint of one of the dissenting members of a Presidential committee similar to the real-world Warren Commission. He then starts his own investigation. The title is from the Greek myth about Icarus, who flies too close to the sun. The investigator himself is killed when he comes too close to the truth.
- In the 1979 film Winter Kills, U.S. President Timothy Kegan is shot at Hunt Plaza in Philadelphia. The ensuing Presidential commission condemns a lone gunman as the killer. The film starts years later, when Kegan's half-brother, Nick, witnesses the death-bed confession of a man claiming to have been part of the "hit squad".
In 1975, a San Francisco-based group of artists called Ant Farm reenacted the Kennedy assassination in Dealey Plaza, and documented it in a video called The Eternal Frame. Two years later, the assassination was re-enacted again as part of the ABC television movie The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, looking at what might have happened had Jack Ruby not prevented Oswald from going to court. The 1983 NBC TV mini series Kennedy showed the assassination from Jackie Kennedy's perspective.
In comedies 
JFK assassination have also been treated humorously:
In the TV series Seinfeld, episode "The Boyfriend, Part 1" (1992), a ballpark spitting incident is revisited, and a "second spitter" theory, à la the second gunman theory, is discussed, in a parody of the final courtroom scene in JFK. In another episode, Elaine said that a relative worked in the book depository building with Lee Harvey Oswald. Elaine said that when her relative told Oswald that Kennedy had been shot, Oswald "winked at him and said 'I'm gonna catch a movie'".
The 2002 film Interview With the Assassin presents the assassination and resultant conspiracy theories in mock documentary fashion, with a terminally ill former Marine named Walter Ohlinger who claims that he was the second gunman behind the fence on the grassy knoll. In the same year, in Bubba Ho-tep, Ossie Davis played an assassination-obsessed character with a scale model of Dealey Plaza, and photos of the various players on his wall.
In the Comedy Central series Strangers with Candy, Stephen Colbert's character asserts that "Fidel Castro impersonated Marilyn Monroe and gave President Kennedy a case of syphilis so severe that eventually it blew the back of his head off."
The "Sibling Rivalry" episode of Family Guy showed a cutaway gag after a character had been called a bad marksman "nearly as bad as Lee Harvey Oswald." In the scene, Oswald is shown cheering for Kennedy from the infamous window. However, upon seeing a pedestrian near Kennedy pulling out a gun, he panics, pulls out his sniper rifle and takes aim to try to bring down the "assassin". The gag ends before he fires, implying that he was not successful and consequently was blamed for the assassination. In "A Hero Sits Next Door", Peter is trying to stop a bank robbery. The police outside try to "take him out" but Lois bumps into the gun and the gun fires into the distance. A boy walks out of a store telling all his friends about his new John F. Kennedy Pez dispenser. The stray bullet hits the JFK Pez dispenser in the face. The boy says, "oh well, at least I still have my Bobby Kennedy Pez dispenser." Bobby was assassinated five years later.
The MTV animated series Clone High revolves around a high school inhabited by teenage clones of major historical figures, JFK is one of the main characters. There is also a fast food/smoothie politically themed restaurant called the Grassy Knoll; on the roof of the establishment there is the presidential limousine with a dummy of Kennedy hanging out of the limo and the a flagstaff with the American flag at half-mast. JFK appears to be afraid of sudden, abrupt movements as he is constantly ducks and is scared of handgun gestures.
In the 1994 movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the main character Ace says to Lt. Einhorn, "I came to confess. I was the second gunman on the grassy knoll", after she asks him what he is doing at the police station.
In the film Zoolander, one of the characters states that male models were responsible for virtually all political assassinations, including that of President Kennedy. When told that Oswald was not a model, the original character states that the shooters from the grassy knoll were.
The third Prehysteria film has a mini-golf proprietor reviewing his tape of a crucial missed putt and realizing that he wasn't distracted by an actual bird chirp, but a spectator standing on a "grassy knoll" blowing a bird call, prompting him to exclaim "It's a conspiracy!"
There is also a skit on the show Whitest Kids U Know about Lee Harvey Oswald preparing to shoot Kennedy. It depicts a younger Oswald, and Kennedy's vice-president, Lyndon B. Johnson, assisting in the assassination. Oswald begins singing a song, which ends when Kennedy is shot by someone else.
In the "Tikka to Ride" episode of Red Dwarf, the characters accidentally knock Lee Harvey Oswald out of the sixth-floor window of the Book Depository, creating an alternate timeline where Kennedy is impeached in 1965 for sharing a mistress with a mafia boss. J. Edgar Hoover is blackmailed into running for President by the mob and allows Russia to establish nuclear missiles in Cuba. Fearing the repercussions of this timeline – but unwilling to kill Kennedy themselves – the characters convince the alternate John F. Kennedy to go back in time and shoot his past self from the grassy knoll, arguing that this action will restore his historical position as a liberal icon.
On the stop-motion animated parody show Robot Chicken, a series of animals were shown being "Nature's Assassin", "Nature's Asshole" and "Nature's Retard". The "Assassin" is the mongoose, who is shown sneaking through a forest before coming to rest on the much disputed grassy knoll and then pulling out a sniper rifle. The mongoose aims the rifle at Kennedy's head and fires. Immediately afterward, a newspaper is shown announcing Lee Harvey Oswald as being the assassin.
In drama 
The aftermath and John F. Kennedy's funeral is often portrayed as well. In the 1992 drama film Love Field, Lurene Hallett, a Dallas hairdresser attempts to travel to Washington to attend John F. Kennedy's funeral. Lurene is a Jackie Kennedy fanatic who idolizes the Kennedys and feels personally connected to Jackie through her own loss of a child. The movie gets its title from Love Field Airport, in Dallas, Texas, where Lurene travels to watch the President arrive on November 22, 1963. Lurene hitches a ride with a black man, named Paul and his daughter, Jonell, to get to Washington. Though the movie encompasses other issues besides the assassination, it portrays one facet of the public reaction to the event. It is noted that the role of Jacqueline Kennedy is played by Rhoda Griffis, and is regarded as her breakout role.
In The Rock (1996), a mysterious rogue British secret agent, grateful for help with disappearing, tells the protagonist of a microfilm database full of political secrets of the last 30 years. The last line of the movie is: Honey, uh, you wanna know who really killed JFK? The agent, played by Sean Connery, was allegedly imprisoned in Alcatraz for stealing the microfilm information without charge or trial. However, Alcatraz was closed in 1962 by order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, a year before the Kennedy assassination.
The JFK assassination was featured in the 1993 thriller film In the Line of Fire, starring Clint Eastwood. Set in present day, the film is about a psychopath who plans to assassinate the current President of the United States. Eastwood's character is Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, the last remaining active agent who was on duty in November 1963, guarding Kennedy in Dallas. Horrigan is consumed with guilt over his failure to react quickly enough to the first shot in Dallas. After learning of the psychopath's assassination threat, Horrigan asks to be assigned directly to the President, determined not to fail a second time. (A close-up of Ike Altgens' famous photograph is shown in the film, digitally altered to show a young Eastwood riding on the running board of the Secret Service follow-up car in Dealey Plaza.)
The Kennedy assassination was mentioned twice in the 2007 movie Shooter, which revolves around a conspiracy to kill an Ethiopian archbishop and frame protagonist Bob Lee Swagger for the murder. The first reference, to how Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, was apropos of tying up loose ends in a conspiracy. The second reference occurred when Swagger and his partner Nicholas Memphis visited a weapons expert in Tennessee. This expert said that the shooter responsible for the assassination was probably already dead, since "this is how a conspiracy works". As an example, he claimed that the men on the grassy knoll were dead within three hours of JFK's assassination. These men were supposedly buried in anonymous graves in the desert outside of Terlingua. When Memphis expressed his doubts about this claim, the man replied that he "still got the shovel" used to bury them.
In the Fox television program Bones, the team at the Jeffersonian is asked by the United States Secret Service to exhume what are presumed to be Kennedy's remains and discover how he actually died. Agent Seeley Booth is especially interested in the case, because his ancestor was John Wilkes Booth— the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln.
The X-Files episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" (1996) places a young cigarette smoking man as the assassin, shooting from a sewer drain located near the grassy knoll after setting up Oswald as his patsy.
In the Doctor Who episode Rose, Clive Finch's website includes a picture showing the Ninth Doctor present at the Kennedy assassination (the photo, which shows him just seconds before the shots were fired, is a digitally altered version of a real photograph). The Doctor Who spin-off novel Who Killed Kennedy? features the Doctor's enemy the Master attempting to kill Oswald before the assassination as Kennedy's survival would trigger a chain reaction in history that could wipe the Doctor from existence- a possible metafictional reference to the face that the series first aired the day after the assassination-, prompting a journalist who has been manipulated by the Master to go back in time and assassination Kennedy himself.
JFK’s assassination was featured in an episode of Mad Men, from season three in 2009, Mad Men, entitled “The Grownups." The episode focused on the characters reaction to JFK’s assassination and the subsequent events in their personal lives. The episode gives voice to the collective grief in America surrounding the assassination and the disturbance it created in the cultural and historical narrative of the nation. Real footage from Walter Cronkite's coverage of the event is used repeatedly in Mad Men, which gives the episode a real life feel. Different characters display different reactions to the traumatic event, which correspond to the distinct gender roles of the era. Betty Draper is deeply emotionally impacted by the event and is shown crying throughout most of the episode. Don Draper, the archetype of a 1960s man’s man, appears concerned by tries to ignore his reactions and the reactions of others in the show. Peter Campbell, one of Don’s coworkers, reacts to the assassination with anger. After being turned down for a promotion at the beginning of the show, Peter ultimately decides to leave the Advertising Agency by the episode’s culmination. The assassination disrupts the wedding of Margaret Sterling, the daughter of Roger Sterling, the boss on the show. Only a few guests show up to the poorly timed wedding, due to the tragedy and during the wedding some guests watch the news in the kitchen. Characters of all ages are affected, even the Draper’s children, Sally and Bobby. The Draper family is especially impacted as the Draper’s marriage begins to officially disintegrate in this episode. After seeing Lee Harvey Oswald shot on live television, Betty Draper runs out to meet the man with whom she is having an affair. Following this encounter, Betty returns home and tells Don that she does not love him anymore. This moment marks the release of Betty’s mounting anger due to Don’s own infidelity. This episode’s portrayal of the assassination shows how broadly America was impacted by this calamity.
In books 
In Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast, which takes place across numerous alternate universes, the protagonist is asked to identify his timeline, which he does by naming the U.S. Presidents during his lifetime: "Woodrow Wilson—I was named for him—Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy." Upon which another character replies: "Which brings us to 1984, right?" This implies that in Wilson's timeline, the assassination didn't happen.
J. G. Ballard wrote a 1967 short-short story entitled "The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy considered as a downhill motor race."
In the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore, which portrays an alternate history of America, the character of The Comedian is asked at a dinner party honoring President Richard Nixon if he is clean in relation to the murder of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. He replies, "Yeah, I'm clean. Just don't ask me where I was when JFK died." Throughout the novel, The Comedian engaged in black ops work for Nixon, yet The Comedian's involvement in the assassination is only implied.
In Stanley Shapiro's novel A Time to Remember, a history teacher goes back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination, in an effort to prevent the Vietnam war and his brother's death in the conflict.
"What if?" themes 
Profile in Silver, a 1985 episode of the second Twilight Zone series, features a time traveler (Dr. Joseph Fitzgerald) from 2172 who is sent to record the assassination, but ends up intentionally preventing it. The interference sets up a chain of events, beginning with the assassination of Nikita Khrushchev and predicted to culminate in a nuclear war that will destroy the human race. Fitzgerald realizes his folly in disrupting history and tries to reverse his disturbance. The timeline is ultimately restored when Fitzgerald takes Kennedy's place in the motorcade, while the president is transported to safety in 2172.
The 1990 film Running Against Time starred Robert Hays and Catherine Hicks as time travelers unsuccessfully attempting to prevent the tragedy, on a theory that the Vietnam War would not have happened had Kennedy lived. In a key scene, Hays is accused of the assassination in place of Oswald.
"Lee Harvey Oswald", the 1992 season opener for the TV series Quantum Leap, finds Scott Bakula's time-hopping character Sam Beckett leaping into Oswald's identity. In the series, Sam's consciousness replaces that of various people from his own lifetime, remaining in each person until he corrects something "wrong" in that person's life or times. Shifting back and forth between earlier points in the shooter's life, Sam's guide Al Calavicci concludes that Sam is there to uncover the conspiracy. Unfortunately, Sam begins to assume the personality of the assassin, gradually finding himself powerless to change anything. No proof of conspiracy is discovered. At the critical moment, Al breaks through to Sam, prompting him to leap into Secret Service Agent Clint Hill. Hill attempts to reach the car before the shots, but fails to prevent Kennedy's death. In the final exchange, Al reveals that they have saved one life—that of Jackie Kennedy, whom Oswald had killed along with the President in the original timeline. This episode was written by series creator Donald P. Bellisario, in response to the Oliver Stone film JFK. Bellisario did not believe in conspiracy, and throughout the episode he interweaved supporting evidence from the Warren Commission Report and Volumes, while having Al speculate that people find it comfortable to believe in a conspiracy, because the implication suggests that if one man can kill the President, nobody is safe.
Tikka to Ride, a 1997 episode of the science-fiction comedy series Red Dwarf, played the time travel paradox for laughs. Craig Charles, as Dave Lister, persuades the rest of the crew to go back in time to order some curry and ends up in the Texas School Book Depository. Lister literally bumps into Lee Harvey Oswald (played by Toby Aspin), causing Oswald to fall out the sixth-floor window before he can fire his third shot and kill the President. In the resulting time line, Kennedy is impeached in 1964 for sharing a mistress with a Mafia boss, J. Edgar Hoover is blackmailed into running for President by the Mob, and Russia is allowed to install nuclear missiles on Cuba in exchange for Mafia cocaine trafficking being permitted. On a more long-term note, the crews' ship is erased from existence as Kennedy's impeachment traumatizes America, allowing the USSR to win the Space Race. After attempting to permit the assassination to take place by forcing Oswald up to the sixth floor rather than the fifth, Oswald merely wounds Kennedy, due to the steep trajectory of his shot. The crew is forced to recruit the alternate Kennedy to assassinate his past self—none of the crew being willing to kill Kennedy themselves—thus restoring Kennedy's position in history.
In the 2002 film Timequest, a time-traveler prevents Kennedy's assassination and history takes an alternate course, including the birth of a second son, James Kennedy, who was conceived on the night of November 22, 1963, when Kennedy and his wife return from Dallas.
In Stephen Baxter's novel Voyage (1996), the Dallas assassination attempt only succeeds in crippling Kennedy, but kills Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, the First Lady, instead. Kennedy is re-elected in 1964, however, and commits the United States to landing a crewed vessel on Mars, which occurs in 1986. However, this novel does not deal primarily with the assassination attempt, except as a backdrop to the crewed Mars mission that it makes possible and an alternate-universe US space program that results from Kennedy's longevity in this world.
In the 2006 novel Prologue (Cold Tree Press 2006 - AmazonKindle 2010) the usual time-travel scenario is inverted. Author Greg Ahlgren devises an alternative future wherein Kennedy was not assassinated, and the Soviet Union won the Cold War. Pursued by Soviet agents, the American time-traveling protagonists go back to the early 1960s to change history, and end up in Dallas in November 1963.
In the short story collection Alternate Kennedys, Kennedy's father exercised control over his boys, and first put Kennedy's older brother up for the Presidency in 1952, then yanked him before he could seek a second term. The older brother ended up becoming John's assassin in 1963.
An early story idea for the sequel to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which ultimately became Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), written by Gene Roddenberry, involved the Kennedy assassination, as a historical event which Kirk and Spock must utilize time travel in order to travel back in time to ensure the occurrence of. The story idea was dismissed as it was thought to have the potential to alienate American audiences, as it was based on the premise that the assassination was "supposed to happen", rather than the storyline revisionistically preventing it from happening.
Don DeLillo's 1988 novel Libra focuses on the life of Lee Harvey Oswald and offers a speculative account of the events leading up to the Kennedy assassination. In DeLillo's 1997 novel, Underworld, characters watch the Zapruder film at a dinner party.
In music 
In Luke Powers' song "I Saw John Kennedy Today," from the Americana CD Picture Book (2007), Kennedy explains that he faked his own death in Dallas using a body double. Being free "because he was dead," Kennedy bought an old pickup truck and has been traveling the byways of America "where the girls are always friendly."
The Broadway musical Assassins, written by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, climaxes as the ghosts of John Wilkes Booth, Leon Czolgosz, Charles Guiteau, and other "would be" assassins including John Hinckley, appear before a suicidally depressed Lee Harvey Oswald, and convince him that the only way for him to truly connect with his country is to share his pain and disillusionment with it. The best way to accomplish this, they argue, is for him to shoot the president. Originally, Assassins culminated with a reprise of the song, "Everybody's Got the Right," following Lee Harvey Oswald's gunshot. However, the song, "Something Just Broke," which acknowledges the impact of the assassination on the American people and the course of history, was added in a 1992 production of Assassins in London at the Donmar Warehouse.
At least two choral works by classical composers have been dedicated to President Kennedy: "Thy word is a lantern unto my feet" by Leo Sowerby, and "Take him, Earth, for cherishing" by Herbert Howells.
The Kennedy assassination has been the subject of two music videos, Ministry's "Reload"; Marilyn Manson's "Coma White" (with Manson as JFK), and the album cover for The Misfits' album "Bullet" (depicting an image of the president with his head blown apart).
The Human League song "Seconds" from the 1981 Dare album deals directly with the Kennedy assassination and is directed at Lee Harvey Oswald. When playing live, the group regularly projected slides onto the background of the stage, and would play this song in front of images of Kennedy and the assassination in Dallas.
"Sleeping In" by The Postal Service has the lyrics "Where there was never any mystery of who shot John F. Kennedy/It was just a man with something to prove/Slightly bored and severely confused/He steadied his rifle with his target in the center/And became famous on that day in November."
"Tomorrow, Wendy" by Concrete Blonde has the lyrics "Underneath the chilly gray November sky/We can make believe that Kennedy is still alive and/We're shooting for the moon and smiling Jackie driving by..."
They Might Be Giants recorded the song "Purple Toupee" on the album Lincoln which references the Kennedy assassination with the lyrics, "I remember the book depository where they crowned the king of Cuba" among several other historical events from the same decade.
The card game Chrononauts, which simulates the cause-and-effects of changing history through time-travel, features Kennedy's assassination as a Linchpin card. When flipped (and Kennedy is injured rather than killed), it affects three later Ripple Points: the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and MLK (1968), the Apollo 11 moon landing (1969), and Richard Nixon's resignation (1974).
In DC Comics' 100 bullets, a theory is put forward that the shooter on the grassy knoll used the eponymous 100 bullets to kill the president. While no names are mentioned, there is a clear implication that the shooter was baseball player Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio wanted to kill Kennedy in revenge for Kennedy ordering the murder of DiMaggio's ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe, because she wanted to go public about her love affair with the President. In the story, it appears DiMaggio was not part of any conspiracy plans; it was sheer chance he chose that day and place to kill Kennedy.
In 2004, the video game JFK Reloaded was released, which puts the player in the Texas Book Depository, where he or she attempts to assassinate the president. The game was made in an effort to prove that it was entirely possible for Oswald to have done the shooting by himself.
Kennedy appears as a character in Call of Duty: Black Ops. In a cinematic cutscene he assigns the player character, Alex Mason, to undertake a sabotage mission at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. During this sequence Mason has a hallucination of pointing a pistol at Kennedy's head. Later in the game it's revealed that Mason was brainwashed by the KGB to assassinate Kennedy (it's also implied that Lee Harvey Oswald, who Mason mentions as being "compromised", was also a sleeper agent) and it's heavily implied that Mason did carry out his assignment and killed Kennedy, becoming the legendary second gunman on the grassy knoll.
See also 
- Nicholas Cullather has discussed "The Movie Version" of John F. Kennedy's assassination in Nicholas Cullather, "History, Conspiracy, and the Kennedy Assassination," Retrieving the American Past, ed. Marc Horger (New York: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2005), 301-330.
- Maslin, Janet (11 December 1992). "Review/Film; Michelle Pfeiffer in a Tale of a 1960's Interracial Friendship". The New York Times.
- Against Time
- The New York Times http://theater.nytimes.com/mem/theater/treview.html?res=9a05eed7173af930a15757c0a9629c8b63
|url=missing title (help).
- "This Might Be a Wiki (TMBG Knowledge Base)". Purple Toupee. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- "This Might Be a Wiki (TMBG Knowledge Base)". Purple Toupee: Lyrics. Retrieved 16 April 2012.