Benjamin Franklin in popular culture
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Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, has appeared in popular culture as a character in novels, films, musicals, comics and video games. His experiment, using a kite, to prove that lightning is a form of electricity has been an especially popular aspect of his biography in fictional depictions.
- Franklin appears as a main character in the Broadway musicals Ben Franklin in Paris (portrayed by Robert Preston) and 1776 (portrayed by Howard Da Silva in the original production).
- Franklin is portrayed in a central role in the PBS cartoon Liberty's Kids voiced by Walter Cronkite.
- In HBO's 2008 miniseries John Adams, Franklin was portrayed by Tom Wilkinson and in the 2015 play Mr Foote's Other Leg by Colin Stinton
- In 2017, a song about Franklin written by Lin-Manuel Miranda intended to be a part of the musical Hamilton (musical) was sung and released by The Decemberists.
- Franklin appears in Marie Antoinette (1938), played by Walter Walker.
- Franklin appears in John Paul Jones (1959), played by Charles Coburn.
- Franklin appears in La Fayette (1961), played by Orson Welles.
- A young Franklin appears in Neal Stephenson's novel of 17th century science and alchemy, Quicksilver.
- Proud Destiny by Lion Feuchtwanger, a novel mainly about Pierre Beaumarchais and Franklin beginning in 1776's Paris.
- Franklin was a character in the 1997 Thomas Pynchon novel Mason & Dixon.
- Franklin appears in several episodes of Histeria!, voiced by actor Billy West similarly to Jay Leno. He is frequently shown flying his kite in a lightning storm and being electrocuted as a running gag.
- Franklin appears in Fred Saberhagen's "The Frankenstein Papers", and part of the novel is written as letters to Franklin.
- Franklin appears in The Remarkable Andrew (1942), played by George Watts.
- The Walt Disney cartoon Ben and Me (1953), based on the book by Robert Lawson, counterfactually explains that Franklin's achievements were actually the ideas of a mouse named Amos.
- Stan Freberg's comedic audio recording, Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America Volume One: The Early Years, depicts all of Franklin's accomplishments as having been made by his young apprentice, Myron.
- The 2004 film National Treasure has the main characters trying to collect clues left by Franklin to discover a treasure that he hid.
- Franklin has been portrayed in several works of fiction, such as The Fairly OddParents, as having lightning-and-kite-based superpowers akin to those of Storm from X-Men.
- The anime Code Geass takes place in an alternate universe where Great Britain is known as the Holy Britannian Empire. Franklin, who was responsible with appealing to France for aid in the American war for independence, is instead bribed by the Duke of Britannia with promises of territories in the colonies and becomes an Earl. As a result, George Washington is killed during the Siege of Yorktown and the American movement for independence fails.
- Sixteen-year-old Ben Franklin plays a significant role in The Age of Unreason, a series of four alternate history novels written by American science fiction and fantasy author Gregory Keyes.
- In Bentley Little's short story The Washingtonians and the Masters of Horror episode of the same name, Franklin was revealed to have been a composite of the accomplishments of several different people as opposed to one real individual.
- In Assassin's Creed III, Benjamin Franklin appears as a non-playable character. The player has the optional side-quest of retrieving lost pages from Poor Richard's Almanack for Ben. Also, he is present in the cutaway scenes involving the raising of George Washington to leader of the Continental Army and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In Assassin's Creed: Rogue, he has a small role as inventor and American ambassador in Paris.
- Benjamin Franklin's ghost appears in several Marvel comics as a companion to the Mercenary Deadpool. In the comic, Franklin found a way to harness the power of electricity to turn himself into a ghost.
- Also in Marvel comics, Dr. Strange's girlfriend Clea was seduced by a wizard (Stygyro) disguised as Ben Franklin during a time travel story arc. The "real" Ben Franklin made an appearance at the end of the story.
- In the alternate history short story "The Father of His Country" by Jody Lynn Nye contained in the anthology Alternate Presidents, Benjamin Franklin is elected as the first President of the United States in the 1789 election over his sole opponent George Washington with John Adams becoming his Vice President. As a result of this, he creates a more democratic society.
- The time-travel card game Early American Chrononauts includes a card called Franklin's Kite which players can symbolically acquire from the year 1752.
- In an episode of The Flintstones titled "The Time Machine" (season 5, episode 18, original airdate January 15, 1965), the Flintstones and the Rubbles travel by time machine to various periods in the future (from their perspective). One of those stops is in Philadelphia, where they meet Benjamin Franklin as he is conducting his kite-and-key experiment. When Wilma says something Franklin deems worthy of writing down, he asks Fred to hold the kite string. Naturally, the lightning picks that moment to strike the kite, electrifying Fred. In turn, Barney, Betty, and Wilma try to separate Fred from the kite string, only to be electrified themselves. “So that’s how electricity works, eh?” says Franklin. “I’d better write this down.”
- In season 3 of Bewitched, Aunt Clara accidentally brings him forward in time to repair a broken electrical lamp.
- The science-fiction TV show Voyagers! had the main characters helping Franklin fly his kite in one episode and save his mother from a fictionalized Salem witch trial in the next episode.
- Franklin appears in the LucasArts Entertainment Company Game Day of the Tentacle.
- A 1992 Saturday Night Live spoof of Quantum Leap, "Founding Fathers", had Franklin traveling through time with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to help modern day Americans with deficit reduction, only to find twentieth century reporters are only interested in scandal and sensationalism.
- The children's novel Qwerty Stevens: Stuck in Time with Benjamin Franklin has the main characters using their time machine to bring Franklin into modern times and then to travel back with him to 1776.
- In a 2004 sketch on the TV show MADtv, Franklin, played by Paul Vogt, sends Samuel Adams, played by Josh Meyers, to the future in a time machine he made from a rolltop desk. Franklin wanted to know if the American Revolution was a success, but gets frustrated when Adams only comes back to tell him that Samuel Adams Beer is a success. The time machine also brings back a man named Jerry, played by Ike Barinholtz, who is little help to Franklin.
- A Saul of the Mole Men episode titled "Poor Clancy's Almanack" uses Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to explain the true mainstream conflict while revealing Clancy Burrows' past. Both Franklin and Jefferson appear again in the spin-off Young Person's Guide to History. Dana Snyder portrayed Franklin in both series.
- In the webcomic Spinnerette, Franklin is pulled through time by a machine into present day. Because the timeline dictated he died in 1790, he was rendered effectively invulnerable to danger by way of preternatural luck in order to avoid temporal paradoxes. He took up hero-work and became a leading member of the American Superhero Association.
- In the animated series Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, the titular characters secure Franklin's aid to power a damaged time machine that has brought them to colonial America on the first night of the Revolutionary War.
- Though he doesn't appear, Franklin is referred to in the Ben 10: Omniverse series finale "A New Dawn", in which he revealed to have crafted various tools for George Washington's use as part of a secret society predating the series' Plumbers, a galactic law enforcement division that deals with various alien and supernatural threats.
- A character clearly based on Franklin appears in Norm Novitsky's time-traveling film, In Search of Liberty, which was released in 2017.
Characters based on Franklin
- In the webcomic The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, McNinja's mentor in medical school was a clone of Franklin.
Characters named after Franklin
- In the 1904 Giacomo Puccini opera Madama Butterfly, the lead male character is Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton.
- M*A*S*H protagonist Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce is named after both Benjamin Franklin and President Franklin Pierce.
- In the 1993 movie The Sandlot, actor Mike Vitar's character is named Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez.
- The Prison Break character Benjamin Miles "C-Note" Franklin is named after Franklin.
- In the 2004 film National Treasure and the 2007 sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Nicolas Cage portrays the protagonist, Benjamin Franklin Gates, a fictional historian/treasure hunter.
- The 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V features the character Franklin Clinton, named after Franklin.
As portrayed by fictional characters
- "Julian McGrath", played by Cole & Dylan Sprouse, appears as Franklin in a school play in the Adam Sandler comedy Big Daddy.
- In the 2007 episode "Ben Franklin" of the sitcom The Office, an actor portraying Franklin is hired for an office party.
- The YouTube web series Epic Rap Battles of History features a video where Benjamin Franklin is placed in combat against Billy Mays and Vince Offer.
- Benjamin Franklin also appears as a playable character in the video game Tony Hawk's Underground 2 where his kite experiment is portrayed.
- The Philadelphia 76ers NBA franchise has an alternate logo featuring Franklin playing basketball.
- Category:Cultural depictions of scientists
- List of places named for Benjamin Franklin
- Lightning rod fashion
- "Hear the Decemberists' 'Ben Franklin's Song' From 'Hamilton' Project". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-12-15.
- O’Neil, Ted (June 16, 2016). "Movie crew filming scenes in Richmond Hill". Bryan County News. Retrieved June 16, 2016.