MARVEL THEORY: Was Obama Elected President in the MCU?

There have been many references to Obama throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe, yet their current President is Matthew Ellis. So, was Barack Obama ever elected President in the MCU?

Editorial Opinion
The 2016 Presidential Election saw the American people electing Barack Obama's successor as President of the United States. But we're here to talk about comics and superheroes! So today we're looking at the Marvel Cinematic Universe to find out if Obama was ever elected President in the movies. A popular theory states that he lost the 2012 election to the MCU's current Commander-in-Chief, Matthew Ellis, after the events of the Avengers and the Battle of New York. However, we're going to see how Iron Man 3 proves that theory is wrong. Watch the video below, or continue reading to see why.

Proving Obama exists in the MCU

First things first, we need to prove whether or not Obama exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thankfully, we have some pretty definitive evidence for that. For Obama’s 2008 campaign, the street artist Shepard Fairey created an iconic poster featuring the candidate painted in patriotic colors with the word Progress which was later changed to Hope. The design was a viral success, which spawned countless parodies and imitations. For example, you may have noticed a play on this image in both Iron Man two and the Avengers. Does this on its own prove that Obama exists in the MCU? No. I suppose Shepard Fairey or his movie universe counterpart could have had the same idea while being inspired by Iron Man. But we’re just getting started.

Let’s linger on that news montage sequence from Avengers. If you look closely, you can see Jay Carney, real-life former press secretary for Obama from 2011 to 2014 as he's issuing a statement about the Battle of New York. But does this prove that Obama exists in the Cinematic Universe? Again, you could argue that whoever the president was at the time be it Obama, Ellis, or somebody else still could have theoretically hired on Carney regardless.

We’re looking for clear and explicit references to the man. No gray areas or speculations. I just wish I knew where to look. Thankfully, Luke Cage gives us at least two explicit references to Barack Obama. Or, at least some person named Obama. Just for further evidence, I will point your attention to Captain America. The Winter Soldier. In a brief shot, we can see Steve Rogers’ bookshelf, to which my editor can apply advanced CSI image enhancing techniques, allowing us to see this book, Barack Obama, The Story, a biography written by David Maraniss.

So, we have our proof that Obama at least exists in the MCU, but so far there have been no references to him specifically as President. A popular theory known as the no re-election theory states that Obama was elected as President in the MCU in 2008 for his first term, but lost the following election in 2012 to Matthew Ellis after the Battle of New York shook up the entire world. That would explain why we see the Iron Man posters inspired by the Obama campaign, and the book which was published in 2012.

Plus, it just makes sense, right? A huge, world-shattering event that was the Chitauri invasion would more than likely put things into perspective, and spark a political battle over who could better protect the nation from these new threats. Matthew Ellis might have run against Obama with a campaign that aimed to safeguard the country from aliens. Build a wall in the sky. A tremendous wall and the Chitauri will pay for it! The event would catapult Ellis into winning the 2012 election and becoming President of the United States in 2013 and for the rest of the MCU after that. Starting with Iron Man 3 where he plays a key role as a kidnapped victim of Aldrich Killian, but wait...

Deciphering the MCU Timeline

Iron Man 3 was released in May of 2013, but it is set during Christmas time. So either the movie flashes forwards to December of 2013 or took place in the past during December of 2012. And if we look at the evidence, you can see that it points towards the latter. For starters, the beginning of the movie gives us one of the only fixed dates in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s New Year’s Eve of 1999 going into New Year’s Day of the year 2000. While the transition into the modern day is vague, we get hints from a couple of characters as to how many years have passed since then. Both Aldrich and Maya say it’s been 13 years since they last saw Tony.
13 years from 1999 would be December of 2012. If the movie were set during 2013, it would make more sense for them to say it’s been 14 years. We also know that the entire movie was being told in past tense because of the post-credit scene. Iron Man 3 features a voice over, which was explained as Tony recapping the events to a stressed out Bruce Banner who doesn’t exactly have a winning temperament. This scene lets us know that even though the movie was released in the real world during the Spring of 2013, the actual story takes place the previous Winter, in 2012. Which also makes a lot of sense because it’s a direct sequel to the Avengers, as Tony is experiencing PTSD from the battle.

This timeline is all the evidence we need to prove that Barack Obama was never President in the MCU. Here’s why.

Has Ellis been President this whole time?

Even though a president would have been elected in 2012, they would not have been sworn into office until 2013. Meaning, if the theory that states Obama served one term as President in the MCU immediately before Matthew Ellis is correct, then it would have been Obama who was kidnapped in Iron Man 3, not Ellis. He would still have been the sitting President during December of 2012 despite having lost the re-election. But that’s not what we saw. Ellis was the sitting president during the Winter of 2012, which means he had to have been elected in 2008 instead of Obama, and presumably re-elected for a second term as we continue to see and hear of him as President in the MCU to this day.

And there’s more evidence to back this up. Captain America was presumably unfrozen in 2011 or 2012, before the first Avengers movie. Why is this important? Well, take a look at a scene from Captain America: Winter Soldier when Steve visits the Smithsonian exhibit about himself. On one of the walls, you can see a quote that says “Welcome back, Cap.” And who is credited with this quote? None other than President Matthew Ellis. If Ellis became President in 2013, then this wouldn’t make much sense. They would have only been citing a presidential candidate. Sure, they could have just updated the sign once Ellis was elected the same way they definitely had to update the rest of the exhibit after the revelation that Cap was alive. But there are other clues.

We get the most evidence from Iron Man 3 since it features the most screentime of President Ellis. When Killian is trying to convince Pepper to invest in Extremis, she declines, believing it to be dangerously weaponizable. Aldrich goes on to explain that part of his development of Extremis involved him and his company AIM dodging the President’s stance against bioweapons for years. Years! This detail lets us know that Matthew Ellis, who, again, was President at this time in 2012 had to have already been in office for the past few years. Not newly elected after the battle of New York, but an already established Commander-in-Chief.

Later on in the film when Killian is holding Ellis hostage with the intent to kill him in a grand display of evil power, Aldrich explains that he needs a reason to murder the President that would play well in the media. The narrative he lands on is to make it look like the Mandarin is killing President Ellis over an oil spill that happened during his time in office. A fictional Marvel company called Roxxon Oil Corporation caused a devastating oil spill that occurred off the Florida coast years before Iron Man 3, but still during Ellis’ presidency. Thanks to Roxxon’s political connections to Ellis, every Roxxon executive was absolved of their irresponsible actions that led to the oil slick. None of them saw a day in court.

This piece of dialog again lets us know that Ellis has been President in the MCU for years before 2012, probably being elected all the way back in 2008 during the start of this whole movie universe. He wasn’t first elected after the alien invasion in the Avengers but rather re-elected. Which means, more than likely, that Barack Obama was never elected President in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So, where is Obama?

What about that book by David Maraniss? Well, even though it was published in the real world after Obama’s first term, the biography mostly focuses on his family and his early life before the Presidency. You don’t have to win the election to get a book about your life. Ask almost any former presidential candidate. Or anyone else with a biography, for that matter. We do know that Obama at least ran for office, thanks to the Hope poster parodies and how one character in Luke Cage brought up the time he sang Al Green at a campaign fundraising event. But when you look through all of the obvious references to the politician, he’s never specifically referred to as President Obama. Just Obama.

He likely was or continues to be a popular senator who ran for office perhaps both in 2008 and 2012 but lost out to Ellis both times. If this theory is correct, it would mean that Ellis is on the last legs of his final term as President. Unless the MCU never established the 22nd amendment setting the two-term limit on a presidency— which is certainly possible in a universe that features magic, super soldiers, and talking ducks — Matthew Ellis’s days as Commander-in-Chief are coming to an end. Which makes me wonder who the next President of the MCU will be, and if they’ll be modeled after who we’ve elected this year.

What do you think about all this? Let me know in the comments below!
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