In an unintended consequence of its ratification, the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution has taken on a life of its own as a piece of American culture, particularly as a literary plot device in books, films and television. Literally dozens of story lines have been developed in which invocation of the 25th Amendment occurs, is considered but ultimately isn't invoked, or at least gets a mention (usually along with a general discussion of what its provisions entail).
As a result, the 25th Amendment is perhaps the third most referenced amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the first and fifth, obviously, being utilized more frequently) in popular media. Among the uses of the 25th Amendment and its provisions in movies, books or television as a plot device have included:
In "Full Disclosure" by William Safire, the President of the United States suffers an assassination attempt and is blinded, with an overzealous Secretary of the Treasury seeking to oust him using the amendment.
"Father's Day" by John Calvin Batchelor, "Arc Light" by Eric L. Harry, "Warday: And the Journey Onward" by Whitley Strieber, and "The People's Choice" by Jeff Greenfield are also each cases in which the 25th Amendment serves as a plot device.
In "The Contender," President Jackson Evans nominates Senator Laine Hanson to fill a Vice Presidential vacancy under the amendment, choosing her over the choice of party leadership (Governor Jack Hathaway).
In "Dave," Presidential look-alike Dave Kovic is hired by the White House staff to impersonate President Bill Mitchell, but when a massive stroke befalls the chief executive, Dave's part-time role suddenly becomes full-time. Ultimately the amendment is invoked when Kovic (as Mitchell) suffers another (fake) stroke, at which point Vice President Gary Nance acts as President until ultimately Mitchell (the real one, not Dave) dies.
In a remake of "Seven Days in May" retitled "The Enemy Within," a military officer uncovers a sophisticated plot led by his superiors and in conjunction with the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet, using Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to unseat a President seen as extraordinarily weak on military matters.
In "Air Force One," President James Marshall is kidnapped when the aircraft is hijacked by Russian nationalists. Secretary of Defense Walter Dean and Attorney General Andrew Ward collect signatures from other cabinet officers to invoke Section 4 of the amendment, but at the last minute Vice President Kathryn Bennett refuses to sign the document that would propel her (albeit temporarily) into the Oval Office.
The series "24" utilized the 25th Amendment extensively as part of its plot line, with invocations of the amendment occuring at various points during the program's run.
"The West Wing" put an interesting spin on the amendment to wind up its fourth season, putting two invocations of its provisions into its plot simultaneously. First, Vice President John Hoynes resigned from office following a sex scandal, creating a vacancy in the office. Just two episodes later, with no Vice President confirmed to succeed him, President Josiah Bartlet declares himself disabled under Section 3 of the amendment following the kidnapping of his daughter, Zoe. House Speaker Glen Allen Walken is installed as Acting President in the final scene of the show's fourth season, and continues in service for two episodes before Bartlet, his daughter being rescued from her captors, resumes office. "Bingo" Bob Russell is confirmed later as Hoynes successor. The series would return to the 25th Amendment as a plot device a third time during its final season, albeit unintentionally so. Actor John Spencer, who played Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Leo McGarry, died during filming of the series' final episodes. The series intended plot for those episodes would be modified as a result, with the McGarry character being found dead in his hotel room on election day. President-elect Matthew Santos, who could legally have asked the electoral college to vote for the Vice Presidential candidate of his choice, instead waits until he is sworn in as Bartlet's successor, intending to nominate Eric Baker as Vice President under the 25th Amendment.
The short-lived "Commander in Chief" began with the death of President Theodore Roosevelt "Teddy" Bridges from a stroke, and the succession of Vice President Mackenzie Allen, the first female President. In just one season, it then proceeded to use the 25th Amendment as a plot device several times: Allen's succession of Bridges, her appointment of former political rival Warren Keaton as her Vice President (who lasts all of about 10 episodes before resigning), the invocation of Section 3 when Allen suffers an appendicitis attack (thereby putting the Speaker of the House in charge as Acting President), etc., etc. The only thing "Commander in Chief" didn't manage with respect to the 25th Amendment was having the Secretary for Veterans Affairs act as President following a missile attack takes out the President, Vice President and most of the cabinet during a photo op.