I’m not falling for the prime minister of Canada’s game anymore.
It’s been just over two years since Justin Trudeau took the leadership of the Great White North’s liberal government and the internet has been sweating him ever since. Immediately after the Oct. 20, 2015 elections, the headlines began.
In the beginning, those headlines seemed generally worth it. His progressively gender-split cabinet, his desire to put women on Canada’s money, his greeting of Syrian refugees, all set Trudeau up to be a darling of the internet’s left, thirsty for another wold leader to champion their causes.
But over time those headlines became less … meaningful.
It isn’t so much that these relatable things (I also have socks!) were getting covered, it is that they were the ONLY things that were getting covered. At least here in the U.S. The noise of him in swim trunks drowned out most things that mattered, even things that seemed to genuinely affect Americans.
Coverage of Trudeau focused on him having a butt, wearing a jacket, casually kayaking, and oh. my. god. the socks.
Instead, we continually see headlines of bromances, clothing bearing his face, proof of his nerdy interests, and smiling, smiling, smiling.
This past weekend, when Trudeau was in Manila to attend a summit of Asian and western nations, the PR spin seemed wildly out of hand.
To be completely fair to the prime minister, he did what President Trump did not. He spoke out against Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s excessive human rights abuses as the government has launched a brutal campaign against drugs, where citizens are encouraged to kill those who sell drugs and those who are addicted to drugs. It’s a truly grim situation and Trump said nothing against Duterte’s offenses.
But in the few days after Trudeau visited The Philippines for the ASEAN summit, many of the headlines surrounding his visit dealt with a photo op he took in a chicken restaurant.
Much of Trudeau’s coverage was based around smiling in a fast food restaurant in a country that has seen over 12,000 deaths since Duterte began his war on drugs last summer. The optics are upsetting.
And nothing about that finger-lickin’ smile suggests that his government has been recently blasted for dumping tons of illegal garbage in the Philippines.
Maybe it’s not Trudeau’s fault. Maybe he doesn’t plan these things, it’s just the way the internet wants to see him. The problem is, whether it’s Trudeau’s directive or not, the internet’s interest in him is now only as a pure spectacle. He is positioned as a cuddly good guy, with his smile for a sword and his socks for a shield.
Especially with the election of Trump, Trudeau was originally positioned to be a bastion for well-reasoned politics in a turbulent era, a shining star to the North. Instead, both through his politicking and our own habits, he has been reduced to a seemingly attention-grabbing, narcissist.
Trudeau should stand as a firm example that elected officials are not your friends.
At the end of the day, Trudeau should stand as a firm example that elected officials are not your friends. Even if they are the shit-grinningest, baby-kissingest, left-leaningest people you can imagine, they are still your employees, your representatives. You have an obligation to keep tabs on them and make sure they continually represent you in the way you want. Even if they can do impressive yoga poses.
*whispers* Even if they are Barack Obama.
This Manilla incident, again, might not have been Trudeau’s doing. He seems to have done the right thing and just so happened to also take a happy picture with some happy fans. But a prime minister, even a handsome one, shouldn’t really have fans. That’s probably unavoidable in our fandom culture, plus you’re always going to have partisan people championing those that represent them.
What is avoidable for a government leader, is not feeding into that cycle of fandom. Otherwise, they might find themselves doing everything for that fandom instead of doing everything to improve the entire population of a country. Otherwise, they’re just being Trump.
Don’t be Trump, Justin Trudeau.