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This article was published 28/5/2015 (815 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Justin Trudeau -- he's just not ready.
This is the latest in the Conservative's attack ads against the Liberal leader. As many have pointed out, it is eerily similar to the Manitoba NDP ad which criticized then-Tory leader Hugh McFadyen.
In both ads, two men and two women are debating an individual's resumé to determine his ability to take on a job. It's artful in that it takes apart both men's policy and credibility. The NDP ad ends with one of the interviewers rejecting the candidate while saying "nice suit, though." In the Conservative ad, with Trudeau's smiling photo, the interviewer rejects "Justin" and adds "nice hair, though."
It's interesting that in the case of Trudeau, the Conservatives tend to belittle his leadership skills by focusing on his hair. It's become a common insult. Trudeau has nice hair, but no policy.
But there's some added subtlety here. Men, as they age, lose hair. So when a man does have hair, he takes on the effect of a woman. So, are the Conservatives feminizing Trudeau? And if Trudeau can't lead, because he is too feminine, what do the Conservatives think about women?
Think back to the Conservative attack ads on Justin Trudeau released just after his leadership win, entitled "Experience -- he's in way over his head." In these ads, a goateed Trudeau is contrasted to a stable Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Trudeau is shown stripping his shirt off in a sexualized manner (ostensibly this is archived video footage from a fundraiser he participated in while an MP).
In one of the three ads, his resumé is listed while carnival music plays. The announcer outlines he's been a camp counsellor, a rafting instructor and a drama teacher for two years. When the announcer hits the line drama teacher, the derision in his voice is obvious. In all three ads, the final frame has fairy dust being poured over the Trudeau name. He becomes effeminate, sexualized, almost cartoon-like.
Deliberate acts, says Canadian researcher marketing and advertising CEO of Abacus survey company Dave Colletto. He says those ads came out when polling numbers showed Trudeau was as popular among men as he was among women.
Make Trudeau gay. Make him effeminate. He becomes an outsider and not representative of Canadian men.
Political attack ads are nothing new. Political parties have been using them for years and the good ones work. The bad ones do not.
Sometimes, it's pretty hard to figure out which is which until after they've gone to air. In 1993, Conservative attack ads against Jean Chrétien that aired during the federal election were seen as going too far, despite the fact they had been vetted by focus groups. Two ads seemed to focus on Chrétien's face paralysis and asked the question "Jean Chrétien -- a prime minister?"
Chrétien took full advantage, the day after the ads ran with a news conference in which he reprimanded the Conservatives for a desperate ad campaign that made fun of his looks. As he said, "God gave me a physical defect." Then-prime minister Kim Campbell's polling numbers dropped and her party lost.
So far, the Harper Conservatives have been very adept at using attack ads to win elections -- including some that never make it to television but can be found on YouTube.
Take, for example, the ad campaign the Tories launched against former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion who was deemed "not a leader" in the final frame of the ad. Or the attack ad against former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff that suggested he's not really Canadian and that he would consider ignoring human rights to launch attacks on terrorists.
But with Trudeau, there's a whole new level of nastiness. The Trudeau "inexperience ads" didn't make much of a dent in the polling numbers, with Trudeau's numbers climbing after his leadership win and Harper's falling. However, with four months to go before an election and the Liberal numbers dropping, this new attack ad may get some traction.
I just wish it wouldn't be on the feminization of a political leader, judged too weak, too female, too gay to lead.
Shannon Sampert is the perspectives and politics editor for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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