Can it be that “a picture is worth a thousand words” – can it tell a story – describe a personality- show you who will make a good leader?
That is the work of a campaign poster – subliminal descriptions, nuanced by cunning ad men…
I won’t even try explain the politics of France or the system for elections. But when something major like a presidential election is happening in the foreign culture you’ve moved into, you think of how it would be done at ‘home’. For Tom and me, it wasn’t the two rounds of voting or the names of the political parties-- Socialist, Green, the National Front, the Communists—that got our jabber wokkies jabbering, it was the campaign posters posted outside Bourdeilles town hall.
During an American election we would already have preconceived notions of the candidates personality when we viewed photos. A sense of affection or mockery might come to mind as soon as we saw an image, but here we know very little about the candidates and so the composition and wording of the campaign posters intrigued us.
Ignorant of the politics of the face staring at us, each photo could be regarded as a person, not as a packaged party. What was this candidate’s photo trying to say about him or herself? Why had they chosen an ocean behind them, a broad valley behind another? Why the need for a lot of text? What nationalistic ideas were being expressed in that simple slogan?
During an American election the posters would most likely bring to mind words like: liberal, capitalist, bigoted, spendthrift, entrenched, deluded, stiff, inexperienced, out of touch, entitled, fundamentalist, simplistic…
A different type of describers came to mind as I regarded the various unfamiliar French candidates: aggressive, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, inclusive, hip, modern, conservative/stiff, silly goose, sincere…
Other than that each photo was, of course, of a different individual, the only other major difference in the posters was the amount of print each incorporated. The bigger the party, the fewer the words. The posters for Workers Party and the Communist Party had the expected long manifestos. After reading them both, one wonders what kind of personality conflicts at the top led to two identical yet separate parties.
The most intriguing poster was that of the ultra ultra right-wing party the National Front. A party whose members pretty much don’t seem to like anyone except multiple generation French people. The poster shows the looming face of Madame Le Pen and the words, “Oui, La France.” The contrast of the sight of her innocent smile with the awareness of her message of fear and anger makes for a creepy experience. Better to enjoy the ocean and the landscape which comfortably frame the two front runners.
This Wednesday is the one and only debate between the two remaining candidates. We saw Sarkozy vs. Royale six years ago. It was an astonishing event for us two Americans. This wasn’t your scripted, nothing new, nothing daring debate. This was a mudbowl, cat-fighting, scorched earth political RRRRRRRumble! We hope this year’s is just as fun.