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,
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.