“I wish someone looked at me the way Trudeau looks at Obama.” This is a perfect way to summarize the budding friendship between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama. Trudeau became the first Canadian Prime Minister in nineteen years to receive a State Dinner at the White House. This visit was marked historic for different reasons but all anyone can talk about is how there is something about the pair that makes them seem right for each other. The good people of the internet quickly started referring to the “bromance” between the two leaders.
Now it is important to analyze this label, this “bromance” between two world leaders. President Obama is on his way out after serving two terms as America’s President while Justin Trudeau is in the infancy of his first prime ministerial term. It can be argued that Obama sees a lot of himself in Trudeau. Media and political pundits have drawn comparisons between the two in how they campaigned and achieved their positions. Obama had “Change We Believe In” while Trudeau had his “Sunny ways.” The two leaders also represent the left side of the political party spectrum in both their countries. The left, statistically, has been known to appeal to younger viewers. The bromance coverage could be how younger voters choose to interpret the event, based on the frames of reference they are equipped with – frames from pop culture. While similar, there are differences, such as how Obama was the first black president while Trudeau represents tradition, having been the son of a former Prime Minister. A way to look at this bromance is that Obama passing along his endorsement for the prime minister. He has chosen Trudeau to be his successor in terms of promoting common values and agenda points in terms of climate change and equal rights for everyone. Yet, this is just one interpretation of the bromance.
Another interpretation of this label is that it is just another way the media is making light of Trudeau’s leadership. A good chunk of media coverage is focused on his physical appearance and his ability to look amazing no matter what. The panda visit in Toronto or cover shoot with Vogue become headlines while most of his policies do not. Since the beginning, some media has taken to infantilizing Justin Trudeau. Like seen in the Conservative Party ads when they would address him by just his first name, Justin. Some of the media and opposition have always tried to diminish the seriousness of his leadership and capability to lead his party and now the country.
The term bromance can sometimes distract from political policy discussions. When there was an analysis of Trudeau’s Washington trip, the term Trubama and the discussion about the relationship between the two leaders came up way more than the discussions they had about climate change, trade, and cooperation in the fight against terrorism. I had a hard time finding any policy briefs or talking points about what the two leaders discussed and talked about because talks of their emerging bromance took center stage. Even their speeches took time to poke fun at each other and each country’s respective stereotypes, with quips about where the Stanley Cup is.
A fantastic piece of news for Canadians is that Obama has agreed to address the Parliament later this year and so we will all get to see Trubama happen again, this time in Ottawa and Rideau Cottage (Trudeau’s residence) instead of Washington and the White House. I hope this time Internet is generous and also tweets and talks more about the policy discussions that happen in this visit.