Purge the Potted Plants
A week ago today Rachel Notley called a provincial election in Alberta for April 16. For me though, how she did it was important too. She did it in front of rows of potted plants. I groaned when I saw what she was about to do.
Let me explain. Potted plants is a media term for people, normally politicians, making announcements with rows of their supporters behind them. Those people in the background become potted plants.
For politicians running for office in Alberta these days and for that matter, for politicians everywhere, please purge the potted plants.
As I watched the Rachel Notley election announcement on Facebook last Wednesday, I spent more time looking at the people behind her. Adults, parents holding small children, and even children holding Notley election signs.
I hate seeing crap like this. It’s so staged. It’s so politically correct and it’s so stupid.
I got to admit, I spend way more time than I should hoping one of the potted plants does something really memorable. As I watched Notley there was a cute girl with curly blond hair holding a sign on the left side of the screen. As Notley continued her speech, the little girl looked more and more bored. I was really hoping she would do something memorable like yawn with her mouth open for 20 seconds. That would have been great. I would have been even better if she yelled something like “I gotta go pee.”
Notley received some criticism in social media for using children as potted plants in her announcement. Not from me, I think using children is great because that dramatically increases the chances of something going wrong. I think dogs would make great potted plants.
The Politics Behind Potted Plants
Something going wrong actually happens quite often in potted plant situations. There have been several cases of people behind President Trump attracting more headlines than Trump because of their candid reactions to some of his crazy statements made in his speeches. I’m obviously not the only one looking for one of the potted plants to become the star of the show.
Here’s how potted plant photo ops are done. People working for a political campaign, or for a politician in office arrive early and as people arrive for the event, after being invited to attend, ask certain people if they would like to stand behind the politician as they make their speech. They let them know this is their chance to show support for the leader and the party and they’ll get on TV. Who can pass up that opportunity?
Halfway through the announcement, some of those people are probably have thoughts like - I hope I don’t look bored up here and how in the hell can I get out of this place?
What is so apparent, but you’ll never find in writing, is the planning that goes into the potted plant placement (say that 10 times quickly). Political operatives need to be mindful of gender equality in these situations, racial diversity and a range of ages. They also require good-looking people, but maybe not too good looking, because you want the audience’s attention on the leader and not somebody really hot in the background.
The American Effect
My first memory of the use of potted plants came in 2001, when then New York City Mayor Rudy Giulani spoke after 911. He was surrounded by officials who led the police and fire departments, along with the New York Port Authority and others. It was a definite display of unison and showed that emergency responders had the back of the Mayor and the backs of New Yorkers. The scene was repeated on Saturday Night Live a a few days later and has taken off ever since. It may have been done before, but I don’t remember it.
For a few years, the potted plant photo opp seemed to be more of an American thing and we didn’t see it much in Canada, but that’s all changed. Political leaders now have a hard time making a statement without being surrounded by supporters, construction workers with hard hats, or kids.
We’re in for three weeks of election promises from leaders in front of potted plants, although I have noticed UCP Leader Jason Kenney making some announcements from behind a podium in the middle of a field with nobody behind him. Mind you, I think it looks strange to have him standing behind a podium in the middle of nowhere. It’s almost as if the podium has shot up in the field like a stalk of corn.
While voters will fuss over the platforms of political parties, their campaign promises and their candidates before voting on April 16, I’ll be looking for something else. I plan to vote for the party whose leader makes the most announcements without potted plants behind him or her. To me, less is more and I like to focus on the announcement and not be distracted by the background.
That's a joke of course, but please purge the potted plants.
Maybe that should be a new political party?
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