So here we are, the day after the day after the elections, absorbing the fact that a comedian is about to become the mayor of Reykjavík and trying to figure out what this all means.
I’m totally weary of the “people want change” slogan, because, well, duh! Obviously they want change — otherwise the Best Party wouldn’t have swept the elections so spectacularly. And I don’t think it’s just about Jón Gnarr as a personality, although he is undeniably popular.
The success of the Best Party is simply hard to pin down. Part of their appeal is the postmodern irony they suddenly bring to the political arena, which is just perfect for highlighting the vacuousness of the traditional political slogans. By promising the people things they will never be able to follow through on, like a toll booth on Seltjarnarnes [affluent Reykjavík suburb] and a white-collar prison [see here], they really bring into sharp focus the absurdity of many of the traditional political promises. They’ve shaken things up, made people think. And that is good.
Jón Gnarr is a chapter unto himself. He has a natural gift for comedy, one that requires him to do very little more than just stand there and be himself. [I have caught myself automatically starting to laugh on more than one occasion when encountering him in, say, the supermarket — even though he’d just be browsing the vegetable section.] He also pushes the limits of decency and political correctness — someone mentioned in comments to a previous post his remarks about Jews, and one of his election promises was allskonar fyrir aumingja, which basically translates as “all kinds of things for idiots/wastrels” [i.e. people who require welfare]. Think an Icelandic Howard Stern.
As I mentioned in the last post he has seemed completely bemused by the Best Party’s success, although with him it’s always hard to know if he’s acting or not. What has been particularly refreshing, however, is his lack of political showmanship, and this, too, has suddenly brought the absurdity of the other politicians into focus. Yesterday, for instance, while I was watching an interview with all the heads of the political parties on [political talk show] Silfur Egils I found myself cringing bigtime when ex-mayor Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir started rattling off her artful commentary immediately after Jón Gnarr’s evident confusion: everything she said seemed completely insincere, like a well-rehearsed act that was suddenly tremendously suspect.
In other words, through its alleged “political farce” the Best Party manages to turn things on their heads: Things we previously considered serious now seem ridiculous, phrases or slogans that we previously took at face value are suddenly called into question, and the whole political arena suddenly seems like a joke. All those things we previously attributed to the Best Party [farce, performance, joke, etc.] has somehow become transposed onto its surroundings, and the things it stands for suddenly seem [reasonably] sane.
* Or at least making a brave attempt.