The proxy crusade over Justin Trudeau's ugly Christmas sweater - Macleans.ca
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The proxy crusade over Justin Trudeau’s ugly Christmas sweater

Tabatha Southey: Why the outrage over a photo of the Trudeaus wearing sweaters adorned with an emoji-added Last Supper scene is misplaced


 

An undated photo of Alexandre Trudeau and Justin Trudeau wearing sweaters with a scene from the Last Supper with emoji faces. The photo appears to have been first posted online in 2016 by Reddit user KacperNiburski. (Reddit)

It was an odd way for Conservative Opposition House Leader Candice Bergen to close out the holiday season and ring in the New Year. But to each their own, I suppose: Some people like a final eggnog, some people like popping onto social media and accusing their Catholic political rival of cruelly insulting Christians everywhere by wearing a goofy sweater.

On the evening of Dec. 30, Bergen tweeted out a picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his brother Alexandre Trudeau that is at least 11 months old, since that’s when it was posted on Reddit. In the photo, the pair are wearing sweaters emblazoned with Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, except the faces of Jesus and the apostles around the table are covered by emoji, wearing party hats. There’s a cake and a banner with the words “happy birthday” on it. They’re standing in front of what appears to be a family Christmas tree, and they look to have pulled the sweaters on over their shirts. They’re smiling, having their picture taken.

“Why does @JustinTrudeau think it’s ok and cool to mock and ridicule Christianity like this?” Bergen asked in that tweet. “When will liberal left elite like Trudeau and those who defend his behaviour and laugh along with him realize how harmful and intolerant they are to Christians?”

I note that Canada’s Christians haven’t hit the catacombs yet, so the photo may not have the sinister powers with which Bergen imbues it. It may, in fact, just be a picture of two men wearing bad sweaters.

The two Trudeaus were, it is fairly well known, both born on Christmas Day. As a Catholic-raised Christmas Day baby myself, I know very well how excited people can get when they stumble across something Christmas birthday-themed to give you, and I’m familiar with the kinds of jokes and Jesus-themed cakes good Christians will make to celebrate a Christmas birth. There’s not a transubstantiation-themed one-liner about my own birthday cake that I haven’t heard.

The only evidence the sweater picture is real and not photoshopped is that it looks so terribly real. In a world where I predict that one day children’s names will be inspired by the nostalgia of Instagram filters—the 2040 nursery school class  will be comprised of Kelvin, Walden, Inkwell, Sutro, Sierra, Hefe, Brannan, Nashville, Toaster, Willow, Lo-Fi, Valencia, Rise, Amaro, Earlybird, Hudson, and a teacher sighing over her class list, “Oh, no, there are 5 Perpetuas,”—this photo feels like a flashback. It harkens back to the days where we would point the camera, shoot the photo, drop off a canister at a store, and just hope the results weren’t too washed out when you got them back in a week.

This is no “Justin Trudeau ‘caught’ jogging” photo. There’s no professional photographer with a great cardio routine in this scenario. There isn’t even a filter. If I had to play private-pic dick, I’d say it they’re having it taken by whoever it was who just gave them the shirts. Forget Instagram—everything about this pic says “insistent gran.”

All of which is to say that it’s not as if the PM was addressing the United Nations in that get-up. And while Bergen’s tweet prompted some on-cue hand-wringing on social media about the threat to Canada’s global standing allegedly posed by the birthday sweater, I’d say the level of diplomacy and confidence required to graciously accept such a gift, to smile in the face of absolute absurdity, might be exactly what’s required to renegotiate NAFTA at this point.

I fear other world leaders will take note of this. Then they’ll all be doing it, and an arms-in-ugly-sweaters race will benefit no one.

The now-controversial sweater itself is currently listed for sale at the website Shelfies.com for $59.99 (which might be the only offence here), should you too wish to be condemned for blasphemy by the MP for Manitoba’s Portage—Lisgar riding. The website’s sales pitch for this piece of knitwear is “Celebrate this cool dude’s birthday in style!” so I’d suggest that if these sweaters were part of an elitist liberal atheist scheme to undermine Christianity, it’s very well disguised.

The boring, hardly heretical fact of the matter is that everything about the picture that Bergen insists offends her so much suggests we are just looking at the twisted spawn of an ugly Christmas sweater and a gag birthday present. I can understand Bergen being horrified by such a sight—you show me a person who claims they can look at a Christmas sweater without feeling a bit queasy and I’ll show you a lizard in a human suit—but there are healthier ways to deal with this feeling.

The Gospel of Matthew instructs us that, “if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,” but steady on there—most ugly Christmas sweaters don’t require going quite that far. Consider placing a paper bag over your head instead. Tell your family it’s prescription. Other options include looking backwards through a pair of binoculars so that the sweater appears very far away. Try breathing deep, centring yourself, then using that air to fake a convulsive sneeze and spill wine all over the sweater. But whatever you do, don’t wait a year to tweet about said objectionable jumper in outrage, somehow trivializing the plight of Christian minorities facing often deadly persecution in the process.

The Last Supper, of course, isn’t an illustration from the Bible, a book that didn’t come with pictures. It’s not the revealed word of Dr. Seuss. The fresco was painted more than 500 years ago, for starters, and it’s a work of art—just one artist’s vision of Christ and his followers. It’s not, and really should not be, an idol. Certainly, it is the most famous of the many depictions of the last meal that Jesus shared with his Apostles, an almost astoundingly well-known work of art and, consequently—because it deals in such an intimate way with themes of profound love and betrayal—it’s also one of the most parodied. From The Simpsons to The Smurfs to The Sopranos to South Park to Star Wars—and that’s just a few of the ones that start with S—almost every set of characters created has been depicted sitting at that long table, anchored by some stand-in for our lonely Christ.

That the emoji had a reservation for dinner there shouldn’t come as a surprise. They are, after all, yet another version of ourselves. And of course we tease because we love, and also because we are afraid, and because to share a story is to share a language and often to find comfort in that commonality. It’s a testament to the resonance of The Last Supper—and more importantly, the story behind it—that the template Leonardo gave us has, for so many, become the seating arrangement of the human condition.

So, in the spirit of just trying to see the best in people, in not questioning their motives, let alone their faith, let’s just thank Candice Bergen for reminding us of that—and move on.

 

 


 

The proxy crusade over Justin Trudeau’s ugly Christmas sweater

    • Aren’t the conservatives big on free speech?

      Question for Bergen………….How much are they paying you darlin’? Whatever it is, it’s too much. Grow up!

    • This is yet another in a long line of PC dodging and diving when it comes to anyone being offended but another smug PC self-righteous wanker. If this were an exactly analogous shot at a feminist, a Jew, a muslim, and so on, the whining and bitching would be heard on Saturn. But go ahead. Sneer, explain away, deny, revel in your PC superiority. And when a crypto-Nazi like Scheer is elected because non-PC people are sick to death of your smug self-regard, like they got sick of the same crap south of the border, you can deal with it without our help. Good luck.

  1. Brilliant. You’d think Bergen and her ilk would learn that every time they do something so absurdly over the top as this, the PM’s popularity goes UP among normal people, especially those with a sense of humour. I guess it was in the forgiving spirit of Christmas that the Conservatives at least didn’t try to use the image as a fundraiser.

    • Not yet anyway.

      Imagine sifting through the archives to dig up this picture and then all the pretend shock and outrage.

      I think they were surprised by the response.

    • So next we’ll debate whether Harp wears boxers or briefs?

      [I really don’t want to know if Scheer has dimples there as well.]

  2. Bravo, Tabatha, bravo!! Nobody could say it better.

  3. Well said,refreshingly sane and amusing.

  4. Unlike her more famous name-sharer, Manitoba’s Candice Bergen is a human painfully bereft of any kind of sense of humour… pathetic really.

  5. As a Yank I can’t say much, especially since my president (eek) is now bragging about the size of his nuclear button. Presumably the P.M. didn’t notice what was on the sweater, and, hey, it was last year, so let’s all chill (not a metaphor just now) and have another eggnog.

    Happy new year, Canada!

  6. Great article. Bergen is certainly no leader when she makes comments such as these.

  7. The main issue I have with this is the staggering amount of duplicity shown by the people defending the PM. If it had been any other group being poked fun at, the SJW would be up in arms. But, because it is Christians it is fair game? Give me a break and at least to pretend to understand why the people who love and revere Christ would be upset by this. Man alive, it was Mohammed, people would be yelling that this was hate speech and someone should be charged with a crime!

    • Shane – Tabitha went to a lot of trouble to provide a perspective on the sweater and what it represents and why it is not, nor is it meant to be, a mockery of Christianity. Your comments give no indication that you understood a word of what she said. Why on earth do you think anyone should care what you say when you give so little effort to understand anyone else?

      • Not to mention Justin Trudeau is a practicing Christian, there is a substantial difference between him making fun of his own religion and him making fun of another’s.

        • How do you know he is practicing christian? Actions speak louder than words

      • it is very clearly an image of Jesus with a happy face. It does not matter that others have done it. Others have also made comments on the muslim faith. Would Trudeau wear a sweater depicting mohammed? That is the issue here.

  8. If anyone else was wearing a sweater mocking, insulting the muslim prophet mohammad, Trudeau would be condemning it and so would you in the media. Then Trudeau would be the first in line to stand with muslims condemning that action with tears and crying …. offering $10 million in a settlement. Hello Motion 103.

  9. We have a General Governor who is too smart to believe in God.
    We have a Prime Minister who think it’s cool to make fun of Christianity.
    Dumb and dumber!

  10. Do you guys realize how horrendous is to share the date of birth with Jesus Christ?
    Instead of celebrating Christmas, nativity in general, I celebrate myself.
    Like is not enough I celebrate myself and my brother.
    Everybody else than Jesus Christ!

  11. Too bad one of the emojis wasn’t a Charlie McCarthy emoji. Ms Bergin needs a reality check…

  12. Tabatha Southey must have really needed something with which to fill some space. I can remember when (not many years ago) Maclean’s was a serious publication with talented columnists.

  13. Indoctrination of any ideology, makes you more stupid as far as i am concerned, your never open minded. They used corporal punishment on me in a catholic school in order to beat religion, and this sanctimonious crap in my head. I was strapped and beaten by brothers and teachers in school because i wouldn’t go to church, and now i have to put up with sanctimonious crap from the opposition, thank ‘GAD’ the government of NL. finally took the religion out of the school, and finally the young people of NL. are getting an education, not an indoctrination. I want my politicians to run for government, not church or any other religious affiliation, preach and do as you like, but don’t shove it in my face. Bother way, i had to quit school from the beatings.

  14. Trudeau has stated he finds the fact that Canada is populated by old stock white European decendents offensive and he is going to change it, he also said that some Chrstians are the worst part of Canadian society, but it is okay to segregate the women in a Mosque while he is ‘praying’ with the men while proclaiming he is a feminist, the man is insane. The Trudeau clan starting with Pierre have been hostile to Canada’s origins, they are French Canadian traitors that seem to be out for revenge for Quebec having been conquered by English Canada and are doing all they can to push aside Canada’s British heritage with a pool drawn from billions of non European immigrants. The obvious thing that this author left out of her article is what would be the response if the Trudeau brothers had worn sweaters mocking Mohamed and his followers as a clown? The outrage by the Libtards would have been trough the roof! From the Quebec bigots mouth himself… ‘Canada belongs to Quebec and Quebecers are better than other Canadians because they are’… Justin Trudeau

    • Trudeau and his agenda are outright scary. His father had a similar bent but was significantly smarter.
      While Trudeau’s Senior’s legacy was massive debt and 19% mortgages, at least the fabric of our culture was left pretty well intact when he left office. Hopefully Trudeau Junior won’t be able to ruin the country in a four year period before he’s gone on to new attire in a new place.

  15. This is a tough one. As an atheist I’m happy to chuckle at the outrage of Christians who think a painting is sacred. But as someone who does not support Trudeau I’m pleased to see people move away from their infatuation (even if most of those outraged by this would not likely have voted for him to begin with).
    .
    I think the most important aspect is the hypocrisy of making fun of an important Christian moment (the picture depicts jesus and his disciples so any alteration is a comment on those figures) while simultaneously vilifying anyone who makes a legitimate criticism of muslims. It does not matter if many other mediums have referenced the same work. No one voted for the Simpsons as our PM nor are they expected to represent all Canadians. What I’d really like to see is our PM in a Jesus and Mo shirt … equal opportunity for all. The author of that strip is truly funny and on a roll lately discussing a very similar topic.

  16. Ottawa media. We don’t have Trump’s tweets, the nuke button, the Bannon war, but we have Trudeau’s sweater, and some traumatized kid survivors from Ahghan captivity in a photo with Trudeau. Well it’s all we got. Let’s run with it.

  17. This article is exactly what one would expect from Ms. Southey, PC attack poodle par excellence.

    We can count on her ilk to dismiss as frivolous any perceived slight to Christianity while treating any disparagement of Islam as proof of pervasive and systemic Islamophobia. Deux poids, deux mesures.

    I wonder what the Coptic Christians (assuming there are any left) would make of her article.

  18. Sorry Tabatha, but I have to strongly disagree. Mr. Trudeau has shown extremely poor judgement in wearing this particular sweater. It is much more than a goofy or ugly Christmas sweater. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that someone else went to the trouble of ordering it online and presented it to him at his birthday celebration. If that is the case, he should have politely declined to put it on. “Geez guys, this is an image of Jesus just before his Crucifixion, and it is has been turned into a birthday party. Thanks, but as a Christian (or knowing how some might feel about this), I’m really not comfortable putting this on”. Now the website that sells the sweaters is using our PM’s poor judgement as part of their marketing of this sweater. I am embarrassed for him. Where is the line? Is it somewhere between this image of the Last Supper, and perhaps an image of Jesus on the cross? Or is it all fair game, in the spirit of goofy Christmas sweaters?

  19. The gigantic difference between Christians and certain other religious groups are evident in the ability of people being permitted to wear such sweaters is made clear in the picture of our child PM. Freedom, freedom, freedom. Sadly not permitted to say what is needed because of certain laws that have made it so. Laws that this PM has caused to appease the same group who would cause death to those who would do the same with their revered ones.

  20. I’m sure if God sent his only son down in modern times, he’d love emoticons and ugly Christmas sweaters! Who are we to say?

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