14

Why we can’t stop looking at that photo of Justin and Sophie

People have dismissed that Vogue photo of Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, but it telegraphs an extraordinary message


 
Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie in a photo from the January 2016 issue of Vogue magazine. (Norman Jean Roy/Vogue)

Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie in a photo from the January 2016 issue of Vogue magazine. (Norman Jean Roy/Vogue)

For weeks I, like millions, have been mesmerized by Justin and Sophie. Not the Prime Minister of Canada and his wife, but the parents of three young kids who seem so … together—as a family, as a couple, as individuals. In public they appear self-assured and chic and calm and surrounded by “the right people,” whoever they are.

The latest example is the best yet: The Vogue photo of them, basically, about to get it on. You have probably seen it by now. Justin in his usual shirt and tie (a bit unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up), Sophie in a lacey Oscar de la Renta dress (provided by the magazine). He is seated, she is standing facing him, and they are embracing, nearly kissing. It’s intense.

The sensuality of the image has many people cringing, maybe even while stealing repeat glances. I have been staring at the photo intermittently ever since it turned up on my Twitter feed. Yesterday morning, while my kids were asleep and my husband was at the gym, and I was at the computer slurping coffee before sunrise, I couldn’t help but look again. My husband came home. I called him over. “What do you like so much about it?” he asked. Me: “They’re so hot! They’re so in love! They’re so not stressed out!”

Thank God that Canada has at least four more years of Justin-the-PM so we can relish Justin-and-Sophie, the public personification of what so many people want for themselves. Unity, emotion, connectedness. Yes, I know, I’m projecting. Justin and Sophie have a massive team behind the scenes who make them look good. The photo shoot was directed and the photo was edited. He used to be an actor, and she was an entertainment reporter; they understand optics, and have seemed to take an entrepreneurial delight in shaping their own public image.

Let’s not get distracted by all that for now. The big picture is not as interesting as the Vogue picture. Fact is the photo is more than titillating; it telegraphs an extraordinary message. Historically, political marriages have largely been portrayed as efficient, respectful partnerships or plagued by scandal and deceit. The issue of love or desire has only gotten attention after an affair; arguably, marriage itself has only come up then too. Romance is not a common theme in the public realm.

The Obamas may have been the first exception, openly acknowledging the effort and humour and devotion that have gone into making their marriage last. Justin and Sophie have had to work hard too: she has reportedly said that they’ve seen a marriage counsellor, and, as Canada learned last week, they have nannies to help raise their kids. But it is their public display of affection—especially in the Vogue photo but also before it—that is so unique. They are not uncomfortable exhibiting intimacy (real or staged), even if it makes other people uncomfortable.

In a way, glimpsing your politicians in a romantic moment is akin to catching your parents in the act. But it happens, kids. And for Justin, who has been heralded a hunk around the world since being elected—inspiring a dress-up doll, and drawing flocks of admirers at events—his fixed gaze and cozy hold on Sophie might be like insurance. It’s a way for him to publicly affirm his marital commitment, and counter all the flirtatious energy directed at him.

Many people are inflamed by the photo: they say it’s just showy nonsense, an inappropriate use of the Prime Minister’s time and energy. There’s a whiff of sexism to the criticism: Vogue is a women’s magazine, after all, so what place does a political leader have in it?

But there’s another way of thinking about it too: with that single photo, Justin and Sophie have demonstrated what many people already know about marriage: a lot more than meets the eye goes into making it look easy.

 

Photo gallery: Justin Trudeau meets and greets


 

Why we can’t stop looking at that photo of Justin and Sophie

  1. Whay are we all looking at this shot? Simple. It’s hot!

    • You may not feel that way when you’re old enough to vote. But that’s a few years off.

  2. Perhaps even more of us are not mesmerized at all, recognize narcissism when we see it, and understand fully what it means for the future of Canada’s government.

  3. From the author:
    “For weeks I, like millions, have been mesmerized by Justin and Sophie.”

    Well, maybe millions of Canadians are shallow enough to be captivated by a posed photo-shoot, but many more of us are simply embarrassed the Canada’s leader is all about style, with nothing of substance.

    How shallow you ask? Well, consider some of the other “writing” in this article. For example:

    1. “The Vogue photo of them, basically, about to get it on”

    Yeah…classy.

    2. “He is seated, she is standing facing him, and they are embracing, nearly kissing. It’s intense.”

    Methinks you are missing something in your own relationship if you have to live through a photo of someone else’s marriage. Sad.

    3. “They’re so hot! They’re so in love! They’re so not stressed out!””

    I’m particularly fond of this skillful prose, “they’re so NOT stressed out”

    yep….I see a Pulitzer in your future.

    4. “Thank God that Canada has at least four more years of Justin-the-PM so we can relish Justin-and-Sophie, the public personification of what so many people want for themselves. Unity, emotion, connectedness. ”

    yes, because according to you, having a hot, just about to “do it” couple as the first family of Canada is vitally important for Unity, Emotion, and connectedness. Who cares about jobs, the economy, or inidvidual freedom when we can have four more years of Kardashian type entertainment disguised as “journalism” from Canada’s media.

    5. “He used to be an actor, and she was an entertainment reporter; they understand optics, and have seemed to take an entrepreneurial delight in shaping their own public image.”

    News flash….he’s still just qualified to be an actor; but he happens to be the Prime Minister now. That should NOT be a comforting fact for anyone who is actually concerned about the financial well-being of the country. (hint: You want to see what an activist Liberal can do…look at Ontario’s energy policy, and compare the number of large firms; and jobs, that left the province because of it)

    6. “It’s a way for him to publicly affirm his marital commitment, and counter all the flirtatious energy directed at him.”

    Flirtations energy directed at him…hmmm. You mean sort of like this ridiculous waste of space in Macleans to provide us with your column?

    I can’t say any more about this silly column, but I do hope that we don’t see many more tongue baths like this disgused as a story in a major publication like Macleans in the near future.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when a Canadian journalist’s “work” reads like the pubescent scribblings of a 14 year old girl describing her latest crush on her facebook page.

    Embarrassing.

  4. There’s a ‘whiff’ of sexism if you are opposed to the photo shoot?! That is a shameful sentiment. Launch a personal and vicious attack.

    I’ve seen numerous authors here at Maclean’s come onto these comment boards and engage with readers.

    Ms. Gulli, please explain why you had to go to that level? Couldn’t it just be that perhaps some people have a valid concern with the photo shoot as the best use of Justin’s time?

    I would really hope Maclean’s doesn’t plan to attack their reader’s chronically for daring to question Justin.

    I’d like to ask Ms. Gulli to confirm her charges.

    • Shoop,

      she can’t answer. She’s too busy staring at her copy of Vogue and wishing she were Sophie.

      • So it would seem.

      • Thanks James. Not surprised there was no response.

        Wishing she were Sophie? smh at the likelihood of being correct.

        There should be a standard level of journalistic professionalism. These infantile attacks are just thrown into pieces by authors with no thought to maintaining a level of decorum. (See Ms Gulli, personal attacks don’t feel good do they. Do you think my comment would perhaps have been more humae if I don’t throw in that smh part?)

        Sexism should be a serious charge. Instead it is a given throwaway by an author who demands rights while unable to show basic human decency to others.

        It’s a way of stopping debate. “Anyone who opposes this view is sexist, ergo a bad person. Therefore, this view is the only possible correct one.”

        Come on Maclean’s, you are better than this. Or at least you used to be….

  5. A whiff of sexism. Since when is it sexist to expect the women of the press to act like adults instead of gushing, giddy teenagers. I happen to think it sexist when we let women get away with behaving like tween girls in the throes of a boy crush without calling them out in it. I won’t apologize for expecting women journalists to have more maturity and sensibility than to lose their $hit over a Vogue photo shoot.

    • Now you are expressing male privilege.

      Clearly the ‘sexism’ is so evident that any male should be ashamed to have concerns with the photo at all.

  6. I have nothing against the photo per se, but I do have a problem with the claptrap in this commentary. “[The photo] telegraphs an extraordinary message…” Really?! A staged photo of a pretty-looking couple telegraphs nothing about the complexity or state of any marriage. It sounds like the BS you read in People mag about the “perfect star couple”– that are divorced a year later. I sincerely wish the best for the Trudeaus’ marriage, but commentaries like this do a disservice to Trudeau’s relationship and his leadership.

    • Dove in that context I think it should have been ‘leadership’, with the quotes.

  7. Oh now you’ve done it. Up until now I thought the Santa Claus stuff was the most poop my pants laughable articles being printed in McLean’s……not so fast bucko !! Cathy you are a gem. I bet I can guess where you grew up and what University you went to. I love it when McLean’s show us that there are real people so detached from reality that they are able to use their education to come up with articles like this. Oh my I just want to show this to my thinking friends, however I wouldn’t want to be responsible for them throwing up or laughing themselves into a stroke….keep up the comedy Cathy you really have a future in the U.S….you’re funnier than Amy Schumer,Tina Fey, and Kirsten Wiig combined..

Sign in to comment.