By Roger Estrada
Rita Barberá: “I accept the judge’s offer and I will collaborate with justice” (El Mundo, 15th March); Donald Trump goes back to insults and threatens Bernie Sanders (La Información.com, 14th March); Pedro Sánchez: “I don’t understand where Iglesias’ hatred and spite towards the PSOE come from” (El País, 6th March).
… These are only three headlines randomly chosen from the dozens, hundreds?, that any citizen half worried about the current political situation is faced with every day; three news pieces quite devoid of any real content that, however, are quickly taken by sharp commentators, know-it-alls, ruthless tweeters and similar races to extract from them any imaginable reflection, harsh remark, mockery, analysis or there-you-have-it before Mr Trending Topic certifies its digital expiry date, which is, no doubt, the same night. And everyday the same! A new torrent of bombastic headlines, out of context declarations, urgent disclaimers, looked for misunderstandings, acute reflections, heated debates, unnecessary insults, unanswerable truths and biased comments that citizens more and more pissed off each day with political updates receive at full speed and are almost unable to digest.
Dear reader, do you happen to suffer, like me, of informative heartburn? Don’t worry; take a political humour pill in GIF format every eight hours and the day will become (a bit) easier to bare. Rita is not resigning? Take a deep breath; she will get what she deserves sooner or later. Do you #FeelTheBern? Have a laugh with Bernie’s fright/counter-attack to Donald! You can’t take Pedrito’s suave manners any longer? Paseo en Poni has three presents for you:
Paseo en Poni is the social alias (and name of her wood accessories brand) of Belén Soriano from Madrid, whose daily Facebook updates make my day since we became virtual friends in 2011. Her hilarious mash-ups of political hot news and classic film scenes work as a corrosive spit to the face of many of the country’s full of themselves savers and tweeters that roam about Parliament. She involuntarily triggered this article, so I thought the least I could do was to let her speak here.
Are you that methodical that you read all the daily press before deciding your daily target or is it just an impulse what makes you chase the perfect object for your GIF?
My updates are not very methodical; as most of us do, when I get up I do a quick scroll through my social networks and I see what we’re going to have for breakfast that day. Since I post it after noon, the day’s topic is already quite clear, most people have heard of it and it works better. I look for the GIF or image right then.
Why classic films? What do you think these films have that works so well as a punch line for your sometimes ironic but others merely descriptive sentences about political news?
I think they work better because they are images that not everybody can identify at first with a given film and also because they’re not so popular and tend to show characters that overact a bit, doing comical gestures.
If I remember correctly, in the beginning you worked with stills; when did you decide to opt for GIFs and why do you think they improve your updates or make them more blunt?
In Facebook I use GIFs since it’s allowed and I think it improves my posts because GIFs offer you a complete comical sequence with more nuances.
Which of your creations obtained the best feedback?
“Soraya getting to the debate.”
Do you know of any other political commentators that use GIF formats on the net? And leaving aside the GIF format, whom do you turn to when you need to make reality more bearable by having a good laugh? Which are your favourite humourists?
Political commentators? I’m not sure. Does Inda count? The way they repeat themselves and offer their arguments in a loop, any talk show guest is quite similar to a GIF! Political news are quite comical in themselves, when my rage doesn’t surpass my need to laugh at what’s happening, that is. In Facebook I see more opinions and complaints and I get a clearer idea of what people I don’t know are thinking; but if I want a real laugh then I go to Twitter because for the people I follow anything can be laughed at, with GIFs and without them. They’re really brilliant! For example: @Profeta_Baruc, @LarrySion, @Pipapulgarcita or @queridoantonio. And when it comes to more traditional humour formats I follow Ignatius Farray, Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari.
Talking about Louis C.K., at the beginning of March, the US comedian took advantage of the premiere of the sixth episode of his web series Horace and Pete to warn his followers against the dangers that he thinks are hidden under the wig of the politician that more and best GIFs has brought about these last months. He said: “Please stop it with voting for Trump. It was funny for a little while. But the guy is Hitler. And by that I mean that we are being Germany in the ’30s. Do you think they saw the s–t coming? Hitler was just some hilarious and refreshing dude with a weird comb over who would say anything at all. […] He’s an insane bigot. He’s dangerous.” Do you think he’s exaggerating? Good old Louie sounds a bit desperate, yes, unable to understand how a guy with a discourse such as Trump’s –simple in form and content, insulting towards his opponents, clearly racist– will more than probably become the republican candidate to the US government.
A possible answer to such an anxious enigma could be found in the fact that Trump is really good GIF material. At least that’s what Matthew Ingram, senior editor of Fortune magazine and an expert in the evolution of mass media, thinks according to his article “The Era of the Political Sound Bite is Over. Now It’s All About the Gif“, where he analyses the evolution of the way in which the media have portrayed political battle since Ronald Reagan –and his mockery “There you go again” to Jimmy Carter– to this our present in which Trump’s histrionic faces end up becoming the most viral audiovisual content of something as seemingly important for the country as the debate between republican candidates. “(These GIFs) Without a doubt they have helped reinforce the idea that he’s a bigmouth and a clown,” Ingram says, “but at the same time they might have also helped his campaign, or at least his media profile. […] Observing Trump –one of the candidates that more clearly understands and takes advantage of today’s media–, one has the feeling that he might be looking to make GIF creators happy with his face expressions and body language. He’s a real showman, and that is something visible in every frame”. Conclusion: we have to put an end to this –this and this– the sooner the better.
As it was to be expected, political parties themselves haven’t taken long to using GIFs for their own benefit as theoretically witty replies, perverting thus their initial use as a desperate citizen slap in your face to their political class. It’s the bazillionth invention of their communication teams, eager to position their bosses at the centre of the social buzz. Let’s illustrate such shameful practice with a recent and close example, such as the GIF and meme crossfire between the main parties of a country that, while I’m writing this, still has no government and more than 4 million of its inhabitants are unemployed –including Podemos’ community manager, who wasn’t aware of this Twitter beef–. Check this out:
— Ciudadanos (@CiudadanosCs) 1 de marzo de 2016
Before such a state of affairs, I think it’s time to make a call to reflection, an appeal to our responsibility as citizens; this is going beyond the pale and the consequences might be irreversible. Thus, before posting your last GIF for the world to see, starring the author of hits such as “It’s the mayor who wants the neighbours to be mayor”, “Spain is a great country and Spaniards very Spanish and many Spanish” or “A glass is a glass and a plate is a plate,” ask yourself this question: “Am I ready for another four years of Rajoyzilla?” Oh, boy!