Long-staid print and TV political coverage is suddenly taking a more American-style approach to leaders' personal lives.
European newspapers are managing to treat new French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, two of the most unglamorous figures ever to hold power, more like reality television stars. Sure, folks get excited during elections, no matter what the country. But, in the past few days, there's been a distinctly frivolous tone in how European media covers these candidates, particularly given that the Greek economy appears to be about to go up in smoke.
Monday, The Guardian ran a profile on "France's new power couple," discussing the deliciously romantic details of Hollande's relationship with his current partner, Valérie Trierweiler, for whom he left Ségolène Royal. "When she telephones, 'My love' flashes up on his phone," the piece dishes.
European media have treated this week's big election in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, as most important not because Merkel's party got trounced, but because Germans supposedly like the idea of no-nonsense Mom bossing them around, as they put it. The big winner of the election was Social Democrat Hannelore Kraft. Kraft's party and Merkel's have opposing platforms, but that didn't stop the German press, as Der Spiegel noted, from naming Kraft "the new Merkel." German sometime call Merkel "Mutti," or "Mummy," and apparently Kraft has that same sort of spiritual presence. "In her own party, she can be a tough disciplinarian, but most Germans, particularly during the last few years of the euro and debt crises, see Merkel as a comforting presence intent on protecting their prosperity," Der Spiegel suggests. The Süddeutsche Zeitung paper was apparently gushing about Merkel's and Kraft's "gentle treatment of voters." What Freudian fantasy did we slip into here?