New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her political party have just won a landslide victory in the country’s 2020 election. In a historic win, the Labour Party secured all 64 of its projected seats in the 120-seat assembly and winning a rare parliamentary majority that has not been seen for 50 years.

But this really shouldn’t come as a surprise as Jacinda Ardern’s brand of politics is rooted in ideology of “being strong and kind,” and has now become the precedent by which all world leaders are measured by. There have been numerous thought pieces and social media discourse celebrating the importance of female leadership, and Arden is always at the center of it.

“New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in almost 50 years. We will not take your support for granted. And I can promise you we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander.” – Jacinda Ardern

After all, in her chaotic first-term in the NZ office, she weathered a right-wing terrorist attack on the country’s Muslim community, reformed the country’s gun laws in its aftermath, demonstrated a masterclass in crisis leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, all while parenting a toddler. When I lay it out like that it’s very easy to see why everyone is pro-Jacinda Ardern and slowly moving towards stan territory (I’m sure there’s a Twitter fancam somewhere), but I digress.

The praise is not underserved because if there were a politician that represented their people, no matter which ideology they subscribed to – it would be her.

In some ways, I can’t help but compare her career to that of former US President Barack Obama’s or even Premier Justin Trudeau (pre-blackface gate). President Obama was approachable, had a great sense of humor and you felt an immediate kinship with him because he dropped his annual Spotify summer playlists. Trudeau was known for looking like a Disney prince in his younger years – his boyish charm and good looks were integral in positioning him as a knight in shining armor.

Both men ushered in an era of “stanning politicians” who seemed relatable but also, were poised, articulate and had a larger-than-life persona. You’d want to get a drink with them or even discuss what happened during the Game of Thrones series finale with them, because they were that cool. That’s the sort of emotion they evoked in people. But as I think this over, I can’t help but feel that this culture of ‘stanning’ politicians has set the stage for things going wrong, very fast.

When has the cult of celebrity worship ever bode well for anyone?

Sure, you can praise Jacinda Ardern’s politics of kindness and her abhorrence for division. You can praise her for demonstrating decency and working to meet people (all kinds of people) halfway and engaging in healthy discourse. In fact, you can give her a big kudos and share an inspirational quote of hers every time she pops up on your LinkedIn feed.

When has the cult of celebrity worship ever bode well for anyone?

That sort of attitude is a breathe of fresh air, especially in a world divided now more than ever.

But if we’re letting people like her occupy spaces in the culture apart from politics and using her as an example for women’s empowerment – we’re also opening the door to let in less than savory and blatant opportunists like Tomi Lahren and Ted Cruz gain a foothold in stan culture (and believe me, there’s a whole audience for that).

We know the power of fandoms, especially with the rise of stan culture via social media. People are glorifying celebrities, artists, musicians and public figures and leaving little room for criticism. Just this past week, we had the Marvel group chat work overtime to get everyone and their mum to come out in support of Chris Pratt because Twitter called him “the worst Chris” for his shady political leanings.  Take the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became a feminist icon in her twilight years because of a Tumblr post that popularized her as ‘the Notorious RBG’. While we celebrate her and all her accomplishments for women kind; she was also complicit in pushing an anti-Native American policy that prevented sovereignty over ancestral land. The blow was devastating to the Native American community but this is often brushed aside in stan culture.

Unlike stanning a celebrity, who you can break away and turn away your support easily, training this powerful weapon on a politician who is responsible, let’s say for matters that are life or death is opening the doors to sycophancy. The act of overlooking flaws, justifying their actions and placing lofty aspirations on politicians must stop. We must examine all our politicians with a critical lens.

Stanning a politician, even ones as intelligent, well-rounded, and empathetic as Jacinda Ardern is irresponsible and dangerous. The road to hell is often paved with good intentions and our past rodeos with world leaders have taught us just that.

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  • Sharanya Paulraj

    Sharanya Paulraj is a third culture Gulf kid who aspires to be a writer and filmmaker. Sharanya loves taking photos, chatting about pop culture, memes and engaging in America's Next Top Model discourse. In an alternate universe, she ended up going to Area 51 to Naruto run and went viral.