The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 10, No 4 (2022)

The cute and the fluffy: pets, humour and personalisation in political communication

Liisi Laineste,Anastasiya Fiadotava,Eva Šipöczová,Guillem Castañar Rubio


When serious official political statements are not enough to get people’s votes, politicians often turn to attention-grabbing and emotion-triggering self-presentation. They give the public access to their “normal, everyday” lives through personalisation and use other tools of “new” politics to create a favourable image of themselves. They can also show the unexpected, backstage aspects of their lives, such as their interactions with their pets. The paper analyses four case studies from different countries (Belarus, Estonia, Slovakia and Spain) in which politicians’ references to their pets became a prominent topic in internet communication and provoked numerous humorous reactions in the form of memes. By looking at various degrees of politicians’ personalisation strategies, we show that “new” and “old” politics should be regarded as the poles of a continuum rather than a binary opposition. We also discuss the content, form and stance of the humorous internet memes posted in reaction to the appearance of politicians’ pets in the news. Our research indicates that such memes function to provoke a discussion and, as a result, form a polyvocal commentary on events; the politicians, however, must take risks accompanying unconventional, revealing political communication and hope that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.


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