The prime minister and the leader of the opposition are supposed to be enemies, but Madeleine Chapman just wants Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges to be friends again.
There’s a moment in every romantic comedy when one protagonist realises that the other protagonist likes them, despite all their actions and words up until that point suggesting otherwise.
In Love Actually (2003) Keira Knightley’s character learns that her husband’s best friend, played by Andrew Lincoln, is in love with her. Her response is concise.
“But…you don’t like me.”
Oh to be negged endlessly by someone who secretly loves you. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Two friends, seemingly in disagreement about everything to the point where everyone else wonders why they would spend any time together if all they do is argue. We’ve seen it hundreds of times on the big screen, and we’ll see it a hundred times more. But it’s not just in fiction that such dynamics exist. Sometimes these dynamics end in true love. Sometimes they end like Love Actually: a weird professing of unrequited love done to a tinny soundtrack and using way too much arts and crafts. And sometimes they end as you would expect: the friendship fizzles away and they become two people who, instead of playfully disagreeing, seem to genuinely dislike one another.
In this essay I will present the sad demise of the romcom friendship between Simon Bridges and Jacinda Ardern.
Meet Simon and Jacinda. They’re young, they’re new in town (Beehive), and, according to morning television host Pippa Wetzell, they’re “two of the sexiest politicians in the country”. Jacinda owns a ghd, Simon owns hair gel, and they’re both owning this joint interview. Iconic duo.
They’re destined to fight each other their entire careers but that has never stopped friendship and even romance from blooming. Can anybody say You’ve Got Mail?
Their parties have chosen them as their brightest stars. The National party choosing Simon over Nikki Kaye for the role of “Young Gun” is something I’m not qualified to comment on, unlike the definitely real and definitely close friendship between Simon and Jacinda.
Look how close they’re sitting. Surely they bonded over the fact that they travelled back in time to the 90s to be part of this 240p video. This is a Christmas episode of morning television. Spending Christmas together, the most romantic of all the seasons.
It’s 2010. Jacinda and Simon are appearing together on InBetween, a show I had not heard of until today. They’re speaking to a studio audience of children and are being very nice to each other, like Mum and Dad behaving in front of guests. Okay, full disclosure, I just noticed the wedding band on Simon’s finger which has really derailed the entire premise of this article but I’ll continue on regardless, like a politician insisting they’re stepping down voluntarily.
In this clip, when asked if they get along, Jacinda jokes “usually when we’re talking there’s a table in front of us and I’m quietly kicking Simon in the shins.” It gets a good laugh from the kids but do you know what another word for ‘kicking under the table’ is? Footsie. Yes, that felt weird to type after the recent married revelation but just go with it, we’ve come this far.
Video quality would suggest the year is 2011 or 2012. Simon is using less hair gel and Jacinda has begun curling her hair with her ghd. How?? Should’ve known she’d be prime minister one day. Simon is working a grey suit with the confidence of a man who’s not sitting next to a political enemy, but a close personal friend.
2011. A lovely shot. Just two friends having a laugh. Host Petra Bagust has just accidentally introduced a “Jacinda Bridges”. Simon responds, “she will never be a Jacinda Bridges.” CLASSIC NEG! And Jacinda reacts like this:
CLASSIC NEG REACTION!
*Insert four years of being neither Young Guns nor party leaders aka the lagging second act of every romcom*
Nooooo what happened? As with most relationship breakdowns, success happened. Jacinda, now the leader of the country, and Simon the leader of the Opposition. A less important tidbit: in that time, both politicians had children and would appear to be in happy relationships. Friendly banter and friendly negs are now daily snarky remarks and a trademarked power sit. Things are rocky. This isn’t how the movie was supposed to end. We (no one) wanted You’ve Got Mail, not 500 Days of Summer. But real life isn’t a romcom, not even a friendship romcom. Sometimes all we have are memories.
Simon, Jacinda, if you’re reading this – and you should be – next time you attack each other, cast your minds back to a simpler time and remember what it was like to be best friends*.
*claim not verified.