Nobody likes to see videos of themselves from a party the night before. They’re almost always embarrassing documents of how inexplicably sweaty you were, your flailing dance moves and misplaced confidence, the way your makeup slid slowly around your face. But for the Finnish prime minister, 36-year-old Sanna Marin, a video of her partying was a little more than embarrassing. Footage leaked last week of Marin at a private party, dancing for the camera and looking drunk, which managed to kick off a full-on scandal in Finland. Across Europe, some complained that she was an embarrassment, that it was unprofessional, that it was proof she wasn’t taking her job—which currently includes ushering her country into NATO—seriously enough. One person wrote online that she should “take her leather jacket and resign.”
Marin has experience with this. She had to apologize for staying out till 4 a.m. at a Helsinki nightclub late last year because she had been told she didn’t need to self-isolate after a close COVID contact, but missed a text telling her to isolate after all because she left her government telephone at home—as anybody in their right mind would, given that even the phrase “government telephone” is one of the biggest vibe kills I can think of.
But from where I’m sitting in the U.K., this all looks like very small fry. The situation has invited some comparison to our own political troubles, but parties are not currently illegal in Finland, as they were when Boris Johnson and co. got roasted for having several gatherings during lockdowns. (That’s if two dozen Tories who use words like “sozzled” to describe being drunk gathered around a wheelie suitcase full of midpriced supermarket wine can really be called a “party.”) So why does anyone in Finland care about this? Why are the Fins, in fact, being such staggeringly huge losers about it? So square are these people, Marin was forced to take a drug test to prove that she wasn’t under the influence of narcotics while she was out. It came back negative—which, in the kindest way it is possible to say this, seems like an unlikely thing to have happened if many of the top people in the U.K. government had been in the same position.
Besides, have you seen the video? She looks great! She is dancing in a way that is not embarrassing! I will go to my grave without having erased the memory of Theresa May’s various dancing attempts, which looked like you instructed an elderly Sim to bust a move, or Boris Johnson dancing at his own wedding in the manner of a bear cub succumbing to the effects of a tranquilizer dart. And anyway, it doesn’t even really count as dancing if they’re wearing a suit, clapping awkwardly with their eyes darting around for the nearest recording device. Marin was letting off some steam. Good! For too long the world has been run by stuffy losers who go out less than the Olympic torch.
The problem is that not enough politicians are like Marin. It’s so rare that world leaders look even remotely like someone you’d want anywhere near you. Even the young, “cool” ones have something of the dweeb about them. Leo Varadkar, the onetime Irish Taoiseach picking his nose at a music festival. Macron’s wonkishness, Trudeau’s creepy Dr. Strange beard moment, not to mention the repeated blackface debacles (although, whoops, I have just mentioned them!).
A little perspective seems warranted here. Do the majority of people in Finland actually think this reflects badly on their PM? There’s some reason for hope. Women in Finland began posting videos of them dancing in “solidarity with Sanna.” And it seems that almost all of the people taking issue with her behavior were either followers of the opposing political party, or—you surely saw this coming—alt-right misogynists.
A woman? Being hot, fun, and in charge of a nation? Not if the forum incels can help it. It turns out the whole scandal kicked off when, on the Finnish equivalent of 4chan, people began to claim that the people in the video were on drugs, due to the lack of visible bottles and the possible use of the term “flour gang” by one of the partiers, a term that isn’t even used to mean drugs in Finland. And surprise, surprise, many of those who took issue with Marin’s behavior spent last month are defending a conservative politician who was accused of grooming underage girls for sex. Marin may well turn out to be a nightmare politician. But aside from the misogyny, criticizing someone for being caught in the act of having a laugh is just very, very stupid in this moment. Pack it in.