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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 16, 2010

Political casting calls for keiki


By Lee Cataluna

Of all the iconic images of Hawai'i moonlight shining on the ocean between coconut trees, sun coming up over Diamond Head, surfers in the waves nothing sums up our values like the image of the rainbow children.

You know the one, the group of multi-ethnic 5- to 7-year-olds who are depicted smiling around a political candidate in their television commercials, usually shot at Magic Island or Kaka'ako Waterfront Park.

A group of racially diverse but homogenously darling children conveys a multitude of unassailable character traits, even if the candidate in question wouldn't be caught dead hanging out with unruly, germ-covered rugrats in real life. That image says the candidate cares about the future, believes in equality and cares for the littlest little guys. It also says they can be trusted, because kids are thought to have the ability to detect a fake.

If there isn't that shot in the campaign ad, something starts to stir deep in the pit of the stomach, an uneasy feeling among voters: "What, they don't like kids? What about the keiki? What about the future? Gee, they couldn't even hire a few second-graders to act in a commercial that probably took an hour to make? Something's not right."

In the current roster of candidates for Congress, all three top-polling politicians have the rainbow-children shot in their television ads.

Colleen Hanabusa ends her commercial with the kids tumbling into her arms on the grass. Looks like the Kaka'ako waterfront park. She's laughing, they're laughing. It's so cute it makes you want to call her office to ask if she could watch your kids on Furlough Fridays because she seems like a good-fun aunty.

Charles Djou opens with a backyard party scene where the adults are chatting and the cosmopolitan kids are running around on the grass. He also includes shots of his own kids riding bicycles and playing the Candy Land board game with multicolored gingerbread-man game pieces. Rainbow men.

Ed Case trumps them both because not only is he hanging out with the rainbow kids, he's actually reading a book to them. And it's not just any book, it's a locally published book, "Kai the Opihi Gets the Point."

There are other common elements in the campaign material: shots of flags, teachers in classrooms, talking story with blue-collar union workers wearing construction hats or driving forklifts, and gatherings of rainbow adults. But the carefully staged, perfectly cast group of rainbow children is such a powerful image, even the most cynical among us might find themselves going, "Ooh da cute. I gotta vote for those keiki. I mean, that candidate."