As war drums beat louder along the Russia-Ukraine border, French President Emmanuel Macron met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Monday, February 7, to try to talk things out.
Video footage of the high-stakes meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow provided for a bizarre spectacle: The two leaders exchanged pleasantries without shaking hands and then sat almost 20 feet apart at the opposite ends of a particularly long, white table. The five-hour meeting ended with no resolution, dampening Macron’s hopes for a “historic solution” to the crisis, as he promised before the meeting.
Was the long-stretched table setup a power play on behalf of Putin or mere COVID-19 precaution? Opinions differ but trust social media to respond the way it knows best: An outpouring of satirical memes highlighting the absurdity of the failed diplomatic summit.
Seizing on the occasion, Samantha Bee’s TV show Full Frontal invited its followers on Twitter to participate in the “first annual Putin and Macron’s weirdly large table photoshop challenge.”
Fans of the show responded with a long thread of memes featuring an array of familiar characters atop the expansive table: Mark Zuckerberg surfing with a bucket-full of sunscreen on his face; Senator Bernie Sanders with his famous knit mittens from the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris inauguration; and Donald Trump Jr. posing for a picture on a sawn tree trunk, among many others.
One meme features actor Lily Collins, the star of the TV series Emily in Paris, joining the meeting as an observer in her red beret. Another shows two pole dancers making good use of the abundant space on the three-legged table, and a third reimagines the room as a backdrop for Leonardo’s “Last Supper.”
Elsewhere in the Twittersphere, users have rendered the table into a seesaw game, with Putin and Macron teetering joylessly throughout their negotiations. And in another meme, Macron is seen using a bullhorn to make his points to Putin on the other side of the room. In a nod to the current Winter Olympics, user @CredoMacKenzie photoshopped two figures skaters gliding along the glistening surface of the mega-table.
In fairness, Putin has used the same table to host a friendly meeting with Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, earlier this month. Critics might be reading too much into the Kremlin room decor, especially in light of reports that the Russian leader has been paranoid about catching COVID-19.
And while it’s tempting to mock Macron for his flopped attempt to emerge as the hero of the day, shouldn’t we cautiously commend him for trying to prevent war? “There is still time to preserve peace,” he said.