‘OMG JM got owned! Yas queen, Metzzzi!’

The Skinny | No 13. Roberta Metsola Refuses To Shake Hands With Joseph Muscat

No shake hands?
No shake hands?

What are we skinning? The soon-to-be-iconic image of MEP Roberta Metsola refusing to shake hands with soon-to-be former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Why are we skinning it? Cometh the hour, cometh the image, and this snap certainly captures a lot about our current political crisis in a caustic nutshell.

You’ve said it yourself – caustic. Isn’t it all a little bit rude – if not downright mean – to blatantly disrespect our Prime Minister in this way? Who does Metsola think she is? True, it may appear indecorous to some. Even, in a strange way, a case of ‘punching down’, given how Metsola is coming over with the EU retinue to chastise Muscat and his government. But an iconic image exists for the annals of time, and time tends to be merciless.

But what makes the image iconic? Are you just saying this because it became an online meme? No, not exactly. Though one could argue that memes are like a prefiguring of icons to come; a first-draft idea of what a culture finds significant...

Leave that to the media studies professors and get back to the question at hand, please. Okay, okay... So I think it’s iconic because it illustrates just how the mighty have fallen. Joseph Muscat has never been more embattled, and the image of him being unquestionably rebuffed by a fresher, younger counterpart as if his very touch is poison, strikes to the quick.

But it makes me feel sorry for Muscat. Oh, that doesn’t take away from its iconic status. The memes make it out to be a mocking thing, but I think its poignancy lies in how it documents a change in attitude, if not quite a changing of the guard. You couldn’t have imagined Muscat being in that position a few weeks ago. And now, it’s likely to be one of the key images we associate with his entire run as Prime Minister of Malta.

Do say: “The photo makes Muscat look vulnerable and Metsola look a bit arrogant. Either way, it gives us a glimpse of the human side of politics, where the PR-friendly avatars crack to let in that hint of squishy humanity.”

Don’t say: “OMG JM got owned! Yas queen, Metzzzi!”