Emmanuel Macron (right) met Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last week. On the internet, this photo of the meeting was immediately bombed into a new chapter in a brooding Bouquet series about the amourette between the two presidents.Statue Ludovic Marin / Getty

    Of course there were other photos from this one moment – ​​hello, we live in an age of excess. From any mediagenic moment, especially when it comes to world leaders or members of royal houses, there are dozens of photos to choose from: from the front, from behind, from the left, from the right and also from points of view that no one else wants. But had I been an image editor who made the first selection from the Getty news agency’s offer, I too would have fallen head over heels for the photo in which French President Macron softly gasps ‘Je t’aime’ in the ear of his Ukrainian colleague Zelensky, while looking straight through the camera at the audience and you can hear him thinking aloud: ‘Moi non plus.’

    Or so it seems, eh. You can of course never know for sure what was said and felt here, but that was nicely not counting the internet. There, this image was immediately bombed into a new chapter in a brooding Bouquet series about the bromance between the two presidents. Because, in addition to the worries about the war in Ukraine, they apparently still have time for a flirt – avec toi (“Je ferais n’importe quoi”).

    The fact that there were also photos that clearly show that Macron really did not lick Zelensky’s earlobe, as some suggested, and that there was still quite a bit of space between the two heads, was no longer useful. This was the only photo left after the meeting between the two leaders in Kyiv last week (and others, but they didn’t count, you understand).

    Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, a crazy kind of testosterone competition has been going on, which, by the way, is not limited to the social media channels. For example, photos of Zelensky in his now-familiar army green T-shirts, surrounded by Ukrainian soldiers, were ‘answered’ with official and clearly staged photos of Macron. Then the usually carefully coiffed Frenchman, with unshaven cheeks and a black hoodie, suddenly hung out the tough statesman in his gold-leaf-decorated office. Online, after the unforgettable image from Kyiv, the homoerotic memes (muscular and sweaty men’s arms, tongues in ears, Macron and Zelensky as Ukrainian love couple) flew around your ears.

    Back home, the 17-year-old knew exactly what was going on here: The two men are – and I pray to all the Gen-Z gods I write this correctly – “shipped.” Volodymyr and Emmanuel now belong in the same row as Harry & Louis, Steve & Eddy, our own Rob Jetten & Jesse Klaver, Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson (it doesn’t matter if you don’t know who half of them are): men who are not officially a love couple, but who experience the greatest amourette you ever thought possible online and in endless fanfiction epistles.

    As an illustration, I then watched a YouTube video the length of an average feature film, which had to prove by means of an immense amount of footage that pop stars Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson were in a relationship at the time of their collaboration in the boy band One Direction. . One that will undoubtedly one day be pieced together about Macron and Zelensky.

    “So?” asked the 17-year-old, who had been seated snugly, halfway through. ‘What do you think?’

    ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I think we live in a time where we increasingly allow our sense of reality to be determined by an ever-expanding visual culture that is boundless and amoral, and that very slowly crushes us and obscures the events that actually happen. take place, but which are dwarfed by the addictive fantasies of people with too much time and perhaps evil intentions. But let’s look further, because I want to know how this ends.’