On Sunday, May 7th, the French elected a new president, Emmanuel Macron. After a 1-week transition period, Macron took office on May 14th. Since the election, Macron has been busy. Almost immediately, he named his prime minister, the center-right politician Édouard Philippe, and met with Angela Merkel, completing his first official foreign visit. Working with Philippe, Macron has already selected his cabinet. Among other highlights is Macron’s trip to Mali last week, where he met with French troops. In short, there’s been a lot for political journalists to cover. But one has to have their priorities in order. The burning issue for political cartoonists is how they should be drawing Macron. The straight-laced, physically flawless, and rather colorless French head of state is not so easy to lampoon.
Political cartoonist, Ignace, calls out Macron’s pretty-boy qualities in the drawing to the right. The phrase Avec en prime, les dents du bonheur, refers to the gap in Macron’s teeth. According to French superstition, such gaps are said to bring good luck.
An uninspiring subject
While many may not like Macron’s politics, few can deny that, like Canada’s Trudeau, he makes a very handsome head of state. A friend of mine recently compared him to John F. Kennedy. For cartoonists, his polished features, slender physique, and lack of physical flaws make him difficult to caricature. Chez Macron, it can be challenging to find a defining physical feature to latch onto and exaggerate in such a way that readers immediately recognize the subject of the drawing. A recent article in La Liberation ponders this dilemma.
Some cartoonists have expressed relief regarding Macron’s prime minister pick, Édouard Philippe. Not because they hope his political leanings will balance well with those of Macron. Rather, Philippe’s dark bushy eyebrows and full beard, make him much easier to depict. Drawing the two of them side by side immediately helps the reader identify the relatively non-descript president. Political cartoonist for Radio France’s website, Eric Laplace (alias Placide) produces a new political cartoon every day. To the right, you see his clean-shaven version of Macron, initiating the new Republican Prime Minister, Philippe.
Despite the challenges of Macron’s unembellished appearance, professional cartoonists have wasted zero time putting pen to paper. Some admit that their depictions will evolve as they become more familiar with Macron’s mannerisms and quirks. Others feel comfortable with their current interpretation of his features and personality. As someone who can’t draw, I’m impressed with all of them. Below are several of my favorites so far.
Several results of drawing Macron
Political satirist, Jean Plantureux (alias Plantu), is a regular contributor to the illustrious newspaper Le Monde. The frame to the right captures the transition that political cartoonists must make after an election. Here we see Macron erupting from the head of former French president François Hollande. Macron’s eagerly grinning caricature dominates the scene as the female figure, representing France, performs her own redaction. The caption announces, “Emmanuel Macron elected President of the Republic.”
Corinne Rey (alias Coco) is a journalist/cartoonist who regularly contributes to the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. She’s been drawing Macron for a while and welcomes the opportunity to add another public figure to her gallery of caricatures. In the drawing to the right, the not-so-dashing Macron orders, “Don’t mangle my picture in your article Sabrina!” (Referring to Sabrina Champenois, a journalist for La Libération.)
French comic artist, Joann Sfar, recently tweeted this rendering of Macron. When Macron gave his acceptance speech on May 7th, he chose to give it in the courtyard of the Louvre, in front of the famous glass pyramid by I. M. Pei. Here, the cartoonist seems to imply that Macron (as viewed by his supporters at least) resembles a young pope, who will concern himself with the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Some have compared this portrait of Macron with Saint-Exupéry’s Petit Prince.
Political cartoonist and contributor to l’Opinion, Kak, admits he initially had trouble drawing President Hollande. After Hollande was seen sneaking away from the Elysée on a scooter for a late night tryst with his mistress, Kak had the inspiration he needed to settle on Hollande’s caricature. To the right we see Kak’s Macron and Philippe, playing with a set of blocks. The names on the blocks are those of the cabinet ministers. Indeed, the two worked together to achieve a very balanced cabinet: composed of roughly half politicians and half non-politicians; half men and half women; and, half leftists and half rightists.
Belgian cartoonist and a regular contributor to Le Soir, Pierre Kroll, recently took on Macron’s meeting with Angela Merkel during his trip to Germany. The frame to the right shows the result. Here, we see Merkel telling Macron, “Let me lead. It’s a ritual I know well. You are my fourth.” The caricatures of Macron’s predecessors appear in her speech bubble. Meanwhile, the dashing Macron thinks to himself, “Don’t ask for money too quickly.”
Jonathan Larabie (alias Lara), a regular contributor to Le Canard Enchainé and l’Obs, provides us with one of the few cartoons illustrating Macron’s recent trip to Mali. This trip was important because Mali is currently a hotbed of Islamic terrorism. The growing jihadist movement there threatens the stability of western Africa and, by extension, Europe. Here, Macron asks French and Malian soldiers, “We’ll be able to ride in a command car?”
Satirical cartoonist and former director of Charlie Hebo, Stéphane Charbonnier (alias Charb), was assassinated in January 2015 during the terrorist attack on the magazine’s headquarters. Yet, Charb’s cartoon of Macron, illustrating the devotion of his followers is uncannily prophetic and was resurrected during Macron’s campaign. The title reads, “58% of French people have a good opinion of Macron.” The lovesick sheep are bleating, “Look we still have a little more wool for you.” “This is for you!”
I just re-found an email from Mijo from long ago recommending your blog. I have enjoyed reading it. I appreciate your thoughtful take on the news. Having spent some years in West Africa in the early 70’s, I especially value your thoughts on Mali and the French intervention there. I have subscribed and look forward to your posts.
He seems to be a major disappointment… sigh.
Yeah. I’d been hopeful back when I wrote this post. I haven’t followed events in France very closely but he certainly appears to have few fans. His poll numbers were worse than Trump’s! That’s a bit harsh I’d say but doesn’t bode well for another mandate.
He probably means well and is honest. But he has no vision for France. He is very bad at picking people. As a result I would say his team is below average. He’s totally blind to the rest of the world. And his government has already failed three time since last year: there were no masks. Then there were no tests, now we don’t have enough vaccines. As I always say, in the private sector, you can screw up once. (At least I, as a Boss, almost always gave people a second chance.) Now you screw up a second time? You’re fired.
And the problem is, he is paving the way for Le Pen win. Yukk!
Thanks for sharing your perspective.
Pleasure. Though I must say the situation in France has deteriorated so much in the past 5 years, I can hardly believe it. And it really makes me sad.