Greece has been though some troubled economic times. But austerity and unrest aren’t what define the country. Perhaps that’s what recently-appointed finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and his wife were thinking when they agreed to pose for a photo spread in the glossy French lifestyle magazine Paris Match.
Unfortunately, that’s not how many people have taken the photo feature. Twitter and the European media were buzzing with criticism—and parodies.
Saving the country is easier, one commentator noted, when you have a terrace overlooking the Acropolis
Others immediately fired up Photoshop, superimposing an image in which Varoufakis lifts his partner Danae Stratou off her feet onto a scene of street riots.
Another depicted the couple as Roman emperor Nero and his wife/stepsister Claudia Octavia in front of a flaming Athens. Nero was the emperor who “fiddled while Rome burned.”
The Paris Match spread, headlined “Before the Battle,” shows the the couple clinking wine glasses and serving one another lunch, as well as Varoufakis holding a book entitled “Rational Conflict” and relaxing by playing the piano.
Defenders of the photo shoot note that the scenes are not particularly opulent nor out of the ordinary for many middle-class Greeks. The finance minister’s political party swept to power by promising to “restore the dignity” of the Greek people, and getting on with your usual daily life—eating lunch on the terrace, catching up on reading, practicing the piano—despite the turbulent economic times can be seen as a reflection of that.
But the “optics” of the photoshoot, in political terms, are particularly fraught when the country is in a state of near-permanent crisis. As another Twitter post put it: