Barack Obama's remarks at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg were just one of the many notable things about his appearance there. There was that handshake with Raul Castro. The selfie with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
And then there was the latest instance of Michelle Obama giving "le boss de la Maison Blanche" what some French news outlets are inartfully calling "le regard noir"—literally "a black look," or what we call stink-eye. The first lady giving stink-eye has become a minor Internet meme, as in this shot of her glancing at Carla Bruni in 2009, or this video of her giving John Boehner "epic stink-eye" at the inaugural luncheon in January.
People on Twitter had fun with the images of the president and Thorning-Schmidt at the memorial service, sharing shots and assembling the photos into a brief narrative montage, as New York Post social-media editor Joel Pavelski did with these AFP images:
Michelle Obama teaching a master class on keeping tabs on your man pic.twitter.com/by3nfsnQls— Joel Pavelski (@joelcifer) December 10, 2013
The president laughing with a blonde! One can only imagine what he is thinking! Except the blonde happens to be a prime minister in her own right, and if you examine the whole string of photos of the memorial, you'll see that Michelle Obama's countenance scarcely changes. You might call that being appropriately somber, or you might posit that it's simply the look of a person with jetlag who flew halfway around the world overnight, spent four hours at a hotel early in the morning, and then had to go to a memorial service.
See? Basically the same expression. Her expression remains roughly the same even when she's the one inside the circle of conversation:
Nor was former President George W. Bush immune from the presumption of leering as he spoke to Queen Rania of Jordan.*
The whole thing shows that the idea that a younger, feminine, stylish woman can also be a person of power—a ruler of men, rather than the object of their affectionate interest—continues to confound.