Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Le Divorce

Well it just has to be mentioned...

I will approach the subject of the France's current President's (and first ever siting President's) divorce by looking at only what it says about the "pipolisation" of French politics - (and the French people?).

Sarkozy says that it is not the French people who are pipolizied, rather it is the media. Is that true? He reprimanded a reporter from Le Monde for asking about the divorce during a press conference in Portugal which was supposed to speak about the two day EU summit. He said that a reporter from a newspaper of the calibre of Le Monde shouldn't ask questions of a subject of a calibre beneath said newspaper i.e. the private life of France's politicians - "It interests them much less than you, and they are right, and, perhaps, they have a greater sense of propriety, and more discretion.". Simultaneously, his wife premiered on the cover of (French) ELLE magazine - offering an intimate tell-all of her side of the divorce.

What do these opposing actions say?

Let's look first at how some French officials and others have seen the media treatment of this (non?) issue:

Noël Mamère, député Verts : "Il est temps de refermer la page de l'américanisation de la vie publique".

I love this quote - it is time to turn the page on the americanization of public life - below I will argue that there is a frenchification of French public life too.. possibly before it had a place in the hush hush or in magazines that no one admits they purchase - but it has been there, a long time.

Annick Lepetit, secrétaire nationale du PS : "Alors que les rumeurs sur la séparation de Cécilia et Nicolas Sarkozy bruissent depuis six jours, l'Elysée choisit ce jeudi, jour de forte mobilisation sociale, pour officialiser l'information. Aux Français de juger s'il ne s'agit que d'une simple coïncidence".

To which Raffarin responds:
Jean-Pierre Raffarin, ancien Premier ministre, à propos des soupçons du PS sur une "coïncidence" avec le grève : "C'est une remarque profondément déplacée".

There are two discussions here:

The first is about the "pipolisation" or "americanisation" of French political life and/or of the French people or media - whoever you think the shoe fits...either through a manifested interest on the part of the French media or the French people.

The second, is the idea that announcing the divorce on the day of a huge, national strike diverted major media attention from the strike to the private matter of the Presidential divorce.

Again, is it the media or the people who demanded this information and who gobble it up? Is the U.S.'s fault? Since this phenomenon carries our name on it, either directly or indirectly as the term pipolisation comes from the frenchification of the word PEOPLE as in PEOPLE magazine. Does this follow a simple economic rule - the people demand it and the media supplies it? Or does the media supply it to influence the people to demand it, or consume it? I, as an American, find it interesting this term of "pipolisation" - which plays on the U.S. magazine PEOPLE - why was this chosen and not the LONG standing French versions entitled Voici or Gala? Are magazines that supply photos and blurbs about celebrity and politicians lives truly an American creation? Or are they just thrown in t he mix of everything that we dont like we liken to American culture? The reality TV culture is closely associated with US culture while Big Brother was not a US invention. I remember living in Nice a good ten years ago and constantly seeing images of the royal Monegasque family all over Voici, Gala, Hello...etc - at the time there was a scandal involving Princess Stephanie and her at the time husband. Is this really new? Is this really a US thing, a US-only thing, or even something that we invented? Look at the media relationship with Princess Diana or any of the British royals?

Here follow the French media discussion about the coincidence of the timing of both announcemnents:

Il a reproché à Nicolas Sarkozy d'avoir «pris le risque de la surexposition et d'introduire un dangereux mélange entre sphère privée et sphère publique». «Il est temps de refermer la page de l'américanisation de la vie publique», a-t-il dit.

Un avis largement partagé à gauche. Pour l'eurodéputé socialiste Benoît Hamon, «il est temps qu'on sorte de la pipolisation de la vie politique». «Le couple Sarkozy a été l'un des plus gros contributeurs à cette évolution de la vie politique française en mettant lui-même en scène sa vie privée», a-t-il estimé.

A droite, les alliés politiques du président préféraient ne pas commenter l'information, avançant qu'il s'agissait d'une «affaire privée».

I dont have the answers, but I do have some questions:

1. Did Sarkozy time this announcement to downplay the media coverage of the strike?? If the answer is yes, that is a horrible, horrible thing to do, in my opinion.

2. Is the media obsession with Celebrity and/or Politician's lives truly a US thing? It is part of US culture - did we inspire this in other countries or did this already or simultaneously exist? Lastly, does this not exist in France - possibly the French see it as a private matter - not bearing any weight on a politician's capability to serve in office or not something to discuss at a dinner table - but all the while still reading it not only on PEOPLE magazine but in Voici, Gala and any other French versions of celebrity mags as well as something the they do discuss with one another - via the internet, over a coffee or drink? Does this have a place in French society? And if so, is it not a French thing too?

I will end this with one comment - during the trial of Queen Marie-Antoinette, her "private life" was alleged and put on trial - for all to see in books & in pamphlets she was accused of sexual/romantic wrongdoings. Was the public's fascination and at the time judgment any different from what we see in society today?

After all, when Bernadette Chirac was questioned about her sufferings through President Chirac's infidelities and asked why she never left him - she responded that the day Napoleon and Josephine split - his demise began (and hers as well).

Has anything truly changed? Can this truly be claimed as a result of a US cultural influence?

A few of my favorites things...

There exists an eloquent equipe of anglophone bloggers who have written blogs about ex-pat life in France that are delicious to read. I salute them all and follow their blogs with much fervor.

Here are a list of my favorites:




www.petiteanglaise.com (soon to be a book!)



As you go through each of these sites, they will refer you to others; dentsdelait, the Frenchification of Mlle Smith, In the Kitchen and on the Road with Dorrie Greenspan...

Bravo to all of you!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fast News

In order to keep abrest on news, cultural tidbits, the latest scandals, and major headlines from the day, I watch LE ZAPPING daily: www.canalplus.fr - in the bottom right corner, you will see a place to click on LE ZAPPING.

If you want to keep on top of headlines across the pond, but dont have the time to read through - I highly recommend this abridged version - they mix funny with newsworthy with artistic and cultural.