The question of "what is French culture?" is difficult to answer and made more challenging as we consider how that culture is mediated. Below is the work, "France Culture," by French electronic musician
"Society" is considered the general impersonal mass of people and "culture" occurs when groups begin to share values and form shared identity. Below is a classic chart on what constitutes culture.
In French media, especially vintage ads, we can easily see some of the cliche French cultural values such as smoking, luxury, couture, leisure and American products like McDonald's.
There are however many French minorities and subcultures that are not seen in popular ads. The subcultures are framed by news journalism, often in fearful and negative ways. To contrast this tendency France 24, a government supported news channel, has begun 24 hour news in Arabic, in part because France has the largest Arab speaking population in Europe.
Subcultures are part of larger cultures but they tend to break off from the values of the larger set. Small interest groups, music fans and other styles are classic subcultures. Subcultures use smaller, alternative media channels to communicate to one another and often have specific codes for communication.
The challenge with France is that many Islamic French citizens are between 2 cultures. They may speak 2 different languages and engage in groups with 2 different values. So while this group seems like a subculture of France, it is more like a secondary culture that challenges what is French. The most recent concern for Islamics in France is the restrictions for the burqa. France argues that full coverage burqas veil identity, which is a security issue while Arab women feel this is a direct discrimination. Below are several media responses in the past year.
Below, Vogue Paris March 2010 featured an editorial of women with partial scarf covering to reference the larger issue.
In French media today we can begin to see a more diverse representation of French identity. Paris Je T'Aime attempts to present 18 versions of the city.
The other challenge to French culture and media is American culture. Many Americans are actually featured in Paris Je T'aime for example. American films dominate the theaters. The tradition of translating film titles to French is slowly being replaced by using different more basic English words.
The influence of American culture can also be seen in television where American shows influenced the development of the French show 16, almost identical in characterization and promotion to the US. S not only is there an identity crisis of what it means to be French that is not honestly expressed in French media, there is also an imperialism of American values influencing the media.
Reality Television is another are of American influence, seen above the French Versions of Temptation Island and American Idol
The French take the talk show very seriously as there are about 650 different talk-shows on French television each week, most of them with a studio audience. One exception is Bibliotheque Medicis which is filmed on a closed set that resembles an enormous private library and emphasizes intellectual topics.