Monday, December 6, 2010

French Popular Culture?

by Jonathan Deniol Rodriguez

What is regarded as popular culture? Some may argue that it's everything that isn't high culture. This assumes that high culture is much more developed. Popular culture can be seen as a mass produced culture, something that is commercial based. I believe that mass culture can create a sort of unifying society. It can bring a subject or topic into a larger spectrum of conversation. One thing is for sure, there is no denying that popular culture is a strong force to be reckoned with. For the purpose of this post, when referring to pop culture, I will be talking specifically about celebrity culture, which I find to be a major part of pop culture.

As Americans, we are very conscious about what goes on in popular culture. It is often part of our news telecasts as well as a prominent part of print media. So what happens when Americans, or anyone for that matter, comes into France and finds themselves in a new realm of celebrity, gossip, and other things affiliated with pop culture?

One thing I've found is that the French do not seem to be as obsessed with celebrity culture. I can honestly say that I don't know much about the lives of French celebrities, let alone who they really are. If I go to a magazine stand, or even when I stand in line at a supermarket, I rarely see magazines that are of the tabloid type or seem to center around celebrities.

As discussed in class, France is one of the major importers of outside media into its country. The French hardly export their culture to other countries. In thinking about France in the European Union, I can't help but compare it to England. I know more about English pop culture than I do French pop culture. To help make a valid comparison I had to compare a popular TV show from all three countries that enjoy grand success: The British X-Factor, The USA's American Idol, and France's Nouvelle Star.

(American Idol's New Judging Panel: Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson, and host Ryan Seacrest)

(X-Factor Judges: Louis Walsh, Dannii Minogue, Cheryl Cole, Simon Cowell)

(Nouvelle Star host Virginie Guilhaume)

All three shows are singing competitions, though with different formats. I know that in the UK, X-factor has a huge following. The contestants are the focal point, but the judges are also regarded as key elements to the show's success, much like they are in American Idol. I don't live, nor have I lived in the UK, yet I follow this show and find myself wanting to know everything that goes on with it. I follow it more than I've followed American Idol. What is troubling to me is that I know nothing about Nouvelle Star. This brings me to ask the question: Is X-Factor appealing becacuse it is in English? The X-Factor is set to make its debut in America next year. Former American Idol judge Simon Cowell is bringing the show to America and is ready to put it in competition with American Idol. You may know that Idol has signed on Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. Recent reports state that Cowell has managed to sign Britain's sweetheart, Cheryl Cole on to the American X-factor's judging panel. This is an example of the British exporting their talent into the states. I don't really see or hear of France doing that. When in England, I was able to chat up locals about the X-factor and Cheryl Cole and they seemed surprised I knew who they were.

I love popular culture. I am sad I didn't really get to know much about who the French consider celebritites and a bit disappointed that it wasn't such a fun deal here. As we saw from a previous picture shown in class from the Paris Metro, Paris culture does not include many French things. I mean, Justin Bieber surely doesn't think so. Apparently, he is Paris culture.

(X-Factor Judge and major British celebrity Cheryl Cole performing her hit single "Promise This" on the X-Factor).

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