While Saudad describes the innate tendency for a Portuguese to feel nostalgic, a French person could not be properly French without being philosophical about life, politics and art. Some inform themselves properly to have at least a basic insight in what they are talking about, others don`t and you can hardly tell the difference from the way they talk about whatever they talk about. I am trying to find out how people inform themselves about what happens in society: which TV programs and newspapers and websites they read to keep up with the news ? and which ones simply serve to keep them amused.
Compared to the countries I have visited to far, many young people in France claim to have no television at home. Some don`t read newspapers and some even miss out on both. Canelle (23) tells me that most people only start reading newspapers after their 30s, or when their jobs require them to stay updated on current affairs. She cites Le Monde, and to a lesser extent Le Figaro as business papers which even to the French are quite difficult to read and understand.
`I prefer to read independent on-line news rather than Sarkozy-inspired print media`
Angel (26, photo) questions the independence of the French media and therefore chooses to read Rue 59 instead of traditional news sources. `These people are not paid for their work and they can freely criticise the government. The normal newspapers are so much tied to their advertisement budgets that they can impossibly remain uninfluenced`, he says. `Moreover, Rue 59 often reveals things before the traditional media. When Sarkozy`s wife did not go voting in the second round of the election, Rue 59 was the first one to write about that. Traditional newspapers only followed after, simply because they could no longer avoid the topic.`
France has three main national channels, the first of which is privately owned (TF1), with number France2 and France3 belonging to the state. Angel estimates that TF1 is the least reliable source of news, as it is owned by political friends of the French president. France2 and France3 serve as the main news channels, but they are not known as very critical towards the current government either. For critical notes, comical or not, many people like to watch the commercial channel Canal+.
Canal+ only broadcasts part of its programs for free. A decoder is needed to view films, but other programs are usually freely available, on regular TV or via the internet. Les Guignolles de l`Actualit?, Groland, or Zappings. Fran?ois (25) shows me that Groland reports about fictional events taking place in the fictional country of Groland, in the very same way as normal news programs do. The program is very tightly linked to trends in the French society. Constantly referring to Groland instead of France allows the producers to criticise politicians and civilians without directlty insulting anybody in person.
Zappings is a weekly program that in a mere 10 minutes shows all of the news of the entire week. It shows bloopers in TV programs, quick quotes and major headlines. The items in themselves are not necessarily supposed to be funny, but the order of the items sometimes deliberately produces humoristic or critical results. The year`s summary L`ann?e du Zapping is also appreciated by many.
Les Guignolles de l`Actualit? shows puppets representing politicians. The puppet debates painfully reveal weak points in the argumentation of politicians.
France has many debate programs that gather groups of experts around a table. They seem to be much more popular than the American-style feel-good talkshows. Most French are not familiar with Oprah Winfrey or Dr Phil. American programs that do enjoy massive popularity include Les Simpson, a cartoon with yellow characters, Desperate Housewives, about a group of single, highly educated women who make their lives a mess, Lost, Prison Break, and Niptuc about a team of cosmetic surgeons and how they spend their days. According to tradition, all TV programs are dubbed instead of subtitles, disqualifying them to serve any educational or linguistic purpose. Even though the original titles have been kept, don`t expect to understand immediately if somebody mentions one of these titles. Instead, listen for Prees?nbr?hk or Daispr?te-Auzwaivz.
Many programs do not keep their original English title when there are imported into France. Alerte ? Malibu, may sound like a tropical French production. In reality, it`s Baywatch, which for a long time kept people attached to the TV. Some programs international formats also make it to French TV, often under a French name. Big brother was broadcast for a few seasons under the name Loft. After drawing a lot of viewers in the first season, the format quickly fell out of grace. Pop Idols, known in France as Star Academy shows more longevity. It is still around after more than five earlier rounds. La roue de la Fortune (Wheel of Fortune) has recently been re-introduced.
Derrick and Rex are imported from respectively Germany and Austria. Local quizes like Des chiffres et des lettres (digits and letters), Questions pour un champion (Questions for a champion) and Pyramide, together with series like `Sous le soleil` (Under the sun) and `Plus belle la vie` (The nicer life) complete the offer.
Alex (27) does not have a TV. `Because I have had enough of our president`s face on TV. He is all over`, she says. When she was younger, she watched Youpie l?Ecole est fini, ?Hurray, school is over` or Club Dorothee. I am surprised to hear that the generation who is currently in their 20s and 30s used to watch Japanese Manga cartoons, more than watching The Smurfs or Barbapapa. Sesame Street, still today very popular in a number of European countries, has never really had a major impact in France.
One little school boy called Titeuf does appeal to viewers of all ages. This cartoon kid`s adventures at school tell about the questions of life in a way that is accessible to kids and funny to people who are a little older. Titeuf has a character similar to Donald Duck, but a little meaner and more realistic: he has a big mouth but a good heart and gets himself into quite some trouble by misinterpreting things and/or by trying to be smart. Titeuf is very handy for people wanting to learn French. Instead of speaking the strict, formal French taught at school, Titeuf speaks everyday French in a way that older people learn to understand what kids talk about, and kids learn to understand what grown-ups talk about.
photo | Link
to this article