Tuesday, March 15, 2011

French Culture & Media

Defining culture and expressing it with media is a challenging, subjective task. Above musician Arnaud Fleurent-Didier attempts to do so in his song France Culture.

Society is the dimension in which people interact anonymously with one another. When people begin to share values they form culture, normally associated with languages, practices and goods such as cuisine.

France has many official media to express its national culture. Since 1946 the French national radio France Culture has been presenting the best of French music, art, philosophy and other aspects of cultural identity. Below the online French media initiative Cultures France in partnership with Institut Francaise.

Mass production and digital media have created mass culture which some fear poses a risk to authenticity. Above the Mona Lisa is a signifier for Paris, but it is an Italian work of art. Below the mime culture is protected by French organizations but we can see the arts stay alive in mass pop culture such as Bowie or fashion themes but they are watered down, or detached from their original French source. With contemporary media, sampling is how many things are staying alive.

The decline of French culture made the cover of Time. Some suggest culture can be complex and intangible and creating simplistic cultural goods, as in the book below right, is not selling out as much as promoting culture. Others argue culture should never be understood through its goods or media but must be lived.

As French culture loses potency, American and English language culture expands its presence. Below French posters for American Oscar winners name the awards for the films. This is the process of the culture industry legitimizing its goods.

Media imperialism is the idea that anglo media is taking over globally. Above the Simpsons film was widely distributed around the world because dubbing allowed it to be customized to audiences and still seem original. Below is an example of a copy. Gossip Girl inspired a French show about the 16th arrondissement.

Shows that are inspired by are not the same as illegal copies or piracy. There are also a lot of un-authorized re-makes such as Turkish ET below right.

French culture is in reality a mix of ethnicities, with additional languages and values. The largely post-colonial presence in France has been treated as both a subculture and a second culture. Only recently has France begun to embrace this aspect as just last year was France 24, the state online and television network, available in Arabic.

Media framing is a process of signification, described by Barthes. An original sign is re-presented with new associations and the meaning is transformed.

Above the roaring lion is framed by MGM and attains new meaning. Below the original truth of the oppression of colonialism is re-stated by Paris Match which transforms the colonial boy into honor.

Barthes explained that media is a process of myth making that appears innocent. In the children's stories of Babar we see a myth of the values of colonialism being taught, far from the reality.

The end result of colonialism was a marginalization of the Arabic cultures in the banlieues. The citizens oppose their marginalization and laws such as the anti-buqa initiative. Below two media responses, the photographs of the reality of the banlieue by JR and the graffiti in Paris of Princess Hijab adding burqas to fashion ads.

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