Watching Tyra Banks In France
By Lynsey Saunders
Like a good bottle of French wine shipped to the US, all of our crappy TV is imported straight to France. The French brown people learn words common to the English language like ‘fierce’ (you’re fabulous Tyra) and know what it means to cook a good rack of ribs (thanks Kyle!) from shows like America’s Next Top Model and College Hill. Some of them LOVE it. I’m not sure if it’s the shows themselves or the idea that this is what a young black American like myself is watching, so somehow they become apart of the cool club. Think about that theory... The French learn all about us from the great shows on the classy networks like BET and MTV. I’ll prove to you how I know this theory to be true.
Let’s set the scene shall we?
My friends and I decided to be adventurous in Paris and do something different. How about a Solange concert (you may know her as la scoeur de Beyonce) in a sketchy alley? Let’s get lost first, ask some rude Parisian girls with fake tans and painted on eyebrows (weren’t they from True Life: I live on the Jersey Shore?) how to get there... Parlez-vous Anglais? Negative. To McDonald’s then, (they speak English there right?) get directions from an Asian (in French) and somehow make to our destination. We stumble upon a ridiculously long line outside a building with no name. Really, Solange? As we wait in line, I get a flyer for cheap, star-quality (how do those words even fit in the same sentence) lace-front wigs. So for the low-low, I could look like both Beyonce and Sasha, and have baby hair just like Tyra. Let’s just cover up our damaged hair (I can’t even find a comb or good hair products in France. If you know of a side street I need to go down, let me know) but that’s another story.
All this talk of Tyra, and lace-front wigs get me to talking/complaining about the lack of programming for Brown people here. Ok, ok so I am staying in a hotel where you watch whatever’s on TV, but seriously if I see Children of Men dubbed in French one more time. Being in a country where there is lack of programming for people like me, I’m starting to appreciate College Hill and America’s Next Top Model for what it is. What shows do young, brown people have in France to watch and at least make fun of? OURS! That’s who.
I met a very nice French girl in that line by the name of Anne Laurence. The twenty-year-old Parisian told me that she watched all of the shows we watch in America. Hell, that’s even how she learned some of her English. (I know, right?) What are we complaining for? At least on shows like American Idol and ANTM we can kind of become stars (kind of). Here in France, it’s different. They watch our TV and listen to our music. Take the Solange concert for example. Her CD is not even released overseas yet, but somehow they know her and probably like her more than we do. I mean let’s face it she’s more than just Beyonce’s sister over in France. She has very eager fans who know all of the words to her music that they sought out themselves. So where does this eagerness come from?
In America we are subjected to the day-in, day-out of countdowns and reality TV but imagine not having any outlet at all. When I spoke to forty-year-old expatriate, American turned French Granville Fields he said after living in France for close to twenty-five years and working as a translator; he sees a lot of changes in French culture because of globalization.
“One of the trends I’ve seen that is a direct result of globalization is the impact of American culture on French culture,” says Fields.
Westernized music is so dominant in France that I couldn’t even escape it in what I considered a classy restaurant- sans the FloRida. Picture this, as I am sipping on the house wine and buttering my homemade baguette, FloRida’s ‘Right Round’ music video is blaring in the background on a wall my friends and I were sitting next to. Traveling overseas, I was expecting to get away from the music videos and radio stations blaring Beyonce and Lil Wayne, but seeing large tour posters for these artists and oh so many more let me know that if I wanted to listen to French music, I’d have to find it on the underground.
Listening to French rap in France was like reading something naughty. It was almost as if it were forbidden. While I might be acting a wee dramatic, there is some truth in the words I write. Our music is so prevalent in France that since 1994, France’s Pelchat Amendment ensures radio stations broadcast at least forty percent of their music in French during primetime hours. Have you ever heard of such a thing in America?
But was I a bit disappointed to walk down the street and feel like I was in New York? Honestly, no. It was comforting to me to know that the French love us even at our crappiest.
Lynsey Saunders is a writer and intern at The Black Snob who spent part of her summer abroad in France.