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An American (Sex Scandal) In Paris

Celebrity news magazines are on display at a Paris newstand, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (Zacharie Scheurer/AP)
Celebrity news magazines are on display at a Paris newstand, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (Zacharie Scheurer/AP)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Oh mon dieu! France is wading through its very own scandale sensationnel. And it’s a doozy.

A country that once scoffed at America’s prurient obsession with the intimate interactions between a president and his intern is now enthralled with the illicit liaison of its own leader, François Hollande.

His trusty scooter takes him to sexy-time rendez-vous, leaving his longtime girlfriend, Valerie Trierweiler, in the dust. As she recovers from the shock of Hollande’s oh là là, the French president is nothing but a gentleman, sending chocolates and flowers to his hospitalized cherie.

Wow. The French sure do know romance.

What appears to set this scandal apart from its French predecessors (Hello, Mitterrand and Sarkozy) is the crumbling wall of a Gallic politician’s private life, now on display for all to scoff and sneer at.

NPR reported that “For the first time, unauthorized, ‘stolen’ snapshots of a French president have been published in a magazine.” (Perhaps John Edwards, of National Enquirer notoriety, would have fared much better as a French politician.)

What appears to set this scandal apart from its French predecessors (Hello, Mitterrand and Sarkozy) is the crumbling wall of a Gallic politician’s private life, now on display for all to scoff and sneer at.

Previously, French leaders were afforded a level of privacy protection that meant bupkis in the U.S. of A.

Ari Adut, a sociologist at University of Texas at Austin, writes in his book “On Scandal” that French politicians enjoy protections “against the unfavorable publicization of their private lives in the form of tough privacy and defamation laws.”

But now things are apparently different in the land of bon bons and brie. Which begs the question: Is scandal the latest manifestation of American imperialism? Can the French no longer resist the lure of scandal’s juicy offerings on the front pages of their newspapers? The moral depravity! The schadenfreude! The soapboxing! Any opportunity to dissect the faults and shortcomings of another person’s life — especially those of the power elite — is an opportunity well spent.

So to the French citizenry I say, felicitations. Congratulations on acknowledging that sex scandal, American style, can have a place in your society too. You’re now backpedaling on your previous, stalwart and silly insistence that a politician’s private life is, ahem, private.

Pshaw, say us Americans! Scandal consumption is the best form of medicine. One dose and you’ll forget that your economy is in the gutter. Don’t criticize your president for his faults. Instead, thank him for the free entertainment as his private life provides with titillating details.

But for the sake of his distressed girlfriend (whom Hollande is apparently ready to dump any moment now) let’s do let the door hit him on the way out.

Hollande, after all, is no Clinton. He doesn’t have the charisma or the golden economy to protect him from scandal’s brutal fallout. Instead, this dust-up may just seal the fate of an already highly-unpopular president.

But before we cry our crocodile tears for him, let’s consider that there are many American politicians he can call for support. I’m sure our power elite can teach him a thing or two about dusting oneself off after a tumble in the tabloids. It’s the American way.


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Hinda Mandell Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Hinda Mandell, a Boston-area native, is associate professor in the School of Communication at RIT in Rochester, New York.

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