Fear and Humiliation in France: This Week in the French Press

France “on alert” as fear of Ebola virus increases

News of the Ebola virus has been plastered across news outlets world-wide, but only in the past week has the French media started reporting on the increasing risk the virus poses to France. Last week, French airports starting screening for the virus on all flights returning from countries infected by Ebola (L’Express). A passenger on an Air France flight from Paris to Madrid was suspected of having the virus (BFMTV). The office of the French Prime Minister on Friday, October 17th, officially announced that, “France has decided to reinforce its international and national response measures” (Le Monde).

Elsewhere in the world, however, the fight against the Ebola virus seems to be paying off. L’Express lists three recent victories: Nigeria has been declared as “Ebola free”; the Spanish nurse in Madrid who contracted the virus is doing much better; and Canada has created 1000 doses of an experimental vaccine that will be tested on humans.

Inflatable tree sculpture causes upset in Paris

An inflatable tree, designed by American artist Paul McCarthy, was erected in Paris at the Place Vendome. McCarthy is known for his abstract jokes, but Parisians didn’t fully understand the punchline. It didn’t take them long to realize that the tree bore a remarkable resemblance to a sex toy – the butt plug – and they were enraged. McCarthy was even slapped by a passer-by on the day the tree was inflated.

Initially it seemed the French were rightly humiliated, and the story of the sex-toy-tree blew up on news outlets and social media across the world. In the right-wing French media, the issue was popularly referred to as an affront on French culture. Le Figaro, for example, published an interview with a law professor, who labelled both the tree and contemporary art as vacuous.

An article published in Le Monde, however, offered a more balanced account. It revealed that the resemblance of the tree to some sort of sex toy was actually deliberate on the artist’s part. McCarthy explained that, “It all started with a joke: at first, I found the butt plug had a similar form to Brancusi sculptures. Later, I realized that the butt plug resembled a Christmas tree. But it’s an abstract work. People can be offended if they want to refer to the plug, but for me, it’s closer to an abstraction” (Le Monde).

It has come to light that many were too quick to be offended by the work of art. Chiara Parisi, artistic director of the Monnaie de Paris, explained that, “his work always incites a reaction, yet it does not fall under provocation, rather critique, with eyes capable of humor” (Le Monde). It certainly seems as though Parisians lack the sense of humor needed to match McCarthy’s taste — the tree was vandalized and taken down only 2 days after its erection, and will not be re-inflated (Le Parisien).







A close up of a sign


Get your weekly dose of Frenchly’s news.

Read more

Frenchly newsletter.

A close up of a sign

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly’s news.

Frenchly Newsletter.

A close up of a sign

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly stuff.