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‘Old-fashioned and embarrassing’ – has the Miss France contest had its day?

It's one of the big events of the year that attracts millions of TV viewers - but many younger French people find the Miss France contest embarrassing and out-dated. Jean-Baptiste Andrieux explains why.

'Old-fashioned and embarrassing' - has the Miss France contest had its day?
All photos: AFP

Representatives for different regions have already been chosen and on Saturday night the new Miss France will be elected – with the contest a primetime TV event that draws in millions of viewers.

But the contest is regularly denounced by feminist and equality groups and is currently the subject of a lawsuit based on fair employment practices.

If you ask French people – particularly the younger ones – about it, they will likely tell you the contest is an embarrassing anachronism.

“Miss France does not give a positive image of women,” said Caroline, a Parisian student.

“It is futile, pointless and utterly out of time,” said Pauline, another Parisian student. 

While British resident in France James agreed, saying: “I think it’s rubbish and outdated.” 

Feminist group “Osez le féminisme” denounced it in 2016 as a competition based on “a brutal rivalry between women” and earlier this year the same group lodged a legal challenge which argued that anti-discrimination laws forbid giving someone a job merely because they are pretty. 

French journalist and blogger, Raphaëlle Peltier, had also warned in an interview for Le Monde newspaper in 2014 that Miss France challenge could send the wrong message to young girls, who might believe that they have to be “pretty, thin, tall, etc. to be successful”. 

But former Miss France winners Vaimalama Chaves and Camille Cerf disagree with Ruquier’s boycott call and claimed that participating to the national beauty pageant was an expression of the “freedom of will” and that it was possible to be both Miss France and feminist. 

To some, there is nothing sexist in Miss France.

“They are pretty, but we believe there are way more urgent issues,” said Jeannine and Pierre, a retired couple. 

Arthur, a Parisian resident, also pointed out that a men’s content does exist. However, “Mister France” challenge is not broadcast on television anymore, because it failed to attract a significant audience

And Ruquier has subsequently said on Twitter, that his call for a boycott was a “joke” and should not be taken seriously. 

The organisers of the contest have tried to prove their commitment to feminism over the few last years. The 2019 judging panel included only women and the captain of France women’s national football team, Amandine Henry, was the jury chairman when Miss France 2020 was selected.

Despite the recent controversies, the annual contest remains popular in France. As a matter of fact, 7.3 million people watched the TV broadcast of the beauty pageant last year, not showing much of a dip from previous years.

The Miss France event was created in 1920 by journalist and writer Maurice de Waleffe and was at first known as “La plus belle femme de France” (The prettiest woman in France) before getting its current name in 1927.  

Miss France 2020 will be broadcast on Saturday, December 17th, 2022 at 9pm on TF1.

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CULTURE

George Clooney to remake hit French spy show ‘The Bureau’

Hollywood star George Clooney is to direct an English-language remake of hit French spy series "The Bureau".

George Clooney to remake hit French spy show 'The Bureau'

The new version of the thriller that originally starred Mathieu Kassovitz will be called “The Department”, and will begin production this year, US station Showtime announced on Monday.

It compared it to “Homeland”, another successful spy show that mixed espionage and geopolitics.

“Just as ‘Homeland’ elevated global espionage to new heights, ‘The Department’ will take viewers even deeper into a world of intrigue and subterfuge with complicated characters who struggle with their own demons,” said Chris McCarthy, head of Showtime and Paramount Media.

“The Bureau” was a huge international hit for French producer Canal+, sold to more than 100 countries and praised even by France’s real-life spy agency, the DGSE, for its realism.

Launched in 2015 by showrunner Eric Rochant, its fifth and final season was overseen by award-winning director Jacques Audiard, known for films including “A Prophet” and “The Sisters Brothers”.

Clooney has previously directed the limited series adaptation of “Catch-22” in 2019.

He has also directed several films including “The Monuments Men” (2014) and “The Midnight Sky” (2020).

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