State lies, true romance and political celebrity: the new French ménage à trois
Ginette Vincendeau, King’s College London, firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrity culture came late to France but grew with a vengeance under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012), the first French ‘téléprésident’ (Jost 2008). Events have since taken a more spectacular turn with the politico-amorous imbroglio surrounding the self-proclaimed ‘normal’ President François Hollande, elected in 2012. Hollande left the mother of his four children, Ségolène Royal – herself a former presidential candidate – for the journalist Valérie Trierweiler, who became the first unmarried French ‘First Lady’. In January 2014, paparazzi photographs published in Closer revealed Hollande’s liaison with actress-producer Julie Gayet. In the aftermath, Hollande broke with Trierweiler, whose subsequent best-selling revenge memoir, Thank You for This Moment (2014), gripped the nation. Further echoing a vaudeville farce, Hollande currently presides over a government that has Royal as ecology minister, while pursuing his semi-official liaison with Gayet (who rejects the role of ‘First Lady’).
Beyond illustrating the media scrutiny to which political figures are subjected in today’s celebrity culture, the Hollande-Gayet-Royal trio raises important questions regarding political (in)sincerity, the porous borders between private life and public office and the changing status of marriage and motherhood in France (a burning political issue as Hollande legalized same-sex marriage). This presentation also investigates the complex relationship between celebrity culture, state policy and cultural funding in France, notably for the cinema, given Gayet’s dual identity as film professional and presidential companion.