Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Boobs, Ha! What Are They Good For? Absolutely EVERYTHIN'

If War was Good for Absolutely Nothin', as Edwin Starr sang in 1969, today one has to admit that the female mammary glands are good for absolutely everythin'. From selling concerts tickets to launching human rights campaigns, the boob has never been so present, powerful, pregnant and perky in our society. For better of for worse, 2013 will be remembered as the Year of The Boobs.
Charlize Theron fake-cringing
The Oscar for best body part was celebrated by Seth Macfarlane in his now famous We Saw your Boobs ballad, in which he gave us a full source book for a little sight of our favorite actresses' cleavage, in full frontal view. In case you forgot the lyrics, let me summarize that Jennifer Lawrence has yet to show hers in a movie; as for Kate Winslet, she's made a generous use of her upstairs assets.
The little swing-y song was meant to be funny. It made humor-less feminists cringe, actresses fake
cringe, with fake horrified, pre-taped shots of their mortified faces rather than boobs. And it probably generated thousands of Google searches with key words such as Mulholland Boobs. So what's the big deal?

When I was growing up in France, I was totally accustomed to seeing boobs everywhere. You might say that French are pervs, and you might be right. In my country, women show their breasts on the beach, on billboards, in movies, in TV series, in commercials, with no restrain. It is understood that the boob is made to sell, and no one is prudish about it. My favorite boob perk was the commercial for a fruit juice brand named Joker. The slogan: The Naked Fruit. The advert: a naked girl drinking fruit juice. Simple, straightforward, efficient.

In the U.S., the relationship to boobs is more of a peep tale. The breast tissue can be shown, the cleavage can be deep, the side of the breast can be revealed and shown fairly freely. But the nipple is a big shocker. It retains this magical, powerful peekaboo effect.
Ursula Ofman, Psy. D. clinical psychologist from New York, explains that humans are hard-wired to seek and react to this fundamental body part that we all depend upon for our survival.
Of course, the boob is much more that the sum of its parts.
During the Superbowl half-time show in 2004, America reaffirmed its reprobation of the nipple flashing. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake sang a duet. As the song reached the final line, "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song," Timberlake pulled off a part of Jackson's costume, revealing her outer right breast, the breast ornamented with a sun-shaped nipple ring. Janet Jackson's incident was qualified a wardrobe malfunction. It allegedly had the potential to traumatize children and grown-ups alike for a split-second sight of the nipple. It was deemed indecent.

Yet, Lady B, Beyoncé herself, launched her 2013 The Mrs. Carter Show world tour with a striking wardrobe, a highly-functioning wardrobe. At her opening concert, in Belgrade, Serbia, Beyoncé wore a gold corset with fake breasts and nipples, with realistic looking appendixes the size of cherries, or maybe simply the size of Beyoncé's own. The provocative outfit was designed by The Blonds, the brothers' duet Phillipe and David Blond, and leads one to wonder why the fake nipples are acceptable while the real ones are persona non grata, subject to fine when shown on TV.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I'm not grumpy, I'm French

When you see a cute bunny rabbit, I see dinner. When you see a fluffy adorable animal, I see gibelotte de lapin or civet de lièvre. This is just the beginning of our cultural differences. You might think that I'm angry all the time, but actually I call it realism. One time, not too long ago, I was happy. It was horrible.

The French are known for being grumpy, unfriendly, moody, curt, and impolite. You worship positive thinking. We soak in negativism. Is it depression, at the level of the whole population?  In the 1960's the French singer Barbara was singing Le Mal de Vivre. Are we afflicted by a bad case of spleen and ennui?

I remember when I moved to New York, 16 years ago, people kept asking me what I thought of New-Yorkers. "Argh, poor you! They're not too rude?!" they kept asking. "Rude?! New-Yorkers rude? Are you kidding? They are as harmless as a litter of new puppies. They're not rude at all! They are nice and charming and smiling people. They say 'good for you' for every little piece of toot that you produce."

Instead, the French wear their rudeness like a medal. We invented rude! You think it's a figure of speech?! Not at all. Rude is a French word. It means rough, harsh, hard, rugged, coarse, mannerless.
What do you expect from a country that produces the best wine in the world, the most delightful food, exceptional fashion, a superb health care system and a movie industry so sublime that it is granted a cultural exception? All these blessings should make them happy? They are miserable, not fools! The French will give you all their malaise, their mal de vivre, their spleen. Baudelaire was madly in love with melancholy. "I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no Melancholy", he wrote.

We also invented Joie de vivre, the opposite of Mal de vivre, but somehow it was short lived, and the French collectively settled for the Mal!

Last I was in Paris, I stopped at Aux Deux Amis, a diminutive wine bar in Paris. The name of the bar means Two Friends. Naively I though that the service would be friendly.  The name was terribly misleading. I ordered a glass of red wine from Loire Valley. It was so abrasive that my front teeth hurt. When I dared say that the wine recommended was a bit young, the bartender reacted as if I had insulted him and his family over twelve generations. It was not annoyance that the bartender expressed, it was wrath. I still want to believe he's suffering from Tourette syndrome. Or he is French. That's all.