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France

French weekly magazines review 27 August 2017

media French weekly magazines DR

Sex, obesity, and philosophy are some of the more interesting topics discussed in this week's magazines. As well as the popularity of Emmanuel Macron, whose honeymoon period is coming to an end...

“Macron, a normal president”

In itself there’s nothing particularly depressing about this headline.

But if you stamp it across a black and white picture of the French president’s face, just under a red line showing a big slump in his approval rating, it takes on more sombre connotations.

The top story in L’Express is one of an anti-climax, after the euphoria which catapulted France’s “Golden Boy” to power in May 2017.

Three months later, only 36% of the population are satisfied with his action so far, according to one poll.

That’s even less than his predecessor, François Hollande, around the same time.

There are two main reasons for this, according to L'Express.

First of all, the French people are tied to him by reason, and not emotions.

In other words, most people never really loved him anyway.

The other reason is that Macron rose to power on the back of a political crisis on both the left and the right, rather than on the support of a solid majority.

As one of his supporters points out, he only won 24% of the vote in the first round - that's less than both Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy before him.

For both these reasons, as he starts implementing the liberal reforms he promised, he's bound take a lot of stick.

But perhaps the French have too high expectations.

Maybe they need to gain a bit of perspective.

After a long analysis of Macron’s fall in public opinion, L’Express takes a quick look at the other side of the Atlantic.

There, it says, the French president is all the rave.

His finesse and pragmatism are all the more enviable when compared to the populist demagoguery of his American counterpart.

They would swap Macron for Trump any day.

Obesity : a societal scourge

This week Marianne tackles the problem of obesity, with a four-page report on the scale of the problem in France.

One French person in 6 is now obese, it says.

But it's not so much an individual problem as a societal one.

To back up the claim, the report underlines some interesting facts.

Obesity is a lot more widespread in poorer areas, for example, where families have a tendency to buy cheaper and less healthy food.

According to the organisation Foodwatch, 74% of supermarket foods contain added sugar.

And if you want to force companies to provide clearer nutritional information, you'll soon come up against huge food lobbies, who spend billions to influence legislation.

It's hard to fight the power marketing, that dark force which can magically draw fruit all over a fruit yogurt, without putting any fruit inside.

Nothing new there.

A short history of philosophy and sex

Philosophy and eroticism are both equally loved in France - with cuisine, they make up a cultural trinity.

So it’s not often you’ll come across an article quite as Gallic as the one published in L’Obs this week, titled “Philosophers and sex”.

The magazine’s dedicating ten full pages to this unlikely topic, beginning with a survey of some famous positions - philosophical positions, that is.

You might as well start at the beginning, with Plato.

He thought eroticism was a way of experiencing the pure idea of beauty.

As for the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant, he warned us that unbridled sex posed the risk of turning other people into objects.

Then you have the pessimist, Arthur Schopenhauer.

Like Freud after him, he conceived sex as the invisible force behind most of our actions.

But it’s also a harmful illusion, he thought, at it enslaves us to the blind will of nature.

According to L’Obs, the first philosopher to study sex seriously and methodically was the Frenchman Michel Foucault.

With his monumental History of Sexuality, he challenged the dominant narrative, which represents sexuality as something that used to be repressed, and that post-modern society gradually liberated.

Not at all.

According to Foucault, under the veil of liberation, we actually made sexuality a thing, by turning it into a science, to be analysed and perfected - to the point where it’s now becoming a tyrannical force in our lives, according to some philosophers today.

They see our obsession with sex as a neo-liberal cult, where pleasure is to be frantically maximised.

In other words, we’ve come a long way since the erotic mystique of Plato...

If you get bored with the metaphysical approach, you can turn straight to page 58, where you’ll find a list of positions of a more tangible kind.

Here you can read philosophical interpretations of various sexual acts, which I shall not delve into at such an early hour in the morning.

Some of them are quite fascinating.

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