In the midst of the current, government-initiated public debate on the place of Islam in France, Nicolas Sarkozy has started standing strategically in front of churches so that voters don't run off and put their 'X' by the name Marine le Pen come the next Presidential Election in 2012. I'd have never seen this if I hadn't hooked up our Darty Box TV decoder the other day and virtually everything that has passed before my eyes since that fateful afternoon has only served to reinforce my feeling that I commited an act of the rashest stupidity. TV News is, at best, vacuous entertainment, but the worst feeling of all is that so many people take it as gospel. It's so dreadfully easy to manipulate the masses and yet so difficult to form one's own opinion when every news outlet has its own agenda.
Worse still was Sofie Coppola's film Marie Antoinette which finished about ten minutes ago. Who needs books when we have Hollywood? The Omaha Landings, William Wallace and Marie Antoinette to name but three, have all been so grossly misrepresented as to constitute a crime against anyone serious historian devoted to recounting past events as accurately as possible. Tonight, Mrs. F and I learned that Marie Antoinette took baths in her nightdress, presumably to ensure that any film made about her life 220 years after her decapitation would not endure a commercially suicidal '18' or 'R' certificate (we used to know them as 'X', but there you go; another bit of heritage Britain has eagerly abandoned in its unstinting quest to be the 51st State). The masked ball in the Palais Garnier (inaugurated 86 years after the French Revolution) was another howler, but the icing on the cake was surely the soundtrack. Somebody must have told Ms Coppola that, in those days, people listened to baroque music, of which she could only have understood the second syllable and thus treated her audience to Adam and the Ants, an appallingly-sung version of Only Fools Rush In as well as other lesser-known pop anthems. The cloying, obligatory (at least since 1980's American TV and Film) applause at any public event was omnipresent. This was a film to show the Palace of Versailles to an American audience with a pretty, Arian-looking, all-American star, but had little, if anything, to do with the Austrian princess bride of Louis XVI. Anyone who has seen Sascha Guitry's Talleyrand and Napoleon films knows how this period could, and should, be treated, at least on film. Better still, read well-researched books on the subjects.
I've nothing against America or the Americans; I've lived there, worked there, been married to one. But I can't abide the systematic distortion of historical facts for entertainment's sake, particularly when, for many people, this will be their only exposure to these episodes in history.