PARIS--No need to remind you of the ongoing scandal around Thylane Loubry-Blondeau, daughter of French TV celebrity(ish), and her borderline erotic shoot for Vogue Paris. So does it merit the outrage? Or is it merely the continuation of a long French tradition?
Although I live in Paris and Blondeau is of French descent, I heard of the outrage through the US media. The French press had either brushed it off, or reported on "the Americans going hysterical."
If you contrast the coverage of the same story in the US and in France, it's almost as if outlets are talking about different photos. Here are excerpts of the same story, one in the New York Daily News, the other in the French equivalent, the Nouvel Observateur:
Veronika Loubry’s daughter posed for photos which turn out to be a scandal in the US…seven months later!!!
Rightly so, Veronika [Thylane's mother] wonders what is going on, "These photos were taken in December!....I understand that these photos can be shocking. I was present during the shoot and I was shocked …about the price of the necklace she is wearing! It costs three million Euros!"
Veronika also added, "She leads a very normal life…we’ve turned down a Ralph Lauren campaign!"
In one photo, she poses in a skintight dress, laying on her stomach atop a tiger skin rug, with stiletto-clad feet kicked up behind her.
Such images also raise concerns about child predators, Paul Miller, an associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University, told ABC, "Any creepy child pornographer could plead 'artistic license'", Miller said.
Now, this is nothing new. Walk down the streets of Paris and you’ll see kids dressed up like mini-adults, in outfits identical to their parents. Popular French labels APC, Zadig & Voltaire, and Maje all have miniaturized collections for mother and daughter to play dress up together: faux python leggings, leopard print--you name it, they've got it. There is, in fact, an entire children’s market around mimicking women’s rituals. See: Milk magazine, which features street style, highly professional shoots, models, all size six...years old. Imagine Jalouse for kids and you've got the picture.
In other words, from a young age, girls practice being women….or rather, French women. I remember being allowed to smoke indoors at school from age 12-13--there was even a smoking room allocated to students.
"There is no real teenage culture in France, no Larry Clark nor Hillary Duff. Somehow, one goes straight from childhood to a semblance of adulthood," said Carol Mann, a French sociologist specializing in gender and childhood. "Hence the [portrayal] of the 'femme-enfant' such as Brigitte Bardot or Vanessa Paradis."
Now, this already sounds very naughty to a polite American ear. But here’s something a tad more worrying: this shoot is nothing compared to the pictures that French photographer and socialite Irina Ionesco took of her daughter Eva when she was between the ages of five to 15 in the 1970s. The photos showed her young daughter fully nude, legs spread, and in fetish wear at times. “But it’s art!” Irina said at the time.
“It wasn’t particularly acceptable but it wasn’t illegal either," Mann explained. "Children portrayed provocatively was just seen as shock value; morals didn’t really come into play.”
Indeed, French society accepted this (while in America she would have gone to jail in a split second). The photos continue to be sold worldwide today and there's a movie out about the Ionesco's mother/daughter relationship and the storied photos.
So what do you think? At what point should you draw the line?