No ‘bling bling baby’ for Sarkozy – the French don’t give a hoot
When Carla Bruni-Sarkozy told the BBC this week that the French didn’t find her pregnancy interesting, we thought she was being modest. Take a look at the response from French web users however, and it’s all too clear that that she was actually making an understatement.
“Carla Bruni is absolutely right,” piped one commentator on the website for Paris Match, a weekly with a focus on news and celebrities. “We couldn’t give a sh** about her pregnancy. The country is going to sh**, there are people dying in Ethiopia… Why should we bother about this spoilt presidential baby?”
That was just one of thousands of outraged comments on gossip, news and women’s websites; almost every one of them ending in an angry exclamation mark.
News of the BBC interview itself was bemusing enough. The French first lady, interviewed by a famous French journalist in… English, for… an English-speaking radio station? “Can I please remind everyone that we are not in India, we are in France,” huffed one reader on the online comments section of conservative daily France Soir. “France is not one big reality TV show”.
PR potential? Not in France
The issue is a pricklier one in France than it might be in India, the US or the UK. It reflects a general hostility towards “celebrity gossip”, which has nonetheless seen a gradual growth over the past decade. It was, after all, the paparazzi who brought us the tale of Sarkozy’s whirlwind love affair with ex-model Bruni. But while the “happy couple” initially seemed content in the glare of the spotlight – Sarkozy surreptitiously flashing his Rolex at the cameras – the healthy interest quickly transformed into a case of serious overexposure. Sarkozy became the “bling bling president” that nobody wanted to see hanging around on a yacht anymore, let alone with his Botoxed fiancée and her cringe-inducing flats.
Back to the present, and Carla has managed to keep details of her pregnancy largely under wraps, despite the PR potential of the first-ever baby born to a French president while in office, just a year before Sarkozy is to run for another term as president. “I think it’s great that she’s being discreet,” wrote one woman on French Yahoo’s ‘For Her’ news forum. “The French don’t vote for soap stories, they vote for economic, social and moral reasons.”
If the president were hoping to score any points from the new arrival, he’d be mistaken. Surveys show that even in the UK, France’s gossip-gripped neighbour, neither Gordon Brown nor David Cameron earned a popularity boost after the respective births of their in-office babies. Sarkozy has clearly taken note.