Photo of the Week

ParisUpdate-JohnGoodmanforFrenchPresident

Humor on the hoardings spotted before the first round of the French elections: “John Goodman (Jean Gentilhomme) for President,” the candidate of the “Nice Peoples' Party. That would make a change. © Paris Update

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Silent films from Switzerland?

ParisUpdate-train300

> They’re rare, but they do exist and can be seen at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris, through May 2.

Voices from the North
> The Pølar Festival celebrates Northern European culture with films, concerts, talks and more. Various locations, Paris, through April 29.

Photo walk
> Eight Paris galleries hold special photography shows and events for Parcours Fotofever. Various locations, Paris, through May 1.

Photo shows galore
> Le Mois de la Photo has been moved from autumn to spring, with 96 exhibitions taking place all over the greater Paris area. See Web site for locations and dates.

Art videos
> The theme of this year’s Videobox Festival is “noise and movement.” Carreau du Temple, Paris, April 27-29.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Nicolas Boukhrief’s La Confession, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, April 28.

Virtual reality
> Drop in on Saturday or Sunday from 2pm to 8pm for a free virtual trip at the VR Express festival. Forum des Images, Paris, through June 30.

Dance in historic sites
> Monuments en Mouvement offers free dance performances in national monuments like the Pantheon in Paris, the Abbaye de Cluny and châteaux. Various locations, through Oct. 21.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, through May 28.

 

Hot Topics - C'est ironique !

 

Appearance Discrimination in Paris: The Ugly Truth (and Some Even Uglier Lies)

Beauty Is Only
Two Rows Deep

Paris Update MASKS

Illustration by Charles Giai-Gischia. Visit his blog, Traits-Drôles, for a larger version and more drawings

Paris is often called “the most beautiful city in the world.” A subjective and categorical title to be sure, but nonetheless one with some logic behind it. In fact, most (not all, but most) of the city consists of beautiful buildings prettily arranged on lovely streets laid out in an eye-pleasing fashion on either side of a photogenic river whose resplendent water is teeming with fish, some of which are real lookers.

And that’s not all: according to a recent exposé in the press, when you walk down those stunning streets, you’re likely to see nothing but attractive people in all of those comely cafés and bistros. This is, reportedly, because a great many Parisian eateries practice blatant, bald-faced discrimination based on physical appearance.

This little niche of the social prejudice industry became a hot, or at least simmering, topic late last year when an article in the French daily Le Canard Enchaîné, relayed in virtually every other newspaper in the country and some out of the country, revealed that the waiters at Le Georges, the trendy restaurant on the top floor of the Pompidou Center, are under strict orders from management to seat “beautiful” (a category that also encompasses “wealthy” and “famous”) people up front and “ugly” (a category that also encompasses “wearing Velcro shoes”) people in the back by the restrooms. Which, incidentally, are just gorgeous.

A disgruntled former employee told a Canard reporter that, during her tenure there, the managers would reprimand her severely if she didn’t keep the front tables — the ones with the best view of the city through the museum’s glass walls and, not incidentally, offering museum-goers the best view of the diners — full of nice-looking, well-dressed customers and/or celebrities. Patrons who were unlikely ever to appear in Playboy, Playgirl, Fortune or People were to be informed that the good tables were all booked and then shown to a spot in the back, where the only view is an occasional glimpse of the urinals.

The revelation, coupled with follow-up stories uncovering similar practices at many other Paris restaurants, sparked a minor uproar. The comments sections of the news sites filled up with torrents of shock and anger, most of which read something like this: “It’s unthinkable! An outrage! A heinous violation of basic human rights! The restaurant should be sued, closed down, gutted and burned! And then boycotted!”

I personally sided with the minority opinion, which held that people who go to chichi, see-and-be-seen places like Le Georges, the kind of restaurant where the decor is more important than the food, should not be surprised to find themselves being judged on their personal decor, as it were.

After all, nightclubs around the world routinely refuse admission to supplicants who don’t meet their standards of stylishness, sexiness, hipness or rolled-up fifties. And there are a great many careers that are essentially closed to less-than-red-hot candidates, including supermodel, pornstar, Rockette, Chippendale, magician’s assistant and Village Person. And waitperson at Le Georges.

But then it occurred to me: why have a reasonable, level-headed reaction when I can take the opposite point of view, ignore all logic, wallow in paranoia and extrapolate a minor injustice into a full-fledged conspiracy theory?

Here goes...

What if this triage in the food services industry is only the tip of the iceberg? The malodorous edge of the Camembert wedge, so to speak? What if it’s just phase one of an insidious, far-reaching, long-term program?

My theory is this: fearful of intensifying competition from fast-changing cities in high-growth economic zones like Rio, Mumbai and Shanghai, the Paris municipal government has secretly adopted a 10-year plan to consolidate the city’s number-one status on the urban beauty charts.

In phase two, the policy pioneered at Le Georges will be extended to every café and restaurant in town, and then to lunch counters and takeout stands. In the latter, the scramble to make sure that the most visible spots are occupied by the best-looking customers at any given time will make it impossible to maintain any kind of orderly line. In other words, this won’t change anything at all.

In the next phase, looks discrimination will be extended to all commercial establishments. Department stores will have hostesses at every door to steer customers either to their desired department to browse the goods or, if they don’t measure up, to the basement, where they will be able to select the items they want from a catalogue and retrieve them at the loading dock on their way out.

Other workplaces that are visible from the street will be required to place attractive employees at the windowside desks. Recognizing that some types of businesses, such as tech startups, video-game design firms and my home office, are likely to have more windows than attractive employees, the regulation will allow the substitution of store display mannequins or life-sized (and clothed) inflatable dolls.

Public transport will, of course, be segregated, and only out-of-work fashion models will be allowed to panhandle in the A-list Métro cars. This will save the prettier passengers money (which they can spend on spa treatments), because their beggars won’t need that much spare change to eat in the first place.

Hospitals will be required to divide their operating-room staff into two groups, one of which will be allowed to work around the patients only after they have been anesthetized.

An ordinance will be passed requiring theaters and movie houses to sort their audiences into as many ranks of pulchritude as they have rows of seats. This in turn will require the hiring of large teams of physiognomists and ushers who are able to do their job very quickly.

Then it will be remembered that in these places the patrons spend virtually the entire time in the dark not looking at each other, thus making the whole exercise pointless. Armies of former audience sorters will be laid off and, having no income nor prospects of finding more work in their field, will become depressed and begin neglecting their looks.

In the final phases of the plan, real-estate agents will be banned from selling residential properties in central Paris to buyers who “don’t fit the profile.” An elite corps of traffic cops will patrol the outskirts of town, directing nice-looking drivers in nice cars onto the main routes toward the city center and everyone else onto the narrow one-way side streets. By 2025, Paris’s eye candy index, from architecture to restaurant clientele to residents to passers-by, will be a consistent 10++ in the area around Notre Dame and gradually descend to 0.01 at the Periphérique.

And then, at last, we’ll see what we can do about those less-than-fetching fish. I just hope I can become wealthy and/or famous by then, so I won’t be forcibly relocated to the suburbs.

David Jaggard

Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is now available on Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors. At $6.78 (less than €5) it packs a lot of punchlines per penny.

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