French take their political cues from puppets

Americans have long been knocked for taking too superficial an approach to their politics. Saturday Night Live’s caricatures of presidents and presidential candidates have been especially influential in defining their identities for the public. The French, though, have gone one step further, and turned to puppets. Les Guignols de l’info (“News Puppets” in English), a ...

603730_070227_sarkozy_05.jpg
603730_070227_sarkozy_05.jpg

Americans have long been knocked for taking too superficial an approach to their politics. Saturday Night Live's caricatures of presidents and presidential candidates have been especially influential in defining their identities for the public. The French, though, have gone one step further, and turned to puppets.

Les Guignols de l'info ("News Puppets" in English), a puppet-based political satire airing on French TV station Canal+, has been popular for years. But how it aims its latex-clad barbs may now have an outsized effect on the contest between presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal. Fully half of the French electorate believes the show will have an "important" effect on the outcome of the election, according to a recent poll.

The show ridicules everyone, but like American satires such as the Daily Show, it can't avoid appearing hostile to the conservatives currently in power. If Socialist candidate Royal eventually prevails, she may have more than the usual number of stagehands and behind-the-scenes manipulators to thank. Most politicians are in debt to figurative puppet-masters; she may find herself beholden to the real thing.

Americans have long been knocked for taking too superficial an approach to their politics. Saturday Night Live’s caricatures of presidents and presidential candidates have been especially influential in defining their identities for the public. The French, though, have gone one step further, and turned to puppets.

Les Guignols de l’info (“News Puppets” in English), a puppet-based political satire airing on French TV station Canal+, has been popular for years. But how it aims its latex-clad barbs may now have an outsized effect on the contest between presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal. Fully half of the French electorate believes the show will have an “important” effect on the outcome of the election, according to a recent poll.

The show ridicules everyone, but like American satires such as the Daily Show, it can’t avoid appearing hostile to the conservatives currently in power. If Socialist candidate Royal eventually prevails, she may have more than the usual number of stagehands and behind-the-scenes manipulators to thank. Most politicians are in debt to figurative puppet-masters; she may find herself beholden to the real thing.

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