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by Xavier Lancel

[Editor’s note: our French correspondent Xavier Lancel turned in a more knowledgeable view of the ongoing controversy surrounding Angouleme, but the minute he turned it in, a NEW phase of the controversy arose: four female cartoonists turning down their selection as Knights of Letters. Male winner Riad Sattouf has accepted his but this is no where near over. We’ve put the latest up at the top;]

In a never-ending whirlpool of controversy, Fleur Pellerin, french minister of Culture, released a list of people who will received a medal of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of Arts and Letters). Among those 8 cartoonists half were women.

It did not take long before a lot of them (especially the women) made the minister and their followers on Twitter and Facebook know what they thought of that move.

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TanXXX was the first to strike : “Here I am, proposed Knight of Arts and Letters! “. She only received the information through a test message. “I thought that was a joke, but no. …I never received any proper formal announcement, just take that and take care of it! Those people in the high spheres will not die of politness. No matter from which angle I approach this, it smells like my socks after 4 hard days in a festival. The ministry, and overall the gouvernment, was probably drunk, I see no other explanation.”

It gets worse: “The ministry probably thinks artists are so stupid and full of themselves that, giving them a title will flatter them?” She’s refused this distinction and taken the opportunity to note that, to top it all, the ministry used her real name, not her pseudonym and that, in doing so, they actually forgot about her right to anonimity, which she’s valued for a long time.

“My engagement is from the poors. My culture is from it too, far away from those cozy chambers and chairs, those f.cking coktails and honorability titles, away from the State and his clowns. We’ll continue to laugh like stupid girls…and we will drink and toast to our culture, the one we are building, wearing and defending, despite the ministry and our awful survival living conditions. I have way too much respect for engagement, too much love for the culture that makes me stand up, too much shit on my shoes to be blinded by those shining medals. ”

Julie Maroh (Blue is the Warmest Color), another comics artists who was given a knighthood, also had something to say:

“Everybody will notice that this a an ‘exceptionnal promotion’ and that, among the eight persons receiving the medal, 5 are young women who signed the recent Charter against sexism…

“I can’t believe this IS the answer from the ministry to our cries for help. So I’ll keep thinking this promotion is an empty joke and that our vidications will soon and quickly be taken seriously …”

And BAM, Aurelie Neyret, another promoted Knight, is also doubtful on her Facebook page:

“So, what doest this medal is the reward of ? I am not stupid, I know it’s not because of my work, we are talking political calculation here. Without the current context, I would never have been ‘raised’ to the rank of Knight. Even in this context, I don’t see how anything I did makes me worthy of it.”

She follows saying that some years later, perhaps receiving this distinction will have a sense for her but “…so far, thanks for everything but, no, thanks, I will not become a Knight, I prefer to stay on my two feet.”

Chole Cruchaudet followed, also refusing the medal: “Everybody made fun of me because, for those who don’t know it yet: I have been promoted Knight of Arts and Letters. Let’s not go back to the incongriousness of it, that’s pretty clear for everyone. To put the final curtain on a thing that, at least, made a laugh for a second (thinking this will make my grampa happy and that we could have some fun if I would be able to invite many hungry friends to eat and drink champagne at the Ministry)…in the end, I don’t wanna hear about this and want to be put out of this list.”

So far, the other ” winners ” did not communicate on this promotion. [Editor’s note: among the other indignities mentioend in the refusals was that to attend the ceremony, the inductees would have to pay 100 euros. Outrageous indeed!)

This is only the latest volley in a very bad season for French comics.

The introducing ceremony of fake awards at FIBD in Angoulême has provoked unanimous indigantion among fans, comics artists and editors. If the big media are not really covering the event, the small comics microcosm in France is responding harshly to what is seen as an international outrage toward the ” fake ” winners and a complete lack of common sense and professionalism from the organisators of the FIBD.

Members of the jury – Antoine Baudry, Laurent Binet, Nicole brenez, Philippe Collin, Veronique Giuge, Hamé and Matt Madden- published an open letter on France Inter:

” Us, members of the Grand Jury of the FIBD, worked with serenity and choosed in perfect harmony the comics winner of the Fauves D’Or. We were surprised to be told to stay away from the debuting prize ceremony, then astonished to hear the host, whom we had never seenbefore, claiming that our deliberation had been hard, then absolutly stupefied by the cruelty and vulgarity of the ceremony.

Be it the announcement of of fake prizes, hurting authors, publishers and readers, or the bad taste and sexist jokes of the host, all this is unworthy of such a big comics event festival, respected all over the world, to which we are happy to have contributed by choosing radical pieces of art, both singular and important in the fistory of the 9th art.

The host and literacy columnist (and humorist you never want to invite anywhere now to introduce your parties) Richard Gaitet has, on his side, written a remorsefull letter in the famous french newspaper ” Le Monde “, apologizing on every side to everyone for his numerous mistakes and his completely failed attempt at humor. His mea culpa is quite long -he does have a lot to answer for- but is poignant and sincere, contrary to the first answer from the FIBD officials to the outcry indignation, an answer almost calling people idiots if they hadn’t get the joke!

Richard Gaitet, on the other hand, fully understand how awful the situation was for everyone involved:

”  It wasn’t, wasn’t at all, the right place or the right time to do this. It wasn’t the year to even try to do it… Yesterday, it was the first time I animated a prize ceremony, my first time attending the prize ceremony, and only my second time visiting the festival. I know some comics people but I’m not moving in this circle. That does not mean I can’t mesure how difficult this job is, how demandinbg it is, how it’s too often precarious, how much talent and perseverance you need to have to try to make it a living. “

He then list all the people he clearly offended directly (including Adrian Tomine, Brian Vaughan, Fiona Staples and Urban Comics).

” … I am deeply, sincerely sorry to have hurt so many professionals, all hard-working people trying to make a living out of this at I also adore: bande dessinée. No, it wasn’t the place, nor the time, nor the year to try that. “

La Charente Libre, a local newspaper, published an interview of Jean-Philippe Pousset , a local councilman:

” We are witnessing a ” foutage de gueule ” [massive screw-up]  never seen before. It ridicule Angoulême and its festival all over the world. “

The director of Medias Partipations, regrouping several major editors, threatened in a letter to DBD, a comics magazine,  to call a boycott of the FIBD: ” Dupuis isn’t going anymore, Les Editions du Lombard could be next. “

But Hermann, published by Les Editions du Lombard, won the Grand Prize, so Lombard confirmed they will indeed be there next year.

The Annual report on the french comics scene, revealed during the festival, is alarming:

53% of comics artist live under the minimum wage in France. (63% of the women comics artists). Even worse, in those 53%, 36% are living under the poverty level

(50% for women).

Still wanna come and work for the French market?

Xavier Lancel

1 COMMENT

  1. Hey Xavier, What’s up? Long time no see, too bad I couldn’t make it to Angouleme this year, looks like it was a lot of fun –kinda :-D

    Side note: the sheer concept of a minister of culture always baffled me, especially since I read 1984 as a teenager.

    Anyhoo…
    This clusterf*ck keeps getting better and better. Our beloved socialist government has been in damage control mode almost since day one and this is just a small part of it, it’s a lot more worrying on subjects that actually impact lots of people’s lives (like unemployment, war, justice, you get my drift).
    Not that I want to belittle the predicament some of these artists are facing but they always seem to be like a bunch of whiners. Being an artist is not the same as working for the post office. There is not job security and that’s a given from the start. If you can’t make a living from your art, it’s not a job, it’s a hobby. Get a real job. Relying on part-time welfare benefits for artists is a disgrace and a burden for a society that doesn’t need it. Look at american actors, even the big ones waited tables for years before getting their big break. It’s called taking ownership of your own life instead of relying on the nanny state.

    Sure, the host of this ceremony is a moron.
    Sure, whoever higher-up who signed off on this should be fired, but that’s not going to happen in France. No one ever even gets a slap on the wrist for stuff like this.
    We all know that french ministers are not hired based on their skills but only on political leverage, so what were we expecting, seriously?

    I’ve lived near Angouleme most of my childhood and I know that the festival has always been dipped in corruption and shady proceedings from local and semi-national politics. Not going to change any time soon.
    For these parasites, it’s business as usual, there is zero chance that real issues are ever addressed in this country, as long as inbreeding politics are the way of the land.

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