The world is going through a reverse Tower of Babel. Everyone’s speaking one language: English. And one of its victims is the once proud French music industry. An article in the Wall Street Journal, “France’s Lyrical Movement,” reveals that France — a country highly protective of its language — requires, by law, “that at least 40% of all songs played on radio or television are in French.” However, the French language seems to be losing ground. Musicians who want to be recognized globally and reach the largest audience possible know that they must perform in English.
In a nutshell:
The French debate over English lyrics is part of the country’s larger struggle with the forces of globalization—whether in the world of business or pop culture. There is the France that acknowledges English is now key to most successful business careers, and that introduces the language at ever-earlier stages in its educational system. And then there is the country that refuses to accept English as the language of international communication and forces companies and advertisers to translate every document and slogan into French.
What’s changed? Mainly, the internet. When people go looking for music, they don’t turn, exclusively, to the cultural microcosms of radio or TV anymore. The article mentions that, for the new generation of fans, “the favorite tune on their iPod playlist might have come from the band’s site on MySpace, a YouTube video or an MP3 from a friend’s memory stick.”
There are strong parallels between French musicians and comics. Comic choices, previously marginalized on the shelves of comic shops or in specialty magazines, are now subject to the global whims of an international fandom. With that advance comes with the same perils. We all need to communicate with each other, somehow. And the way to communicate to the largest audience?
But what does that mean from the standpoint of culture? If, as the French government believes, that French language is tied to French culture, does a foreign comic done in English mean a break from the home country’s culture? Will anecdotes by the local people just go over the heads of the audience in the New World Order?
Over at webcomics.com, Olaf Solstrand, a Norewegian webcomic creator posted an excellent piece where he pondered these issues. Can Norwegians get away with a joke about a children’s story that only fellow countrymen could get? He never really arrived at an answer. I suppose that right now non-English speaking webcomic creators are going to have to wing it, buffeted by the forces of Mother Econ.
The webcomic featured in this review, however, is one of the few that pulls the non-English to English transition rather successfully. Anders Loves Maria, by Rene Engström, is a Swedish webcomic that boasts a healthy audience in English speaking countries. Yet it is also ineffably Swedish, which is one of the comic’s greatest strengths.
Incidentally, this comic is about sex. It’s not exploitative, and sometimes it’s sweet. It does, however, contain various images of naughty bits and characters involved in intimate congress. So, dear reader, you would be safe to assume that each and every single one of the links in this post are not safe for work. Also, they’re probably something you don’t necessarily want your kids to peruse, so … not safe for the nursery as well.
So, only the most mature of ye venture below the cut!
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