You see it everywhere. The media, in particular, relishes in it. Books, movies, advertisements, songs, heck, even Barbie dolls have been inspired by it. The “it” girl of all “it” girls: The myth of the Parisienne. But is it truly just a myth, or has it become such a grand cultural phenomenon that it has transformed into a reality within the modern society we live in? Furthermore, how far have women gone to transform this myth into their own living, breathing reality? Is it really worth all the hype? Or is it all in the group’s selective subconscious?
The eternal Parisienne stems from the late 19th-century, historically known as “La Belle Epoque”. According to the web blogger, Alison Perrin, the eternal Parisienne is essentially a myth, and “since its inception, La Parisienne is a model of elegance and attitude.” ( Perrin, Alison. “The Eternal Parisienne.” N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.) Essentially, the myth is an attitude that comes straight from a woman’s subconscious.
The media then targets the subconscious through pointing out women’s insecurities through the representation of a “desirable” woman, so to speak. For example, in Sarah Mower’s article, “Caroline de Maigret”, she describes, in painstaking detail, a quintessential Parisienne, Caroline de Maigret. Through vivid descriptions such as, “One: “Don’t be afraid of aging.” And two: “Always be fuckable”—even when you’re standing in line to buy a baguette”, the author creates an aura of self-indulgent charm for de Maigret. Consequently, Vogue magazine then reflects off the je ne sais quoi aura de Maigret has effortlessly shown throughout the interview by employing that she is a strong woman: an author, a model, a Parisienne, yet she is also a loving mother, which is depicted in the image of her and her son smiling at each other. The viewer may notice the household setting, which increases the relatability of the subject and allows for middle-class women to believe that they can be like her. At the same time, if the viewer reads the caption underneath the picture, it says that de Maigret is wearing a “Rag & Bone t-shirt and Chanel trousers”— which then encapsulates the idea that this woman is effortlessly charming, yet at the same time is somehow untouchable due to the expensive clothes that she is wearing.
Furthermore, in media discourse, the term “Cinderella effect” from John Berger’s Ways of Seeing comes to mind. Caroline de Maigret is the text— the Parisienne. She is inexplicably charming, which allows women to look up to her and want to be her. This is where the myth comes in. “La Parisienne” is a myth that women and also men somewhat invest in their psyches due to ubiquitous media circulation. Arguably, the myth stems from La Belle Epoque artists Manet and Renoir, where both men paint women “to the rank of supreme elegance” (Perrin, Alison. “The Eternal Parisienne.” N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.).
However, this “rank of supreme elegance” is exploited in the article, “To succeed as a Parisienne, just lie, dupe and deceive.” Written by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet from The Telegraph, the journalist attacks the Parisienne myth by pointing out its flaws. For instance, Moutet claims that the skinny and chic physique that Parisian women are widely known for stems from their chronic use of cigarettes, which then suppresses their appetites and lowers their want to eat. Another vivid example is that in regards to cheating in relationships, Parisian women’s number one rule is to “DENY, DENY, DENY. Don’t feel guilty. This is about you, not against him. What’s good for you is good for your relationship: basically, you’re just being a thoughtful girlfriend.” (Moutet, Anne-Elisabeth. “To Succeed as a Parisienne, Just Lie, Dupe and Deceive.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.) The author then points out that this effortless charm the myth employs is taken into extreme and can be seen to borderline dishonesty and degrade modern relationship ethics.
“La Parisienne” is a myth. Being a Parisienne is a state of mind, an attitude, and there is not one specific person that embodies every description of this myth. Perhaps Brigitte Bardot or Ines de la Fressange can arguably embody this character; however, even in this situation, they are both just interpretations of the myth, due to the fact that they are not the same person, they do not come from the same background, and each woman presents a different aura and attitude— which then, in turn, subjects the truth to the reality of the myth itself.