"The Mitterrand Generation or the French Generation X"
"In France, a democratic Republic of approximately sixty-five million inhabitants, the label “Generation X” is not as widely known, understood, and used, except perhaps in the marketing and advertising industries, as it is in the United States. This is especially true in cultural manifestations regardless of the modes of expressions. For instance, while the French novelists, filmmakers, actors, singers, and musicians listed in this chapter all technically belong to the same “Generation X” (born between 1958 and 1981), it would be impossible to gather all these artists under a same “school” or movement. If some of them share certain interests, styles, and themes, others greatly differ in their approaches and public. There is, however, an important historic and cultural event that is usually accepted in France as the separating point between the Baby Boomer generation and Generation X: the French strikes and violent riots of May 1968. Regardless of their tastes, interests, and venues, the French Generation Xers all grew up, were educated, and observed a society irremediably marked by the events of May 68.
However, while the French have not been using the term “Generation X,” they are more familiar with what they call the “Génération Mitterrand,” in reference to the socialist François Mitterrand (1916-1996) who served as President of France during two consecutive terms between 1981 and 1995. Mitterrand’s election in May 1981 (the first and, until the election of François Hollande in May 2012, the only leftist President in the history of the French Fifth Republic) was accompanied by great hope and seen as the beginning of a new era that would bring a wave of changes to the nation. Unfortunately, after an idyllic start, the French quickly disenchanted when the country entered a long period of high unemployment that particularly affected the twenty something youth. As Susan Hayward has argued, the Cinéma du Look French filmmakers, such as Leos Carax and Luc Besson, whose films had a cult following in the 1980s, were among the first to depict on the big screen their generation’s malaise, sense of entrapment, and desire to escape."
~ Alain-Philippe Durand, Excerpt from Generation X Goes Global
Alain-Philippe Durand is Dean of the College of Humanities, Professor of French, Honors College Distinguished Fellow, and affiliated faculty in Africana Studies, Latin American Studies, LGBT Studies, and Public and Applied Humanities at the University of Arizona. He is the author and editor of the books Black, Blanc, Beur. Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in the Francophone World (Scarecrow Press, 2002); Un Monde Techno. Nouveaux espaces électroniques dans le roman français des années 1980 et 1990 (preface by Marc Augé, Weidler, 2004); Novels of the Contemporary Extreme (co-edited with Naomi Mandel, Continuum, 2006), and Frédéric Beigbeder et ses doubles (Rodopi, 2008). He has published chapters and articles in journals such as PMLA, The French Review, Romance Notes, Contemporary French Civilization, L’Esprit créateur, Romance Quarterly, Contemporary French & Francophone Studies: SITES, L’Atelier du Roman, ADFL Bulletin, among others. He is Associate Editor of the journal Contemporary French Civilization. In 2013, he launched the Minor in Hip-Hop Studies at the University of Arizona.
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