Warning: this article not suitable for Prudes nor Puritans (but their kids might enjoy it!)
If you’ve been in Paris or London in the past week, you may have noticed that the cross-Channel tensions are once again stirring everyone up. On one side we have the French, angry, indignant, sputtering and aghast—they have lost Marianne. On the other side, a bunch of smug Brits, looking out their windows just in case the famous Victoria’s Secrets model happens to stroll by—they have just gained a goddess in a 36-C. But who is Marianne? And what has all of this got to do with breast size?
Corsica, in case you’ve failed history, is a French Island Laetitia Casta, in case you’ve been in a coma for the past five years, is the hottest Corsican export since Napoleon. And she’s much taller. A supermodel with considerable fame gained in the American Victoria Secret’s lingerie catalog, Laetitia has become a favorite pin-up in the men’s locker room, and a role model for women because of her voluptuous shape. Nevermind that, below the overflowing bounty of a 36-C cup, she has ribs that pop out like all of the other models, her buck teeth and simple 19 year-old faux pas’s with the press make her the adorable little sister that the boys would happily take to the prom.
The Brits Showed Laetitia the Money! So then one day, famously wealthy supermodel Laetitia decides that it would be a good idea to live in London—Covent Garden, to be exact. Why? According to Laetitia, because the city is full of cosmopolitan people and a lively culture. Strike One, Paris. Of course, she also mentions that she’s not as well known, and can thus be left alone on the streets. After the incident where a taxi driver in Paris gassed her for talking too loudly on her cell phone, I’d say that is Strike Two for Paris. The official line, according to the press and anyone with a paycheck that’s halved on a regular basis courtesy Elysée headquarters, is that Mademoiselle Casta has become a tax exile. According to the London Evening Standard Online, “She is thought to earn £2 million a year and by paying British rather than French taxes she may save as much as £400,000.” That’s about $250,000. You’d move too, eh? “French wealth tax is levied on top of income tax for individuals worth more than 4.7 million francs (£430,000), and rises to two per cent for those worth more than 100 million francs ($6 million).” Strike Three, yer out, Paris!
So who the Frommage is Marianne?! Have you been to France? Passed one of the tens of thousands of Town Halls, or, Mairies? That statue you see outside of the woman—that’s Marianne. The half naked woman leading the revolutionary charge in Delacroix’s painting—Marianne (that scene is depicted on the old fifty franc note, as well as the Metro wall mural at the Bastille). Sexy animal rights activist Bridget Bardot—her too. And even the French actress Catherine Deneuve, once playing the role of a lesbian vampire—she, too, is Marianne. One might think Marianne has an identity crisis in the works. And she does. Because, you see, Marianne is also that big boobed bathing suit model who just crossed the Channel.
Marianne represents the permanent values that found her citizens’ attachment to the Republic: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” Or so says the official line from the Premiere Minister. When Laetitia was elected to be the symbol of the Republic late last year, she sounded pretty attached to her country. Even now, she sees her move as a good PR move, so that she can represent France abroad. She is certainly embodying the liberté part, if not the fraternité. Over the years, the figure of Marianne represented everything the Republic was supposed to be. She represented the people, the farmers, the revolutionaries against tyrants–a nurturing motherly figure in times of peace, a fierce woman leading the troops to fight. For reasons unknown except to the old man himself, the first post-WWII president, Charles de Gualle decided that Marianne should be represented by the curvy woman who embraced the very qualities of the French heroine—Bridget Bardot. Now, aside from bikinis, breasts, and bouffants, I’m not sure how a rich and egotistical actress embodied the ideals of the Republic, but at the time all of the politicians were male, and hey, she’s got a nice bust. So busts in the shape of Bardot were popped out in factories and shipped to the town halls of France. Women’s Lib aside, actress Catherine Deneuve took the reins after Bardot retreated, older and more fond of her pets than the press, into retirement. Now, for some reason, Deneuve is also too old to be the embodiment of French ideals (one must ask: in a woman or in a country?), and a new Marianne has been crowned.
And don’t say size doesn’t count The many mayors of France, still mostly male, had the decision to pick the new Marianne, from a list of successful and beautiful (aren’t they all?) French women. And they picked the youngest, least articulate, least educated, yet largest breasted of them all—Laetitia. Certainly it must’ve been easy to imagine how nice her sculpted form would look outside their office with the help of the many nude photos she has posed for (don’t forget, France isn’t full of Puritans—it’s not called porn). But now she’s gone, and in her wake are the uncontrollably indignant politicians who elected her, gasping between vitriolic ‘she’ll rue the day!’ type rantings. They say that she’ll find the property costs twice that of Paris, the Tube less efficient than the Metro, and the British hospitals under par compared to the French ones. Well, considering the huge sums of money in taxes she’ll save, she’ll be driven around in a chauffered car, and whisked off to a specialist clinic in Switzerland for the smallest discomfort, and she’ll still come out on top. And the French can run around stomping their feet (those who haven’t also done the same thing—quite a few French execs commute through the Chunnel each day).
And the moral, kiddies… The opposition party is lapping up the news, saying that Socialism and the huge tax payments are driving away all of the talent. Me, I think that the real travesty here is that a real, living human being is meant to represent a nation. Sure we have our dead presidents, but we wait until they’re dead to put them on the dollar or in statue form for a reason—they can’t embarrass us anymore. And that is exactly what Marianne has done. And only time will tell if the taxes are lowered, or if the mayors stop electing breasts to represent France.
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged.