Postcard from... Paris


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The Independent Online


There was a time when the French authorities attempted, by word or deed, to stamp out the contamination of French youth by American culture. Johnny Hallyday, 71, now cherished as “notre rocker national” (our national rock star) was vilified in the 1950s as a corrupter of youth.

That was a long time ago. All the same, it was astonishing to see on the most popular French TV news programme that “The Cup Song” was being promoted as an educational tool in French schools by the Ministry of National Education.

The ministry has not even bothered to translate “Le Cup Song” title. Surely it should be “La chanson des tasses”.

For those, like me , who had never heard of the cup song, it is a global, internet-fostered craze in which groups of young people – preferably large groups – perform synchronised hand movements with plastic goblets to the tune and words of a 1930s’ bluegrass song by AP Carter, called “When I’m Gone”. The craze began with a performance by the American actress Anna Kendric in the 2012 movie Pitch Perfect.

The Education ministry has encouraged French schools to take up “Le Cup Song”, as a way of teaching teenagers English, music and teamwork, all at once. The last, I know from sour experience, is a notably hard concept for French teenagers to grasp.

Anyway, we called in our own resident French-born teen, Grace, 16, to witness this extraordinary development in Franco-American cultural cross-fertilisation on the TF1 news. Was she impressed? No. “What?” she sneered. “The cup song. That’s ages old. That’s so... 2013.”