Medieval Paparazzi?

Today’s bizarre use of the word “medieval” comes from Loic Sellin, the editor of Paris’s Voici magazine, quoted recently in an AP story titled “Medieval Privacy Laws Could Benefit Brangelina.” The Hollywood power couple is apparently holed up in France awaiting the impending birth of twins.

This is what Sellin had to say:

This country is medieval in terms of its legislation about printing information about celebrities. It’s shameful. Absolutely everything can be considered an attack on someone’s private life.

Apparently, in France, there are rules prohibiting the publication of pictures of a celebrity’s children if the pictures are taken while the celebrity is not acting in a public capacity. So if M. Paparazzo snaps pictures of Angelina Jolie taking her babies to the doctor in sunglasses*** those pictures cannot be published unless the baby’s face is blurred out or obscured in some way.

With Sellin’s comments, I think we may have the first double-reverse medievalism on our hands–that is, the word “medieval” used to describe something that is excessively cruel or barbarous to one party because it is excessively protective and generous to another. Of course, since Mr. and Mrs. Brangelina are likely primarily concerned about protecting their right to sell exclusive pictures of the children to magazines like Voici, Sellin’s pique is understandable.

If I wanted to be charitable to Sellin, I could note that there apparently were very restrictive laws about printing in late medieval/early modern England (keeping in mind that the printing press didn’t come to England until 1476), though they were concerned with the treasonous and heretical threat of Luther’s protestantism and not the transcendent newsworthiness of Brad and Angelina’s twinned offspring.

But I don’t. Instead, I want to share a last bit of Jolie-related medievalia (or medieval-related Jolialia) that I learned during my extensive research for this post. One of Angelina’s tattoos is the Latin proverb “quod me nutrit me destruit,” or “what nourishes me, [also] destroys me” inked on her pelvis next to a large cross. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this officially qualifies any discussion of Angelina Jolie’s body as medieval studies. You can imagine my relief. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get my abstract ready for my next paper: ” ‘Quod me nutrit’: The Hemeneut(er)ics of Diachronic Discourse: Signification in 15th-Century Lay Devotional Literature and 21st-Century Celebritocracy. Prolegomena to a Future Meta-Biophysics.” See you at Kalamazoo 2009!****

[Image of the Lewis chess piece’s date with Angelina courtesy of FaceinHole.com and Getty Images.]

*Since I swore off discussions of certain anatomical triumphs associated with the more pneumatic half of said Hollywood power couple, Google searches for Angelina Jolie, in both topless and nude states, have fallen to a mere 2% of my Google referral traffic.** Hopefully this story will rocket my blog back to national prominence.

**Sometimes the power of Google Analytics is a frightening thing. Because of GA, I know that twice as many people have been brought to my blog in the last month by searches for “jolie top less” as have been brought here by the correctly spelled “jolie topless.” I also know that people brought here by searches for “medieval boobs” “chainmail boobs” and “dog headed boobs” read 20% more pages per visit than people brought here by searches that include “chaucer” or “beowulf” (“beowulf boobs” and “chaucer boobs excluded, of course).

***The law allows either the parent or the child to wear the sunglasses in question, but not the doctor. (I know! How medieval!)

****I’ll be the one being written up by Charlotte Allen.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • tenthmedieval

    “‘Quod me nutrit‘: The Hermeneut(er)ics of Diachronic Discourse: Signification in 15th-Century Lay Devotional Literature and 21st-Century Celebritocracy. Prolegomena to a Future Meta-Biophysics.”

    Oh good shot sir. It would be worthy of any write-up you could possibly imagine. And you have done valuable work broadening our subject area too 🙂

    Meanwhile, I sympathise with you about the spelling of searches. For ages now, weeks, my little old Corner has been getting a substantial portion of its hits from a search string which usually appears as “MOTHER OF CHARLAMAGNE”, in capitals. Lesser variants exist; the correct spelling usually comes in about sixth. There seems to be a rapper and radio ‘personality’ trading as “Charlamagne tha God” but I somehow doubt his fans are that interested in his parentage… I don’t understand it yet. Curse you Internet, you win again!

  • pilgrimchick

    I’m not surprised that the term is generally associated with the old or out of date in today’s consciousness. If you asked someone to name one century that may be considered “Medieval” in a general, rather than a semi-debatable scholarly sense, I doubt you’d get too many accurate answers.

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