Between series and politics, the border is increasingly blurred. For thirty years, series creators have been inspired by politics. This is the case, for example, of the Danish series Borgen, which will return to Netflix for a new season in early June, and that traces the journey of a woman of power. But recently, the relationship of influence is reversed. Politicians are now absorbing series into their communication strategies. This is the case of Emmanuel Macron. Since the beginning of March, the president still in office broadcasts every Friday a new episode of his web series on YouTube. The candidateremembering his campaign days.
Political series, a relatively recent genre
However, these two worlds are far from having always been so close, recalls Alain Le Diberder, audiovisual economist and sociologist, and former director of programs at Arte y Canal. _”The political series are quite recent, [elles sont arrivées] in the 80s and 90s. L_The big event is To the White House Where the west wing, an American series about presidents, which was directly inspired by current events. CIt was a turning point, from which many other series have tackled these kinds of questions”he explains.
Before, the BBC had already proposed in 1990 the series house of cardsabsorbed by Netflix in a new version in 2013. In Europe, these are _Bail_, Danish series dating from 2010, and the French black baron in 2016, which are milestones.
These relatively recent appearances of serial politics are explained, according to Alain Le Diberder, by the proliferation of channels. “Until the 90s, when you were on a big channel that [regroupait] 20% or a third of the audience, we had to make sure we didn’t scare too many people. It was necessary to avoid angry topics., remember. _From the time when television was spread over 20, 30, 50 channels, and each channel [devait] stand out from the rest, subjects that were previously more difficult have become more profitable._“ Directors and screenwriters have acquired greater freedom to introduce the political theme in their creations, at different levels. The series may address political activity itself : party systems or elections as in black baron Where house of cards. Or it features politicians dealing with specific social or economic problems.like in Bail.
Between fiction and reality, blurred borders
What matters in a political series, according to Alain Le Diberder, is that the narrative is based on reality :
It is a difficult exercise. In matters of pure fiction, there are writing facilities that do not happen when talking about reality. We have to be on the border between what is invented and what is plausible. There must be cliffhangers [situation de suspense], so that the audience wants to see the ending, but at the same time, we can’t take every possible liberties with reality: it has to be plausible, plausible, plausible. All the time, therefore, and not too much… Otherwise, it’s a documentary!
This search for reality is above all what attracts the public. In general, citizens increasingly apprehend reality through fiction. This is the opinion of Philippe Moreau Chevrolet, professor of political communication at Science Po:
Many people perceive the world in general and politics through the series, so [par exemple] via House of Cards. Today, disasters follow disasters: these are times when we no longer have the keys to understanding, so we will look elsewhere than in reality. Fiction is a good way to digest scary news. And suddenly, politics recovers these codes to try to speak to the people.
The teacher goes further, saying that fiction and reality have become difficult to differentiate. “In fact, we tend to think that the two are confused, he watches _C’est ce qu’on appelle la ‘Netflixisation’ de la vie politique : on I thought that House of Cards, c’est vraiment comme cela que se passe la politique, et que cela nous dit des vérités qu’on n’ose pas tell us They’ve all become a bit conniving._.”
The mixture of genres is total, and it also affects the politicians themselves. The typical example is that of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Playing a professor who becomes president in the series. village servantthe comedian ended up being chosen to headline Ukraine in 2019, before becoming a warlord. For Alain Le Diberder, a unique case remains:
There are people who came from television or the audiovisual world, who became politicians. There were Berlusconi, Schwarzenegger and Trump. But Zelensky is a guy who becomes in real life what he was in fiction. He is a unique case, an extraordinary character! Some days ago, El Espectador wrote a somewhat cruel judgment, but a magnificent sentencesaying that “in Ukraine an actor became a president, and in France, a president became an actor”…
Expert communicators in the aesthetics of Netflix
Indeed, when they do not come from the world of series, politicians seem to feel irremediably attracted to him, on the advice of their communicators.
This is the case for two candidates in the current presidential campaign. Credits, soundtrack, staging, general shots… Emmanuel Macron’s web series, The candidateit borrows all of its codes from the platforms in the series. Nothing surprising for Philippe Moreau Chevrolet:
The communicators have fully integrated the codes of the series. Today they take themselves as directors or writers of Netflix series!
However, advisers to the outgoing president are not inventing anything new. Already, during the 2012 presidential campaign, Jean-Luc Mélenchon had published on his website a web series entitled On going. Experience that has been renewed since last August, with the series 2022: Our steps lead the waycomposed of episodes of about thirty minutes, where those of the Candidate they are much shorter, around 8 minutes on average.
but these are Youth with Macron who were the first to actually use Netflix codes in the communication of their candidates. Black aesthetic, very recognizable red typography… The youth movement of The republic on the move imagined posters inspired by the ads on the platform. The idea: to present the mandate of Emmanuel Macron as a series, of which they want to see 5 additional seasons.
A risky communication for the political image
If the relatives of Emmanuel Macron affirm this reference to Netflix, we are however far from being in avant-garde communication, according to Philippe Moreau Chevrolet:
We present it as a Netflix series, but for me, it’s not Netflix, what Macron does… It’s a TV report a la Serge Moati, with captured moments, intimate moments, and not voiceovers, but little synthesizers in the picture. that show where we are, the date, etc.
A report made by activists that can draw attention to the candidate, but that can also, warns Philippe Moreau Chevrolet, “destroy a little the political image. _We give the impression that the politician is someone who will deliberately make fiction, therefore lie._“. Not to mention that we capture candidates through an image made by their own team, he adds:
The problem with this series is that we have a candidate who is going to produce what is presented as fiction and which, in reality, is communication. This runs the risk of making the policy even less credible in the eyes of the people, or of making it pass into a universe even more different from its own.
At a time when trust in political elites is shattered, such media outlets, sweating the pretense, seem like a long shot. For Alain Le Diberder, it goes further:
Communicators have a job in the midst of a crisis. They are bad ! It’s a cheesy ’80s craft, and they’re always looking for the latest shitty idea. But since people like Trump or Boris Johnson, and even before Berlusconi, politicians are their own communicators. And it’s not the agencies that make them popular, it’s themselves, for better or worse!
It is not certain, therefore, that the public is really interested in these political web-series. The first video of Candidate has been viewed just over 350,000 timeshowever, without ensuring a change either in the image of Emmanuel Macron, or in the voting intentions.