Depardieu Row Exposes Divide in France Over Thinking on Sexism

In recent weeks, the controversy surrounding French cinema giant Gerard Depardieu and the #Metoo movement has ignited a fierce debate within the cultural landscape of France. Dozens of actresses and prominent figures, including Nathalie Baye, Carole Bouquet, and Carla Bruni, have come forward in an open letter published in Le Figaro, defending Depardieu against allegations of sexual harassment. This public declaration has not only underscored the deep divides in French society but has also raised questions about the role of the #Metoo movement in the country.

The Backlash: ‘Don’t Cancel Gerard Depardieu’

Titled ‘Don’t Cancel Gerard Depardieu,’ the letter passionately argues that Depardieu is the victim of a public “lynching” and contends that the torrent of hatred directed at him jeopardizes the very essence of art. The authors, consisting of more than 50 cultural figures, claim, “Gerard Depardieu is probably the greatest of all actors. When you attack Gerard Depardieu like this, it is art you are attacking.” This defense comes in the wake of growing sexual assault allegations against Depardieu, with over ten women accusing him of misconduct.

The Legal Battle: Allegations and Denials

In March 2022, investigative magistrates formally investigated Depardieu on suspicion of rape and sexual assault. Actress Charlotte Arnould, 28, revealed herself as the accuser, triggering a series of allegations from other women. Depardieu, 75, vehemently denies any wrongdoing, consistently rejecting the accusations through his lawyers. Despite the gravity of the allegations, he has not been convicted of any of the charges against him.

Presidential Defense and Feminist Backlash

President Emmanuel Macron’s vocal defense of Depardieu has intensified the cultural and generational gap. While Macron praises Depardieu as an “immense actor” and condemns the perceived “manhunt” against him, feminists and younger actresses express dismay. Critics argue that this defense attempts to drown out the voices of alleged victims and undermines the #Metoo movement in France.

Generational Divide: Societal Evolution and Cultural Exception

Murielle Reus, vice president of #MeTooMedia, criticizes the lack of understanding among an older generation, stating, “There’s a generation that still doesn’t understand this societal evolution.” This sentiment highlights a generational divide in France regarding attitudes toward the #Metoo movement. Some argue that the French cultural exception refuses to view acts committed by artists as violence, creating a cultural clash within the nation’s cinema landscape.

Cultural Exception and Controversy

The controversy deepened with the airing of the documentary “Depardieu: The Fall of an Ogre” on public broadcaster France 2. The documentary exposed lewd comments made by Depardieu during a 2018 trip to North Korea and featured interviews with accusers Charlotte Arnould and Helene Darras. The revelations in the documentary have further fueled the debate over the #Metoo movement in France and the boundaries between artistic freedom and accountability.

Conclusion: Navigating the Complexities of #Metoo in French Cinema

In conclusion, the Gerard Depardieu controversy has become a flashpoint in the ongoing debate over sexism and the #Metoo movement in France. The open letter of support and President Macron’s defense have laid bare the divisions within French society, particularly among cultural figures. As the nation grapples with this complex issue, it remains to be seen how the tensions between defending artistic merit and addressing allegations of sexual misconduct will evolve. The controversy reflects not only a legal battle but also a cultural and generational struggle for understanding and acceptance in the changing landscape of French cinema.


Q1: Who is Gerard Depardieu, and what is he accused of?

A1: Gerard Depardieu is a renowned French actor accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women. The accusations range from lewd comments to rape, and the controversy has led to a formal investigation.

Q2: What is the open letter titled ‘Don’t Cancel Gerard Depardieu’?

A2: The open letter is a public declaration penned by over 50 cultural figures, including actresses Nathalie Baye and Carole Bouquet, defending Depardieu against the allegations. It argues that he is the victim of a public “lynching” and emphasizes his contribution to the world of art.

Q3: How has President Emmanuel Macron responded to the controversy?

A3: President Macron has vocally defended Depardieu, condemning what he perceives as a “manhunt” against the actor. Despite acknowledging the severity of the allegations, Macron praises Depardieu as an “immense actor” who makes France proud.

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