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House of Cards' Russian President Petrov and U.S. President Underwood
House of Cards' Russian President Petrov and U.S. President Underwood
Dominique Moïsi

-OpEd-

PARIS — Some say that television shows are to our time what serials were to 19th century literature, an inexhaustible source of entertainment and conversations. During "urbane dinners," it has become obligatory to demonstrate knowledge of this new cultural front.

"Tell me which shows you watch and I'll tell you who you are." Besides the irony, if not snobbery, the genre has long achieved recognition of the highest level. We could venture as far as to say that TV shows have become indispensable keys to understanding the world we live in, from domestic politics to geopolitics.

For instance, to understand the policy differences between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama on the Iran nuclear issue, referring to television dramas proves to be the most useful of shortcuts. Suffice to say that "Bibi" is still in the third season of Homeland while Obama has already moved on to the third season of House of Cards and has therefore integrated the Russian threat in his strategical schemes.

In reality, television shows are as much an indicator of the debates brewing in our societies as a mirror that reminds us of our fears and hopes. These shows can be a premonition of our future as much as an often idealized reconstruction of our past. Julian Fellowes, the writer of what is perhaps today's most popular series, Downton Abbey, was recently pondering the reasons behind his creation's success. Why are millions of viewers in Europe, the U.S. and even Asia so passionate about the adventures of the Crawley family and their servants? Is it the longing for a bygone past or just a fascination about the social relationships that could exist inside an English castle?

Fellowes believes there is a nostalgia for order in our chaotic world, and in particular an unconscious need for stricter rules. This is what Downton Abbey offers to a disoriented, if not distraught, public. The TV show serves as an exotic shelter, in space — an English castle — and time — from 1912 to the mid 1920s. Like its characters, we are also caught between two worlds, unaware of the profound changes that are about to take place and hungry for a shelter to protect us from the present, not to mention the future.

Good vs. evil

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Society

End Of Roe v. Wade, The World Is Watching

As the Supreme Court decides to overturn the 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion rights, many fear an imminent threat to abortion rights in the U.S. But in other countries, the global fight for sexual and reproductive rights is going in different directions.

"Don't abort my right" At 2019 pro-choice march In Toulouse, France.

Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via ZUMA
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Sophia Constantino

PARIS — Nearly 50 years after it ensured the right to abortion to Americans, the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade case, meaning that millions of women in the U.S. may lose their constitutional right to abortion.

The groundbreaking decision is likely to set off a range of restrictions on abortion access in multiple states in the U.S., half of which are expected to implement new bans on the procedure. Thirteen have already passed "trigger laws" that will automatically make abortion illegal.

U.S. President Joe Biden called the ruling "a tragic error" and urged individual states to enact laws to allow the procedure.

In a country divided on such a polarizing topic, the decision is likely to cause major shifts in American law and undoubtedly spark outrage among the country’s pro-choice groups. Yet the impact of such a momentous shift, like others in the United States, is also likely to reverberate around the world — and perhaps, eventually, back again in the 50 States.

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