The End of Size Zero

If you think you’re fashion forward, you may have heard or seen the war brewing about Size Zero culture.

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The term Size Zero culture has been wreaking havoc within the international media since 2007. Despite these public fashion debates, and possible legal action, France hasn’t completely hopped on the bandwagon against the idea of beauty in a smaller package.

The argument turned up a notch after designer Karl Langerfeld’s response to the issue in October.

These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly.

Another nudge in the rounder direction is the expansion of the French waistline:

Even if we are nowhere near as overweight as the Americans, more French children are obese, more French men and women are dieting, and more are falling for fad diets that don’t work.”

Despite the reluctance of French fashion, “des mode grandes tailles” may be opening doors for themselves.

Plus-sized fashion has made a mark in the media with the help of photo blogger and plus-sized model Stephanie Zwicky. A Swiss native, Zwicky, is breaking down the size barriers and myths about French women with her site Le Blog de Big Beauty.

Though full-figured women have always been around, the recent spotlight in the fashion industry, for better or worse, is a noticeable change from commonly held beliefs of what is French fashion.

But the entire situation raises a few questions: How big of a divide is there between actual French ideas of size and beauty and what the rest of the world thinks they hold as the ideal or model size? Are we in other cultures part of the problem?


To Light Up or to Put it Out?

Smoking is a choice. The risks of smoking have been made clear in most countries, including France, but people continue to light up. Smoking in France is fashionable. Many young French men and women socially smoke with their family and friends. Twenty percent of the population in France smoked in 2008. Who are smokers helping and who are they hurting?

We all know the dangers of secondhand smoke. It’s hard to enjoy a lovely French meal while inhaling secondhand smoke from the neighboring table. The Association of Non-Smokers, Droits des Non-Fumeurs (DNF), has recently begun filing subpoenas against about a dozen Parisian cafés that have broken the law by allowing smoking on closed terraces. The 2008 smoking ban in public places has moved a lot of the public smoking habits outdoors. Some daring bars and restaurants might face a 750 Euro fine for violating the law, according to an article on Les Echos.fr. The article stressed that the restaurant owners support the law but fear the impact it might have on the attendance of their smoking customers.

The government may have implemented the ban, but it continues to profit from the increasing cigarette sale revenue. Starting next year, the French government will receive 80.4 percent of each pack of cigarettes sold. But the government isn’t the only profiting party, the tobacco companies in France and abroad are still the cash cows of the business. Following along on the money train are pharmaceutical companies, cancer centers, pulmonologists and drug stores, which all profit from smokers and the consequences of smoking. One blogger said, “Smoking makes life a whole system, as rotten as it is, it is useful to society from the angle that one perceives it.”

Two French girls admit their love of smoking despite the risks:

20 years on & a “spoiled” generation?

berlinwallOn the night of November 9, 1989, the night the Berlin Wall fell, some 80 babies were born in Berlin alone. That year, when two halves of Germany became one again, more than 880,000 children were born. They have come to be known as Generation 1989.

This year, the children born in the shadows of the Wall will turn 20. Most will have just graduated from college and will be starting to find their own paths in life – one that will have no first-hand experience of what it was like to live in a divided Germany.

That sets them apart from previous generations of Germans, whose lives were defined by the epic events that shaped more than four decades of Germany’s – and much of the Western world’s – history: the rise of communism, the Cold War, and a period of hardship.

Tina Oerlecke, Born in June 2009

Tina Oerlecke, born in June 1989

A look at some German blogs and news reports suggests that some of today’s twentysomethings are tuning all that out. “As far as I’m concerned there’s no longer any division between East and West. I have many opportunities in the reunited Germany,” Tina Oerlecke from Haldensleben (Saxony-Anhalt) and born in June 1989 told young-germany.de.

It’s a generation of children that have been “spoiled”, author Jean-Christophe Bas told cafebable.de. His book “L’Europe à la carte menu” is dedicated to his children who are 15 and 16.

“Diese Generation hat nur eine sehr vage Vorstellung davon, was die Grundlage beim Aufbau Europas nach dem Krieg war: Frieden und Versöhnung… Die heutige Generation betrachtet den Frieden als etwas Normales, eine Selbstverständlichkeit,” he tells the website.

Still, some of the old ways have inevitably seeped into Generation 1989. In an article by Faz.net filed in 2007, 20-year-old aspiring filmmaker Christian Smoljanicki said the concept of “Besserwessi still lingers. The term, which is a pun on “Besser Wessi” or “better westerner” and better translated as “know-it-all”, was used by East Germans when they felt that West Germans didn’t give them the due respect and felt they were being assimilated instead of being united.

Graphics from Nytimes.com

While most Berliners were initially eager to tear down the city’s most detested symbol, in recent months there has been a major effort to restore the 3/4 mile-long (1.3-kilometer) dilapidated East Side Gallery – the last long section of the wall still standing in its original place, now a major tourist attraction with 106 different paintings and graffiti. It’s a way 69-year-old artist Gerhard Kriedner and some other 90 mural painters hope will remind today’s youths of the nation’s past.

“We thought it was really important to recreate the paintings because, by now, there’s a whole new generation that no longer remembers the original Berlin Wall and the historic events that led to Germany’s reunification,” Alavi told The Associated Press. The Iranian-born artist, who escaped from communist East Germany to the West himself as a young man, had already restored his own mural of East Germans crossing Checkpoint Charlie into West Berlin on the night the border opened for the first time.

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It’s no surprise why German children these days don’t care much. Germany’s high school history curriculum allows little time to discuss East Germany, reports Deutsche Welle.

Some teachers say they just never get to the GDR, because their students need more time to digest all of the heavy history before it. Other teachers and parents simply don’t want to relive their past.

This week, the only wall youths of Germany seem to be concerned about is a 61/2-foot high one in front of the Brandenburg Gate organizers of a free U2 concert erected. The Irish rockers returned to Berlin for a free mini-concert on Thursday playing their classic singles and a duet with Jay-Z even as the show was obscured from public view by the metal barrier.

Do the youths of today seem to ignore history? Are we really a “spoiled” generation? Which part of your history resonates with you most?

Eurovision: Pop and politics

Which international music contest launched ABBA’s career?

It might not be well known in the United States, but it is one of the biggest music contests on the other side of the Atlantic: the Eurovision Song Contest. First inaugurated in 1956, the contest is not only limited to Europe, as all members under the European Broadcasting Area are eligible, including northern Africa, the Caucasus, and parts of the Middle East.

Basically, the participant countries submit songs, which are performed live on TV and broadcast to all countries. The winning country gets to host the event for the following year. Russia was the host this year, and next year it will be in Norway.

This Time magazine article writes,

No one takes the contest more seriously than the Russians.

When Dima Bilan won the contest for Russia in 2008, he was congratulated by both Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev.

What we find fascinating about this competition is the nationalism and political rivalries between the countries in a similar fashion to the Olympics. Anastasia Prikhodko, Russia’s representative this year, said on this blog about Eurovision:

…for viewers it is excitement, passion and a possibility to get together and root for their country. And for those who are interested in politics it’s a chance to say afterwards, “we surmised as much.”

However, since voters are not allowed to vote for their home countries, this has led to bloc-voting to prevent certain countries from winning. Russian pop star Alexander Panaiotov said in the Time article,

Russia doesn’t care if, say, Bosnia wins, but if Ukraine wins, it’s a scandal.

According to this post, Sir Terry Wogan, Eurovision commentator since the ‘70s, is considering leaving the show because he thinks that it’s “no longer a music contest.” He lamented after the 2008 contest,

Russia [was] going to be the political winners from the beginning.

Russia has also been the target of what we find as very creative political attacks in songs submitted by rival countries.

Georgia’s entry this year was banned by the judges for being overtly political, as the song “We Don’t Wanna Put In” contains a thinly-veiled reference to Putin in its title and lyrics.

In 2007 there was Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka, whose song “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” sounded strikingly like “Russia Goodbye.” Serduchka insisted that the phrase means “whipped cream” in Mongolian, which has been proven to be untrue. Perhaps to appeal to the multicultural audience, he sings in German, English, Russian, Ukrainian, and… Lasha Tumbai, whatever language that is. 

Serduchka, whose real name is Andriy Danylko, is an interesting case. He may be a ridiculous cross dressing singer and comedian, but his albums do sell and his popularity is huge. This is something Americans and Europeans may have in common: ridiculous and out of the ordinary things tend to gain popularity rapidly. For example, singer Lady Gaga from the United States wears bizarre outfits and is proud of being “different.” What she wore to the VMA Awards can be compared with what Serduchka wore to Eurovision.

If you scroll through the photos on this Huffington Post blog you will see what we are talking about when it comes to Lady Gaga. What’s crazy is that Ukraine actually sent Verka Serduchka to represent Ukraine in the annual Eurovision contest in 2007, and what is even more shocking is that he won 2nd place! Who would have thought!

According to this article even the Ukrainian Parliament was disappointed that Serduchka was sent. They did not want some one so flamboyant and over the top to represent a country that has been through so much since their independence in 1991.

Despite the parliament’s disapproval, it seems that some people do like Serduchka and are happy about his success in 2007. This blogger writes,

The victorious Verka Serduchka – Andriy Danylko leaves nobody indifferent to her perfomance and her (his) persona among the Ukrainians. Hat tipped to this unique modern cultural phenomenon!!

All this exciting action may be brought to the United States in the near future. According to a few articles from 2006, NBC bought the rights to start an Amerivision. This Slate article gives a good description of the original contest, and how the American version would change it to states competing against each other instead of countries.

We are doubtful that the 50 states would have as intriguing of a rivalry. So is blogger Ian! Cruz, who writes,

Americans aren’t as loyal to their state as Europeans are to their country… For example, I was born in Florida and I’ve lived in four other states but I wouldn’t vote for Florida solely because I was born there. I don’t really identify with Florida.

However, this New York Times article thinks otherwise.

… in a patchwork quilt of a country, with red versus blue states, North versus South, East Coast versus West Coast, the Midwest versus everyone — and who-knows-what going on in Texas — it may tell us a lot about what we really think of one another.

Since it’s already 2009 and there has yet to be an Amerivision, it makes me wonder if the deal fell through. Even if the interstate rivalry worked, we’re not sure if it will be as popular, especially since Americans seem to already be tired of American Idol. Is it just because they are sick of reality singing competitions, or the format of American Idol itself? Will Amerivision inject new life into American singing contests?

Encore! Parkour!

The art of forward motion in spite of obstacles.

Sound crazy?

Introducing the international discipline, sport and/or hobby known as Parkour [Paar-koor].

It’s a French phenomena that has made its way into quite a bit of American media lately. Parkour expert  Sebastian Foucan was recently featured in the 007 film Casino Royale, utilizing his skill to escape a pursuing agent.

NBC’s television show The Office, whose Michael, Dwight, and Andy characters are always quick to adopt the latest cultural fad, recently featured Parkour being practiced throughout the office to hilarious results.

Parkour is also featured in recent video games, including Mirror’s Edge.

If you’ve watched any of the above clips, you probably have a general idea of the concept of Parkour. But what really, is it?

If you’re one of the unlucky ones who don’t know about this specific type of French philosophy – or as Americans would like to call it, a sport – you’re missing out on all the high flying, wall-climbing, back-flipping, aerial madness of the French phenomenon that is Parkour.

Parkour, or l’art du deplacement, slowly developed in the late 1980s on the streets of Lisses, France when then 15-year-old David Belle began to draw inspiration from French physical education expert, Georges Herbert’s concept of the “Natural Method.”

The Natural Method believes in using only the body and its surroundings for physical development so that you can be a more useful member of society. This method was later utilized in military training and includes running, jumping, leaping, climbing and walking on all fours like an animal. Many of the future moves would even have animal names: The Kong Vault, the Monkey Vault, and the Cat Leap for instance.

Using what he learned from the Natural Method, Belle developed Parkour with a few friends. Although there is some debate about whether American Lawrence Halprin (a well-known architect of buildings created specifically for Parkour) or Belle is the true genius of the phenomenon, Belle’s agility and speed made him the leader of the movement. His talent was captured in the BBC promotional Parkour film, “Rush Hour.” A positive movement based around being a philosophy “that allow one to overcome their obstacles to get from point A to point B in the most efficient way using the possibility of human body,” Parkour slowly but surely jumped its way into the social consciousness.

Although there’s no real literature on the “How To’s” of Parkour, with Web sites like UrbanFreeflow.com and AmericanParkour.com, it hasn’t been too difficult for the philosophy/sport to cross country lines and pervade a multitude of cultures.

“The fact that no equipment other than a pair of trainers and an open mind are needed makes it [Parkour] all instantly accessible,” the director of Urban Freeflow said.

Parkour has especially been flooding into Russia and on the East Coast of the US, the Washington Examiner has highlighted its ever-increasing popularity in Maryland.

Official competitions have yet to be held, however – Parkour purists actually cringe at the idea of holding formal competitions. Many believe its unnecessary as true competition already exists within the free-running community: friends push and challenge one another naturally; and members of the same crew feed off each others energy.

But, it may not be long before official Parkour competitions begin… as the sport/discipline/hobby/philosophy continues to gain exposure through mass and alternative media, you can be sure its movement will perpetually continue forward.

The True/False Film Festival – one of the biggest event that goes on in Columbia, Missouri (the home of EuroKulture) – used Parkour in its promotion of the 2008 event.

Contributors: Michael Amantea and Victoria Uwumarogie

One Site Fits All?

Screen grab from 2424actu

Screen grab from 2424actu

A French web site called 2424actu , run by Orange, a division of France Télécom, was released last month. The site condenses French news into one portal through partnerships with news outlets such as France24, Radio France Internationale, Le Monde, Euronews, and many more. To view more sources, click on “Partenaires” at the bottom of the actu2424 web page.


Media around the world are trying to determine how to stay relevant in an ever-changing online landscape and Google is a main source of competition because of its current news gathering platform.The web site 2424actu may have something to teach American journalists. According to an October New York Times article, 2424actu is taking news a step further than competitors, like Google and Yahoo, by “gathering audio, video and text-based news reports in a single place, and organizing them by topic.” Access to all 3 mediums is only available in France. Those viewing the site from any other country, will come across this message: “Sorry, 24/24actu is a service only accessible from France.” Access to an exclusive viewing and language audience make this news aggregate a desired commodity outside of France.


Although the French web site is innovative and possibly the first to offer such detailed news with one click, it has faced some problems. In its early launch, the site faced some possibilities of being “unsustainable in the long run”:

Orange will ‘unplug’ the site if it can’t find a business model that works.

Orange currently foots the bill for the content, but will need to start bringing in revenue sooner than later. According to this French article, Orange has signed a revenue sharing agreement with content providers and publishers, something Google does not offer. The New York Times says the site “plans to sell advertising for the audio and video clips; revenue will be shared with the television and radio channels that provide them. Orange does not plan to sell ads in connection with the newspaper articles but says the papers will benefit when readers click through to their Web sites, increasing their online audiences.”

Food For Thought: Is limiting who can view the site a way for 2424actu to attract only French news consumers by providing an exclusive source? How will 2424actu affect the worldwide media? Could a similar layout work for an America news website?

Contributors: Asia Jones, Monica Germinario and Laura Johnston


Now You Can Cop the Parisian Attitude!

FRENCH.

What words just came to your mind?

Before you read further, take minute to let the various nouns and adjectives flow freely.

Okay…

"The Shrug"

"The Shrug"

If you’re an American, there’s a good chance some of the negative words that just popped in and out of your mind were ones like arrogant, lazy, coward, dirty, anti-American, socialist (maybe even communist?), hairy and rude.

Now, I’m sure words like food, wine, fashion, Eiffel Tower, romance, cheese, art, tradition and maybe even fries came up as well.

But, for now we’re going to take a look at the role these negative descriptors play into France’s – specifically Paris’ – tourism industry.

Big surprise to me and maybe to you as well: Turns out, there are actually tourist manuals that help educate the Paris-hesitant traveler on how to “cop” the Parisian attitude.

Yes. It’s true…you too can now be as rude as some deem the French to be!

According to tourist agency, Gadling.com, “Parisians are well known for their rudeness to tourists and other foreigners. This has always been very frustrating, however, to the Regional Tourism Committee of Paris whose job it is to attract foreign visitors to the French capital. They’ve discovered over the years, however, that many tourists simply don’t want to go to Paris and be accosted by this legendary rudeness.”

So, several years ago, the Committee launched a “tongue and cheek advertising campaign [that] could best be described as an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach,” according to an article on ScienceDirect.com. The article’s author goes on to criticize the campaign saying, “Such an approach is so, well…French,” and asks, “When, exactly, did the lowest common denominator become ‘best practice?'”

The campaign is directed toward Brits who’ve turned to other tourist destinations where they can more pleasantly spend their spare pounds.

While offensive to some, some heavy-hitters in the tourism industry have welcomed the humorously helpful travel tips through the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach.

Fodor’s, for example, says, “The Web site, created as a marketing tool by a cheeky French tourist agency, is a clever attempt to make light of the quirks and tics that have come to characterize our friends across the Atlantic.”

Here are some examples of “Parisianisms” that can help you cope and blend in with the stereotypically rude culture:

1. The Pout: “Start by looking bored, then pucker your lips and shake your head slowly for impact.”

2. The Shrug: “Stick out your lower lips, and then reaise your eyebrows and shoulders simultaneously.” (See Image Above)

3. The indicator that someone should shut up (a.k.a. “tait-toi!”): “Hold your hand in the shape of an ‘L’; then bring your fingers and thumb together.”

Personally, I never felt the need to use any of these gestures, nor did I find it necessary to “cop” the Gallic, French attitude while visiting the City of Light.

However, for the nervous or hesitant tourist who is debating whether or not to visit Paris, humorous tips like these may help you make light of any rudeness you may encounter.

To take a peak into more aspects of French culture, please visit TheSecretLifeofFrance.com for an Englishwoman-now-living-in-Paris perspective.

Brewing Belgium

Personal Photo
Personal Photo

With over 8,700 different types of beers and ales and 125 breweries in Belgium, Germans may need to take a backseat to their neighbors in the west. Belgium, one of the European Union’s smallest countries (11,787 sq miles) still manages to have the widest range and strongest brews in the world.

Just to name a few, here is a list of some of the most popular beers that a restaurant in the Czech Republic serves. This list does not even scratch the surface of all the different beers Belgium has. My favorite beer is Karmeliet Triple, at 8.4% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) this blond beer mixes many different flavors making it a sweet and tasty beer.

I found a blogger who travels through Belgium to taste and review as many beers as she can. It’s a great site because it is so in-depth and it reflects how serious the Belgians take their beer. It is not simply a means to get drunk, but it is an art form that has been perfected for centuries.

You can see the extent to which people from other countries enjoy drinking and talking about Belgian beer. In the virtual pub, The Burgundian Babble Belt, people from all over can share their stories and experiences relating to Belgian beer.

Personal Photo

Personal Photo

Some of my favorite Belgium beers are made by a very specific group of people, which may come as a shock to most Americans. Trappists Monks in Belgium have been brewing some of the strongest beers for hundreds of years. There are seven Trappist breweries, six of them are in Belgium and one of them is in the Netherlands. Only those seven are allowed to say they are Trappist beers. The oldest Brewery, Orval, was opened in 1831 serving a beer with a 6.2% ABV. To compare, American beers are usually around 4.3 or 4.2% ABV. The strongest Belgian beer is Bush beer with a 12%ABV.

Belgians take their beer very seriously, they even have a tournament to see who can pour beer with the best technique. If Belgian beer is not poured properly it can affect the taste negatively. If it is poured incorrectly many Belgians will ask for a new beer.

Even though Belgium is a small country its Beer culture is one of the richest and largest in the world. With 8,700 varieties beers, you had better get started.

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Personal Photo

Belgium’s unpleasant export

Aren’t exports supposed to make you money? Well not always. Think of toxic waste, garbage and sewage…  if you have something unpleasant that must be stored and you can’t store it, you are gonna have to pay someone who can… even if it’s people.

Apparently there is no room at the Inn in Belgium Jails.

It was recently announced that in order to house all of its inmates, Belgium will begin to export their inmates to the Netherlands. Belgium will rent 500 cells at the Dutch Tilburg prison.

Belgium will send roughly 500 prisoners away for three years and pay 30 million euros (44.5 million U.S. dollars) for sending its detainees across the border.

Dutch officials say, “No prisoners who are an escape risk or a risk to society will be sent to Tilburg.”

You could also look at it from the other point of view. Why do the Dutch have so many empty jail cells to spare? Although 30 million euros for 500 cells for three years is a nice chunk of change, I wonder why only three years… bet they are building something.

The partnership means that prisoners will be guarded by Dutch wardens, but the prison director will be Belgian. This has created some controversy over how the prisoners will be treated. In Belgium, prisoners may receive visitors three times a week, while those in the Netherlands may only receive guests once a week. The problem is that treating some prisoners better than others could cause conflict within the prison, but if they treat the Belgian prisoners the same as the ones from the Netherlands, then that is equal to imposing an additional punishment on the prisoners which they don’t deserve.

Humm, I don’t know that much about how prisoners are treated here in America, but receiving guests once a week still sounds fairly generous.

Artek, a Soviet Child’s Dream

It was once a treat for Soviet children to visit Artek on the Black Sea It was once a treat for Soviet children to visit Artek on the Black Sea.

Artek was not your average American Summer camp. There were 150 buildings, three medical buildings, a school, film studio Artekfilm, three swimming pools, sports stadium (7000 seats), and playgrounds for other activities. Unlike most of the young pioneer camps, Artek was a year-round camp, thanks to the climate.

Artek camp was once a hot spot and a huge treat for children in the Soviet Union. The camp was established in 1925 at the Black Sea in the town of Gurzuf. It is still around today, but has recently been on the verge of bankruptcy. According to this article from Kyiv Post the land that Artek sits on is worth a lot of money. No need to worry though: according to this blog, the Ukrainian government won’t let this happen.

According to the Ukrainian Audit Chamber, the resort’s total debt has reached $5 million. Although there are concerns about the camps closure, President Yushchenko gave the prime minister a week to deal with the situation.

The camp has recently closed down for the alleged rape of two children according to this article.

Despite the rape allegations, I do not think this should be a reflection of the camp, but rather that of a few individuals. The camp has a long standing tradition of being international, and has offered many orphans and children from poor families free vacations for good grades. Many kids arrive on a state subsidized or free basis when visiting the camp. It is not an average camp with bonfires and cabins, but an educational experience as well.

The kids who visit the camps are called “pioneers,” this would be the equivalent of an American boy scout or girl scout.

As a child, I went to a camp in Baraboo, Wisconsin and Artek as well. The difference is tremendous. At Artek we had to wear a uniform. We took tours all over Yalta and Simferopel and went swimming in the Black Sea instead of a swimming pool or lake. We did not live in cabins or tents at Artek, instead each child had there own bed in a hostel-type building. There were different bedrooms that held anywhere from 7 to 14 beds. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the camp itself was a resort. In Wisconsin, we slept in tents for two weeks. We also picked wood and built bonfires. Camp counselors taught us how to make smores and we played capture the flag in the middle of the night. It was not like Artek in the least way, but a fun experience nonetheless.

I was also at Artek during their film festival, and many famous Ukrainian and Russian celebrities came to visit. Can you imagine Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts visiting a summer camp in the US?

Come naked to “Nackt!” musical for free

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It’s a simple dare: Come undressed to our musical featuring unclothed actors and we will undo your entrance fee.

That was what the Musical Theater House in Bremen, Germany was offering for the premiere of the rock musical “Nackt!” or “Naked”. In the musical, several actors were to appear in their natural state and the audience was invited to follow their example.

In what was seen by a German blogger as a desperate attempt to revive the sluggish ticket sales, the musical’s organizers soon found themselves in an uncomfortable position: So overwhelming was the response to attend the musical nude, and hence for free, that the theater had to eventually pull the plug on its offer.

German news site, The Local, reported that the theater had made the offer at a September press conference this year. And clearly, the chance to combine two favorite German past times of saving money and stepping out naked proved too irresistible to the country’s army of nudists.

In a statement to the paper, organisers said they were worried that nudist groups known as the FKK had planned to hijack the performances “for their own self-promotion, which has nothing to do with theater, music or the meaning of the work.”

The Freikörperkultur, or FKK, is a German movement whose name translates to Free Body Culture. It endorses a naturistic approach to sports and community living. The followers of this culture are called traditional naturists, FKK’ler, or nudists. There has been an extensive removal of restrictions on public nudity in Germany since about the 1980s.

The concept of nudity, or what two video bloggers call “nakedity” in the video above, is starkly different in Germany than in the United States. There is generally much greater tolerance for exposure in Germany and often has little sexual dimension to it  – quite unlike cabaret shows in Las Vegas, or Janet Jackson’s 2004 wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl.

There are a good number of nudist beaches in Germany where families show up in the buff and even hiking trails that are reserved for those who choose to trek in their birthday suits. Comparatively, there are only a handful of places that allow nudity in US. Nudity in the open is banned in three states in the US – Alabama, Alaska and Arkansas. In Missouri, only two spots allow for public nudity.

Equally provoking is the musical’s plot itself, which is based on Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen. Schnitzler’s play, an unflinching look at sexual mores and class ideology, offered a social commentary on how sexual contact transgresses boundaries of class. It rocked Europe and scandalized the continent when it was performed in the early 20th century.

While this is the first time it’s been staged as a rock musical, the script, which can be read in full here, has been adapted for cinema, television and other plays. The musical is apparently not a classic rock musical, but rather a punk rock theater or a drama project with punk rock music, according to Weser Kurier.

Like Reigen, Nackt! consists of ten scenes where ten pairs collide. One from the pair moves to another scene with a new character entering.

“The piece has always been interesting, because it has a contemporary energy,” the musical’s director Christian von Götz was quoted as saying on a German site nmz.de.”With the nudity I bind the viewer and can thus produce a dramatic, charged atmosphere,” said the 40-year-old, who staged the popular musical “Evita” in Bremen

“Nackt!” premiered on Oct 31, with all its audience dressed – and to no one’s surprise, was not a sell-out. In fact it received some harsh criticism for its sordid sexual scenes that involved a lot of groaning. The portrayal of a rape scene of an under-aged girl almost had one audience member walk out on the show. “That was already borderline,” Svenja Teiwes told mopo.de after the show. “There were moments I was wondering whether I stay or go.” Those who stayed rewarded the cast with but only a brief applause.

The musical will run till the end of November  – and has seven more performances to prove if its worthy beyond its naked cast.

Would you dare to show up naked for an event if you could gain free admission to it? Do you think the theater company should have stuck to their initial offer?

Additional reporting and research by Jon Cecero & Tatiana Alexenko.