Le Prénom – not politically correct

Since the eighties a spectre is haunting the western society – the spectre of political correctness. The term arised at american universities, where mainly minority groups started to search for a new language use, that could prevent discrimination. The thesis was, our language is dominated by white, heterosexual, well-off men. Their choice of words excludes wittingly or unwittingly the minorities. The academic language criticism wanted to prohibit hate words, like „negro“, „gyppo“, „red skin“. Furthermore they were against using words that uphold cruel traditions as for instance slavery, colonialism, chauvinism. Granted, sometimes it was a bit funny what words should not be used any longer, for example: jungle, housewife, prositute. The press found so a new field for insurrection. Many journalists believe in a communistic conspiracy, a tought police – as Orwell would say. Another movement in the linguistic and political theory is the concept of resignification. Chiefly the gender theorist Judith Butler operates with this term. The idea is easy: Interdiction can not bet he right way to prevent discrimination; on the contrary it can reinforce the pejorative impact. But what if the respective minority resignificates the political incorrect word? Butler explains this act, using „queer“ as an example. For a longtime it has been a swearword for male homosexuals, untill they use the word for self-designation. They divest the hegemonial speaker of the word and fill it with a positive meaning.

The new french comedy film „Le Prénom“ (Der Vorname) follows Butler`s theory and at the same time reveals its borders. Elizabeth and her husband Peter ask her brother Vincent with his pregnant wife Anna and the old friend Claude for dinner at home. Vincent arrives earlier than his wife and he proclaims they want to name their child Adolphe in accord with the protagonist in the famous novel by Benjamin Constant. The careerist Vincent, who has surely elected Sarkozy, shocks the others. Peter, a professor for literature – probably a little bit more to the left than Hollande – explains, why it is impossible to name a child Adolphe. One can not hear the „phe“, it sounds like „f“ and that means Adolf Hitler. Vincent retorts before 1933 many men were called Adolphe or Adolf without getting a dictator. There follows a fierce quarrel and after twenty minutes Vincent declares now he wants to name his child Adolf with „f“. He argues to name a child Adolf could be the best way to fight fascism. He resignificates – he does not use Bulter`s term – the name while he teaches his little Adolf liberal democratic values. If you like it is a dispute between representatives of  political correctness and the deconstructivist resifnification. And when Anna enters the flat one can witness a nice tragicomedy. It is a slightly more buoyant version of Polanski`s „Carnage“ (Gott des Gemetzels).

Without disclosing the plot, at the end of the film the little baby will not be named according to a dictator and also not according to a famous novel. But it is interesting to see is how difficult it can be, when theory becomes reality. And it is a nice point, that just Vincent, the right-conservative character, deals with such a leftist theory. And it is also funny to see, how the leftist Peter and his wife are becoming strict censors. It is an amusing film about the power of speech. Everyone can acquire words and change their meaning, but no one can possess them thoroughly. Herta Müller said „I do not believe in language, I do not trust language“. And Elfriede Jelinek also suspects the language. And it was Oskar Pastior, who dreamed of a language, that can not lie. But for a comedy

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