Given Cash to Broaden Their Cultural Horizons, French Don't

18-year-olds stick to manga, which $350 from government helps buy
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2021 4:58 PM CDT
French 18-Year-Olds Use Arts Windfall on Comic Books
A man in costume reads a manga book during an exhibition outside Paris in 2019. The theme of the event was Japanese culture and entertainment.   (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Juliette Sega is operating within the rules for spending the $350 the French government is giving every 18-year-old when she buys comic books, if not the aspirations. "It's a really good initiative," said Juliette Sega, who lives in southeastern France. "I'm a steady consumer of novels and manga, and it helps pay for them." The idea of the program was to increase access to lesser-known, more sophisticated arts, the New York Times reports. The teenagers can buy tickets to a play or museum exhibit, an instrument, or a spot in a dance class with the money. More than 8,000 institutions and businesses offer something through the program, which began in May. The government official in charge said the gift can "bring young people to discover the realms of possibility of cultural life." But mostly, they're buying comics.

New high school graduates can use the money, which they have two years to spend, through the Culture Pass app—which already has been derided as the "manga pass." There are a few restrictions, but opponents say expecting 18-year-olds to choose Molière over blockbusters was naive. "You don't need to push young people to go see the latest Marvel movie," said a Paris professor who figures the main beneficiary will be mainstream media. Jean-Michel Tobelem said that he has no objections to pop culture, but that the program lacks incentives for exploring "works that are more demanding on an artistic level." Three-fourths of the purchases made so far are books, and two-thirds of them are manga. A Paris bookstore owner has hope. "Yes, a lot of young people go into a bookstore and buy a manga on their pass," she said, per NPR, "but then they buy a second book that's in another cultural category." (More France stories.)

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