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From Feuillade to Netflix... Nothing is new!

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Before Netflix produced series that are very popular, Television was producing them (soap operas, Dallas, Coronation Street, Plus belle la vie, etc), Video Clubs rented them (Pushing Daisies, Downton Abbey, Le bureau des légendes, etc. and they all became cult series!), and cinema was making them (James Bond, Return to the Future, Star Wars, etc.).

Nothing was new. The silent era had their share of series that were distributed internationally and had a large influence on foreign cinemas globally.

Let’s take the exemple of Louis Feuillade’s adaptations of Fantômas (1913 serial). A highly controversial character and a key player in the relationship between cinema and literature during the crucial years when the feature and serial films boosted and legitimized the film industry, Fantômas is without any doubt an exemplary case study of the transnational and across all media circulation of popular fiction.

Influential works in many fields such as film and literary studies, media and cultural studies, book history and cultural history have questioned the opportunity (if not the possibility itself) of studying popular texts without paying attention to the strong interconnections between different countries and culturesal areas.

By producing series from Germany, China, France, Turkey, Spain, Italy, India, Scandinavia, etc. Netflix is simply bringing the history of transnational popular culture to a new level. Lupin, Money Heist, The gift, etc. For Lupin it is interesting to see the transgression of characters (the original Maurice Leblanc and the Netflix show) and it directly refers to the early years of the 19th century at the beginning of cinema as an art form, when the character’s fame reached non Western countries such as Egypt and China were local imitations and variations were immediately created.

With the new version of Lupin on Netflix, what was written for a white audience in the past has now become a diversity challenge. Casting Omar Sy is the natural evolution towards a global culture horizon, where collective imagination traces the direct and indirect impact of international cinema creations. The lasting influence of Feuillade’s Fantômas has produced over the years simple imitations. Each country came up with its own version of the modern villain hero as a combination of both foreign effect and its own local and cultural traditions.

To conclude there is no difference between Netflix now, television, video clubs, and films then. Netflix has found a way to contribute in the evolution of the respective national cinemas towards a more modern 21st century approach to film production and culture, with our eyes constantly glued to a story and images that are now part of our everyday life.

(based on the archives Littératures populaires et culture médiatique-OpenEdition

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