park deciphered by historians

11:30, March 26, 2022

Florian Besson is a specialist in the Middle Ages. Together with Mathilde Larrere, Guillaume Lancereau and Pauline Ducret, they published on Thursday puy du faux, an essay on Puy du Fou, the amusement park of the Vendée created in 1989 by Philippe de Villiers and currently managed by his son Nicolas. In August 2021, they stayed there for three full days, watching the show and reading the documentation provided by the park. Their conclusion is simple: if shows are very successful, they have nothing to do with any historical approach, as Florian Besson explained to JDD.

Why this investigation on the Puy du Fou?
Each of us is a specialist in a certain period, from Antiquity to the 20th century. And we’re all working on how it’s being reinvented today, in comics, movies, exhibitions… But things that use history for entertainment purposes, like in amusement parks, have been little explored. However, in the Puy du Fou, History is not splashed like in the Parc d’Asterix, where it is only a pretext for the rides. Here the whole park is the discourse of history. This is a large-scale event with a huge public success: several hundred thousand visitors a year, another park in Spain and park projects in Hungary or China… Until 2016, Philippe de Villiers negotiated with Vladimir Putin about opening such a park in Crimea. This is a true cultural, transmedia and international event, and this alone deserves that we take what it says seriously.

See also – Secrets of Puy du Fou, the work of Philippe de Villiers

Philippe de Villiers’ goal was not to entertain, but to inspire people with ideas.

What did you learn from your three days of observation in the park?
It was a curious intellectual experience. On the one hand, the performances are very beautiful, very successful, and the actors who work in the park all play their roles very well. But they are at the service of a speech that comes from one man: Philippe de Villiers, who writes the entire show alone. This is not a historical speech, but political propaganda. He also puts it this way: when he created the Puy du Fou, the goal was to support his cultural struggle for the recognition of the Vendéan genocide. He suggests that the purpose was not to entertain, but to inspire people with ideas. As a historian, it is alarming: Puy-du-Fou also accepts schoolchildren, sells educational booklets. They are full of errors, but, above all, completely biased in a reactionary, monarchist, royalist direction, praising Catholicism and traditional values. For example, a performance about Roman antiquity, built on the opposition of evil pagan Romans and cute Christian Gauls. The opposition is historically completely false: the action takes place in the 4th century AD, the Gauls were romanized over several centuries. Christianity itself is a Roman religion. It brings up the old pattern” Our ancestors are Christian Gauls against Rome, personifying globalization, universalism. This is said without any subtleties. This is a completely nationalistic, anachronistic message, put at the service of this fantasy about ” Eternal Christian France The same message is rejected in every period with an anti-republican and anti-modern message as the revolutionary period approaches. The foreigner is always the enemy, the Frenchman is always the good guy, and the solution is always God.

See also — “With Eric Zemmour, it’s 50 shades of fake,” historian Alya Aglan worries

Have you contacted Puy du Fou in advance?
It was not our approach, we suspected their reaction. This is what they are doing to us now, claiming to entertain and shout out false judgment. But their way of using history is not innocent, it is dishonest to respond in this way. We can’t have both, putting up huge posters everywhere that say “ History is waiting for you ‘ to wash their hands under the pretense of writing fiction. If we want to offer History, and if we want to play the card of realism, then in this case we must be honest, give real historical spectacles, with sources, nuances of speeches, be aware of historiography. We do not see history: history is a scientific discipline that studies the evolution of societies of the past, and there is nothing like that in Puy-du-Fou.

It is false, stupid and a little dangerous to make people believe that France was beautiful and peaceful as long as it was Christian.

Philippe de Villiers has joined Eric Zemmour, who also has a special approach to history…
The Puy du Fou is not a Zemmours park, but there is a continuum. This is the same fantasy vision of France, reactionary, opposing progress, with the same hidden xenophobia… When Philippe de Villiers started, everyone laughed at him, we thought that interest was in projects like the Futuroscope. But he thought that people would need to reconnect with their roots for many reasons, and I think he was right… After that, you have to be very subtle: I don’t think it fits in people’s heads. . But in Puy du Fou they don’t show much: nothing about social or cultural history, nothing about the history of women and minorities, as if all these characters have been erased from the history of France. The audience thinks about it, and it’s a little sad. It is false, stupid and a little dangerous to make people believe that France was beautiful and peaceful as long as it was Christian.

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