Showing Her Claws

 

Oh Brigitte! Where did you go wrong? It takes a special talent for a living myth to knock herself off her own pedestal.

From being every man's dream, the star of the 1956 classic And God Created Woman has become every man's nightmare: a right-wing harridan who detests Muslims, homosexuals and fashion designers who show fur in their collections.

On January 20th, a Paris tribunal convicted Bardot of "provocation to hatred and racial discrimination" and fined her £2,380. It was her second conviction in three months: last October she was fined £1,190 for the same offence.

The organisations that sued Bardot - SOS-Racism, the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) and the Movement Against Racism and For Friendship Among Peoples (MRAP) - are also the bugbears of her political hero, the extreme right-wing National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. Bardot's fourth husband, Bernard d'Ormale, is a Front activist, and although she claims not to belong to any political party, she does not hide her admiration for Le Pen. Like her, he has been "demonised", she wrote in her 1996 autobiography, Initials: B.B. She describes him as "charming, erudite and very kind".

Le Pen would certainly agree with Bardot's article in Le Figaro, which led to one of her convictions for racism. (It was republished by the French National Front's weekly magazine.) Never a modest woman, Bardot began by noting that "at the peak of my great cinematographic glory, I always refused to move to the US, to remain the representative of a France that made me `Marianne' [the national symbol] after I brought more foreign exchange into the country than the Renault company. Along with General de Gaulle and the Eiffel Tower, I am perhaps the best known French person in the world!"

Bardot then got to the point. She had become a vegetarian because she couldn't bear the "horror" of slaughterhouses - hence her annual campaign in the run-up to the Muslim feast of the Eid El Kebir. Bardot's disgust at the slashing of sheep's throats has turned her against France's two million Muslims. "My country, France, my fatherland, my soil, is again invaded, with the blessing of successive governments, by a foreign, Muslim population, to whom we pay allegiance!" she wrote.

"We are forced against our will to put up with the Islamic excesses of their traditions," she continued. "Year after year, we see mosques sprouting up all over France, while our church steeples fall silent for want of priests. Year after year, the ritual slaughter, very often in secret, without first putting the animal to sleep, transforms slaughterhouses to places of terror where animals - our animals - endure torment worthy of the most atrocious pagan sacrifices . . . Will I be forced, in the near future, to flee my country, turned into a violent and bloody place, to become an expatriate, to try to find elsewhere, as an emigrant myself, the respect and esteem which are, alas, refused to us daily?"

The rector of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, criticised Bardot for "humiliating the Muslim community of France by confusing issues and insulting the 4,000year-old tradition of Abraham". Because of prejudice like Bardot's, he added: "The second religion of France continues to be treated with contempt."

But Bardot is incorrigible. At her most recent court hearing, she again lashed out at Muslims, saying "they are obsessed by throat-cutting. They are born with knives in their hands and they kill everything that falls prey to them." Alluding to the massacres in Algeria, she added: "They cut the throats of women and children, our monks, our officials; they will cut ours one day."

Bardot was not defending the cause of animals, the civil plaintiffs argued, but the ideas of the National Front. The retired actress admitted that she was engaged in a political battle. "I don't wrap my words up in tissue paper," she added.

Like Jean-Marie Le Pen, she has often claimed that she merely says out loud "what French people think in silence". In just five weeks, the Eid El Kebir will be with us again, and anti-racist organisations are poised for their next lawsuit.

"She'll make a declaration, for sure," a spokesman at the Brigitte Bardot Foundation told The Irish Times. "She isn't at all discouraged by the convictions." The foundation's letterhead shows a drawing of a cat, dog, horse and seal huddling fraternally together.

Bardot is often criticised for caring more about animals than human beings. One of her ex-husbands, the actor-turned-painter Jacques Charrier, and their son Nicolas, sued Bardot in an unsuccessful attempt to have 80 pages cut from her autobiography.

For her "intimate and hurtful revelations", the court ordered Bardot to pay £17,857 to Jacques Charrier and £11,904 to Nicolas. She had described Jacques Charrier as a "vulgar, dictatorial and uncontrolled macho, a gigolo and despicable alcoholic". When she learned she was pregnant with Nicolas, Bardot wrote, she looked at her "flat smooth tummy the way one looks at a loved one before closing the lid of the coffin". She tried to cure herself of this "tumour" by pummelling her stomach with her fists and asking her doctor for morphine. Her pregnancy was "nine months of nightmare", after which Nicolas was born "in an atrocious odour".

When she regained consciousness, Bardot recounted: "I started screaming, begging them to take him away from me. I never wanted to see him again." Her newborn son had "a negroid little face". To add insult to injury, Bardot told an interviewer that she would have preferred to give birth to a little dog.

Bardot won two literary awards for the autobiography, which has been translated into 18 languages and sold nearly a million copies. When she is not quaffing champagne in her private jet with her National Front husband, she remains holed up in her St Tropez villa, surrounded by animals. She is writing the second volume of her memoirs, which picks up where the last book left off, in 1988; it is scheduled for publication next autumn.

In the meantime, Jacques Charrier has taken his revenge by writing his own account of their brief marriage, My Response To Brigitte Bardot. When Bardot saw Charrier's book in the display window of a shop she frequents last summer, she became hysterical. A sales assistant removed the offending copies at her demand. Bardot tried unsuccessfully to have the book banned.

"By giving my version of the facts, I'm doing her a big favour," Charrier said. "In a way, I rehabilitate her. The reality of her love for Nicolas, confirmed by the letters I kept, is much more to her credit than the horrors she wrote." Charrier also gave a clue as to where his ex-wife got her rightwing politics. Her father's books were the only thing she gave Charrier from her inheritance, he said. They included books on the Nazi leaders Goebbels and Goering, and an autographed copy of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler.