Jennifer Padjemi, the pop culture lawyer

For fans of mainstream television series or video clips, born before the 2000s, this book will undoubtedly speak. Released last month, Feminisms and pop culture (Ed. Stock, 2021), finely describes mass culture as a formidable weapon of emancipation. A thesis of around 330 pages, including the French journalist Jennifer Padjemi can boast. Because yes: some television series can change our outlook on the world; and no: television is not always synonymous with baseness. These are some of the postulates advanced by the author throughout her pages.

At the end of the phone, in her calm voice, she readily recounts how her father would have preferred to see her “read the dictionary” rather than spending time, too much time, in front of the television. But she does not forget to recall that when, still a young student, she had proposed to devote her study thesis to this theme, her wishes had been swept away with a wave of the hand. “In humanities studies, talking about pop culture seemed superficial. In ten years, a lot has happened, this culture is now part of our lives and influences us much more than we could imagine, ”she analyzes.

Curious and daring

Fortunately, Jennifer is not vindictive and hardly considers this book as a snub, rather as a “statement”. To put an end to this culture of elites who enact rules according to which there is a good and a bad education.

“I find it unfortunate that every two weeks a writer decides to despise Netflix or to say that this platform is killing French cinema. I realize that the younger generations learn faster than us thanks to this popular culture. I am often pleasantly surprised to hear high school students who refer to series to talk about consent or racism, ”she says.

Born shortly before the 1990s, Jennifer Padjemi evolves in a working-class environment with a decent cultural capital. His parents, originally from West Africa, see school as the corollary of independence. Specializing in art history, she thought of becoming an art critic. Passionate about writing, she finally oriented her university studies towards information and communication before training in journalism duringan Erasmus exchange to Madrid.

An atypical course

Its atypical career, far from the grandes écoles recognized by the profession, allows it to proudly assert its uniqueness. “There may be in these grandes écoles a kind of formatting, a certain method that allows less daring and variation in pleasures,” she sums up. My more cultural and artistic background allowed me to combine information and writing with something more didactic and more analytical. ”

His first internships in a company confirmed his vocation. It will make its debut in 2015 chez BuzzFeed before becoming independent. The journalistic microcosm will very often refer her to her status as a minority black woman. With Jennifer, the reference of pop culture is never far away, as when she describes her assimilation to a serial character. That of Dr. Miranda Bailey, in the series Grey’s Anatomy. A black woman renowned for her tyrannical and uncompromising character.

This is how the journalist analyzes narrative tropes, these recurring images found in films and series that are well known to the collective imagination and far from being trivial. Like that of theangry black woman, or the fact that when black women are portrayed onscreen, they are too often portrayed through this prism of anger and aggression.

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“I identified with the character of Bailey, because I know what it means to be in environments where you are not in the majority. There is an identity that is assigned to us and that is more present in the gaze of the other than in our own eyes. Tropes are often used to put black women in boxes. “

Mental Health

The question of representation has always been central in Jennifer’s thinking. This is probably what pushes her to launch the podcast Mirror mirror in 2018. This deconstructs the beauty standards imposed in our societies. “You don’t need to have an aquiline nose, to be tall, slender and blonde to be beautiful,” she asserts. The same year, she also co-launched the What’s Good newsletter with journalist Mélody Thomas. A compendium of personal and inclusive cultural novelties. “I write to have a form of closeness with people I don’t know. It’s important, and newsletters make it possible, ”she explains.

With Jennifer, nothing seems really taboo. Like when she opens up about her own depression and the importance of talking about mental health. In this area, black people are also invisible, which will push her too late to her first consultation with a shrink. Coming from an environment where resilience reigns and where prayers must heal heart and soul ailments, this is the series Insecure which will decomplex it. Because yes, pop culture can, for the better, emerge as a way of healing.


1988 Born in Togo.

2008 Erasmus exchange in Madrid, training in journalism.

2015 Start at BuzzFeed.

2018 Launch of the podcast “Mirror mirror”.

2021 Publication of his first book, “Feminisms and pop culture”.

Find all portraits of “Time”.

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