By Laurent Carpentier and Aureliano Tonet

Posted at 8:00 p.m. yesterday, updated at 5:34 a.m.

Based on the film

Yo Soy Betty, la Fea : “I am Betty the ugly”, in French. In the early 2000s, after watching the German remake of this Colombian telenovela, the semiologist François Jost said to himself that something had changed on the small screen: with nearly forty avatars (Ugly betty in the USA, Lisa’s Fate, German adaptation broadcast on TF1…), the principle of adaptation had become a new economic and cultural model.

We no longer speak of a remake, but of “format”. Understand: where the first updated a work from the past, the second is designed from the start to be “internationalized”. “The formats were born with the games of the type ‘Who wants to win millions’, explains the professor of information science. Then it went to reality TV, and recently, to fiction … “ François Jost does not go there by four ways: “Just as we decline a car model or a yogurt depending on the country because the tastes are not quite similar, television responds, with the format, to classic consumer marketing. “

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Of course, there are precedents. In 1933, Reinhold Schünzel shot two versions of the same film, one French, Georges and Georgette, the other German, Viktor und Viktoria. This cross-dressing musical will be adapted in 1957 by the Czech Karl Anton, then, in 1982, by the American Blake Edwards… Yesterday exceptional, these stunt remakes are now institutionalized.

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“Open works”

The adaptation market – sorry, the format – has become one of the pillars of the industry. Blame it on the explosion of platforms: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, etc. But also “historic” channels, which are creating their own VOD service to compete with them. “All these channels, you have to provide them with content, it’s mathematical, analyzes a dispenser, rubbing their hands. And then, it allows us to reach a younger target. It’s great, because it opens even more doors. “

Before François Jost, another semiologist, Umberto Eco (1932-2016), was infatuated with television. Its monumental History of ugliness (2007) does not open on Yo Soy Betty, la Fea, but on the most unsightly fabulist of Antiquity, Aesop, which was adapted by Jean de La Fontaine, then in cartoons. This is because, for Eco, the history of fiction is an eternal restart. “The remake is all about retelling a successful story. See the countless versions of the Dr Jekyll, raised the Italian. All of Shakespeare’s work is a remake of earlier stories. “

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