View Full Version : Why the French?
08-24-2000, 04:23 PM
A few years ago a Danish friend of mine asked me why American's hate the French so much. I gave an answer about sterotypes, the long-standing (British heritage influenced) dislike, and that it was done in a "just kidding" vein. This really disturbed her because she felt the French were a fairly typical modern European nation, and that as both tourists and hosts they behaved similarly to if not better than lots of other European people. This got me thinking and since then I have noticed a lot more French bashing in the media, and I don't hear slams against other Euro-nationalities very often at all. Why? I remember when Irish, Polish, Italian, etc. bashing was an everyday occurance. She seemed to expect more of a anti-Eastern Europe thing, and that just isn't here.
I have a feeling that it is because French-Americans are less represented than other Euro-Americans except in specific locals, such as around New Orleans, and therefore less likely to complain, but I really don't know.
Anyone have any thoughts on this?
08-24-2000, 04:24 PM
08-24-2000, 04:25 PM
No idea why, but I know the French hate us more :D
Well, I work with quite a few French people(Eurocopter), and they're pretty decent folk for the most part. The thing that takes some getting used to is that apparently the interpersonal relationship dynamics are apparently very different.
The thing I hear is that lots of French people think Americans are stupid, or at least really dorky & goofy because we smile a lot & are very talkative compared to them.
Probably the same story about us thinking they're particularly rude or something. From what I see, they're just sort of abrupt & close-mouthed relative to us.
I see the same thing in a lesser degree when I run into people from New England(I'm from Texas). They tend to think a lot of Southerners are too talkative as well.
08-24-2000, 04:42 PM
Hmm . . . I think it's a bit of stereotyping. Check the pit in the thread for more.
Personally, I like French people. Never met one I didn't like.
08-24-2000, 04:43 PM
My limited interaction with the 'French', in France, Martinique, parts of Canada, and soon hopefully Tahiti (when they are on vacation) is this:
They really are NOT rude, unless you don't make an effort to speak their language, which, sadly, most Americans do not. Other cultures seem to be more accepting of non-fluent Americans in their societies but for some reason the French are not. Of course, we as Americans get pissed off at people who don't speak our language either and INSIST they learn it, so they are really just giving us a taste of our own medicine.
Of course we are the US who has to act as the defender of the free world every time some asshole with a funny uniform decides they need to take over another country. So we feel like we've EARNED this right. Everyone always points to the French rolling over when the Nazis came through town in WWII as proof they have not earned this right (forgetting of course that this event happened almost 60 years ago). Hence they suck...we rule...and they should just accept that we don't have to speak their language. Plus add in any wierd political/ cultural stuff for extra fodder such as snooty/ expensive French fashion and perfumes, controversial drugs (don't forget the 'abortion pill' RU-486), and Napolean for good measure (he was French and short so he MUST have been an asshole!) People often find it hypocritical of them as well to 'put down' America while at the same time enjoying our movies, blue jeans, music, software, etc.
Personally, I say give the French a break. Besides, if you leave out the fact that so many of them smoke, French women are HOT!!!! :)
08-24-2000, 04:45 PM
First off, I don't want to start another anti-French rant. The thread in the pit is what reminded me of this question in the first place. Let's keep this civil, and avoid answering the "Why is there this sterotype?" question with "Because it's part true." I don't want this thread moved to the pit. That place scares me. People are overly hostile there. This question is about the media. Lots of sterotypes could be said to hold some truth, but why does this one persist in the media?
Do most other groups have anti-defamation agencies? Are other groups more vocal or responsive when offended? Have the French mostly avoided imigrating to the U.S., and therefore have less of a voice here than other Euros? I am looking for a reasoned answer, or at least some interesting thoughts on the subject.
Please don't spit venom and make them take this to the pit.
08-24-2000, 04:46 PM
The French dislike foreigners in general and Americans in particular even more than Americans dislike the French. Just read the news about them destroying McDonalds. Eurodisney and other American businesses. Any foreigner who has been to France knows how condescending they are if you cannot speak perfect French.
The French think they are so great they have been picking fights with the Germans for over 200 years now and every time they get their derrieres whooped and then someone else (usually the Brits and the Americans) have to get them out of the mess.
I understand now at the French Army Academie mostly what they teach is to say "I surrender!" in German. It saves a lot of trouble.
08-24-2000, 04:56 PM
It may go deeper than people think. I recall watching a show about the history of the U.S. Navy. In this show, they talked about how after the British were pushed out of the U.S. after Yorktown, the French and British were still at war. Apparently the French expected the newly formed and still unstable nation to continue fighting the British, which it didn't. Therefor, the French basically declared open season on U.S. ships.
Also, I beleive that the United States planned to occupy France during WWII instead of liberating it. Because some U.S. general wanted to be freindly, he let the French forces liberate Paris which in turn freed France.
I knew a couple of Frenchmen in high school. One was an exchange student and the other was in the U.S. as some sort of teaching assistant. They were both pretty nice guys and didn't seem too rude to me.
The only problem I have with France is that they'll let a rapist run loose in their country and not let the U.S. extradite him because they feel our justice system is barbaric. (This from the nation that gave the world the guiltine (sp?).)
I feel that the reason that the French and Americans have animosity towards each other is because they both want to be the cultural center of the world.
08-24-2000, 05:06 PM
I live in Quebec, and I think many Americans would be quite surprised by some of our rather discriminatory laws. How many of you were aware that businesses are prohibited from displaying any English (or Hebrew, Chinese etc) on signs, advertisments, business cards unless it is 50% smaller than the French? Likewise, hospitals are prohibited from signs in English, even in predominantly English cities. There are actually inpsctors who go around with rulers measuring the letters. We call them (what else) 'tongue troopers' . . . for all this assissnine behaviour (largely the work of our separatist government), do I hate the French? Absolutely not. Far from it. I (like most anglos) understand the impulse to protect French in a province of 6 million people, alone on a continent of 300 million. It's the way it's handled that infuriates most of us. Frankly, I think that 6 million french-speaking people makes North America an infinitely more interesting place . . . mais, c'aide que je suis bilangue.
08-24-2000, 05:29 PM
I’ve spent a little more time over there now the tunnels open and it’s changed my previously more steryotypical view of them. I quite like them. It’s worth noting that the attitude you see isn’t only because you’re American, they’re pretty much like that to French people as well. It’s just their way.
Having said that, they do have a problem because their distinct culture is, as they see it, constantly under pressure from all pervasive Anglo-Saxon influence’s. Many French people think they need to protect their culture more in order for it to prosper and perhaps they’re right. The absurdity of a McDonald’s in a country with food like that can be striking, just as an example.
It's also important to me because I like the difference and diversity.
I think people tend to sell the French a little short when it comes to the WW1 and WW2. Yes, they just wern’t organised and ready for the Germans in 1939 and they were pretty disorganised until that war was over but between 1914 and 1918 they suffered 1.3 million troop casualties out of a population of around 35 million.
If you crunch the numbers and compare it with the US population today it comes out at (very roughly) over 10 million dead or injured troops. That is a truly unimaginable number that you’d think just couldn’t happen. They really did do they’re bit, especially between 1914-17, but like the Brits, by then, were running out of machine gun fodder.
08-24-2000, 05:50 PM
I've always seen the issue as a long lasting, low-level antipathy rooted in the favors we owe one another. They won independence for our country; we gave theirs back to them. That's some pretty deep indebtedness for any proud nation to bear.
Most Americans I know who enjoy taking the occasional snipe (as I do) at the French do not have a complete disrespect for them. Except of course my housemate, who went so far as to create and circulate a "Kill the French" map for DOOM II. He was visibly dismayed when I showed him how many "I hate the French" websites are out there. He apparently believed he thought of it first.
But enough opinion. Let's get on to some ignorant American-generated statistics of minimal value!
Number of hits for "hate the french" on Google: 575
Number of hits for "americain haine" on Google: 275
Number of hits for "Ich hasse Französisch" on Google: 883
So, by this carefully conducted survey, I believe I have demonstrated the fact, if true, that more Germans hate French people than French and Americans hate each other!
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go yank on my horses' necks. I'm trying to turn them into giraffes.
08-24-2000, 05:59 PM
Uh, those numbers might be artificially low if you don't include such phrases as "je déteste les américains". Note too that "haine" is a noun, so you should try it as a verb: "j'haïs les américains."
08-24-2000, 06:02 PM
Oops. I may have spoken too soon. I have been infomed that my command of the French language is about as competent as a Hollywood blockbuster.
Number of hits for "Je déteste les Américains" on Google: 1100
Number of hits for "Je déteste les allemands" on Google: 413
Okay. They hate us more than we hate them, or the Germans. Now I'm pissed.
08-24-2000, 06:08 PM
Hits for "j'haïs les américains." on Google: 14
08-24-2000, 06:11 PM
I've been to France several times, both to Paris and in the country to smaller cities (Le Havre, Honfleur).
The Parisian French were rude every time I was there - I could almost smell the contempt emanating from them when they dicovered I was an American.
The French in Le Havre and Honfleur were friendly when I was there - they did everything possible to be polite, nice, and friendly the whole 2 weeks I was there.
And from this small sample size, I submit that there is a big difference between Parisians and the rest of France.
08-24-2000, 06:18 PM
In WWII at least the French were our allies. If the driving force was WWII rememberance you would think Germans and Italians would be mocked in a much worse way then the French, and I really don't think they are. Interesting stuff about the intended occupation though. That would piss anyone off, I would think.
LC - I think you might have hit on it with the "Culture under Siege" bit, and that sort of feeds into what Mealypotatoes was saying about the language laws in Quebec. I had heard about those laws, and the airport language laws - which were ridiculous - and I saw a news report which featured a Rap music video on preserving French culture in Quebec, which was particularly funny because I don't think of Rap music as being a big part of French culture.
If that is it I don't see any likely resolution, other than trying to adopt French culture, which would undoubtedly cause much more rapid and intense change. Kinda sad.
08-24-2000, 09:08 PM
Originally posted by Anthracite
The Parisian French were rude every time I was there - I could almost smell the contempt emanating from them when they dicovered I was an American.
The French in Le Havre and Honfleur were friendly when I was there - they did everything possible to be polite, nice, and friendly the whole 2 weeks I was there.
Bingbingbing! We he-ahv ah winnah!
Many Parisians are sick and tired of all the damn tourists, for many good reasons. They get so jaded, from dealing with "ugly Americans", not to mention ugly Germans, Japanese, Tuvans, et. al. (well, maybe not Tuvans) that they start to lump all tourists together as jerks. Attempts at speaking French are mocked; sometimes they act like they can't understand you at all. A friend of mine was told by a Parisian that she spoke French, "like a Canadian." She assumed it was a compliment.
Outside of Paris, most French are polite and kind, especially to those who attempt to speak in French, who respect French culture, who don't demand the "Frogs" tell them in English how to get to the nearest Burger King. They rarely have to deal with red-faced ingrates yammering about how they personally "saved your Vichy butt from Jerry."
Don't get me wrong; many Parisians are polite, too. There are many more polite than rude Parisians. The thing is that the ones who have to deal most often with tourists are the ones most likely to be rude. That many tourists seem to think Paris is the only place in France to visit, again skew encounters with French to interactions with the more rude folks.
08-24-2000, 10:31 PM
Some random observations from my recent trip to Europe, which may or may not have anything to do with the topic at hand:
1) People in Roscoff, Rennes, and St. Malo were considerably more polite than in Paris -- which is not to say that most of the Parisians were outright rude, just kind of no-nonsense. I'd be no-nonsense too if I had to deal with thousands of tourists every day.
2) When I spoke to people in my utterly hopeless French, they either answered in English, or listened patiently to my stammerings until I managed to communicate what I wanted. I NEVER met anybody who was rude to me because I didn't speak the language well.
3) On the other hand, in two months of solo travel, Paris was the only place where I had to deal with major harrassment (nothing physical, thank heaven, but lots of whistling and catcalling). I'm pretty sure this was because I was American; in fact when I went out with a couple of British girls from the hostel, guys would throw themselves at us and then totally lose interest when they said they were anglais. (I'm not sure whether this says more about what the French think of Americans, or what they think of Brits.)
4) Americans act like total boors in Paris. They talk much too loudly, they walk up to total strangers and speak English, and they stand around the Musee D'Orsay taking flash photographs of the paintings, even though there are signs everywhere saying it's forbidden. By my fourth day in Paris, I just wanted to disown my compatriots forever, maybe pretend I was from Ireland or something. Then I went to Spain. Guess what? Americans act like nice, reasonable folks in Spain. Most of us are there because we speak the language and care about the culture. British people, on the other hand, go to Spain for the sole purpose of buying massive quantities of cigarettes and wine-in-a-box, don't make the slightest effort to speak Spanish, and are horribly rude to the supermarket clerks. Does this mean Brits are boors? Of course not. If you go to England, you'll find that they are mostly very nice people, and it's the Australians who are boors. I've never been to Australia, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that it was full of, say, Ugandans behaving badly.
In sum: People from every nation have another nation where they act like total dipshits. Ours happens to be France. If the French are occasionally rude in retaliation, I can hardly blame them.
08-24-2000, 11:00 PM
"Why are the streets of Paris lined with trees?"
"Because the German Army likes to march in the shade."
08-24-2000, 11:57 PM
I think it's history. For the last six hundred years or so, the English and the French have been rivals for the leadership of Western civilization. The English (and by extension the Americans) eventually won. The French are bitter about having lost.
08-25-2000, 01:42 AM
Parisians are no more rude, really, than New Yorkers. There is a stereotypical view in both countries that N'Yorkers/Parisians sneer down on the outlying country while the rest of the country considers them arrogant boors. (There are a few individuals in both cities that "live down" to the stereotypes, but they are a minority--if occasionally a noticeable one.)
However, the primary anti-French sentiment in the U.S. is a fairly recent (from the perspective of my advancing age) phenomenon. It is not based on actual French rudeness or American ignorance or any of the usual suspects.
The anti-French feelings arose from a complex series of political actions and misunderstandings that arose after WWII--and from the fine hand of Charles deGaulle.
DeGaulle was always a PITA to the allied command because he wanted to be treated as a complete equal. His point was that they were about to go tromping across his country and some French person should participate in the planning for that event. The position of the Allied commanders was that deGaulle did not have enough troops to justify giving him a fully equal say in the decision and that his position as the French leader was a self-proclaimed position at best. DeGaulle had any troops at all, only because they chose to follow him. (Certainly a strong point in his favor.) However, the French nation had never set up a government in exile. The elected government, such as it was, had folded with the country, and there was no genuine authority supporting deGaulle in his position.
After the war, deGaulle set out to get France back on its feet and used the ballot box to secure the authority that the wartime commanders had not acknowledged in him. When Ike was elected president in the U.S., there was enough low-key mutual dislike that they were never able to work together. DeGaulle wanted to re-establish the French Republic and the French Empire. However, Ike refused to support France in places such as Indochina (Vietnam). Ike stated quite clearly that he doubted that the American citizens would support wars to keep colonies tethered to the mother country. He urged French diplomats seeking any aid to provide evidence that the French were defending their colonies against Marxist uprisings. DeGaulle took these "suggestions" as rebuffs (and took them personally).
Once France had recovered its own industrial base to support a military re-supply program, deGaulle pulled France out of NATO. (They continued to participate in NATO joint exercises, but they simply chose to not belong to the organization.) In a series of (usually disastrous) military operations, deGaulle lost Indochina, Algeria, and several less visible colonies while interfering in mid-East politics with equally disastrous results. In every case except Indochina, the French found themselves on opposite sides of the political lines from the U.S.
(DeGaulle did not preside over every crisis. He was voted out of the presidency on several occasions. However, when he was in office, he put his stamp so firmly on the goals of the French government that his interim successors wound up having to carry out programs very similar to those he had sought.)
The American press reported most of these political and diplomatic differences of opinion as if they were personal insults hurled by deGaulle. (Certainly dGaulle provided enough intemperate comments to make that job easier.) Eventually, folks in the U.S. began to see the French as ungrateful, arrogant, and clannish.
Look at American movies made about Americans living in France in the 1950s. Compare them to attitudes 20 years later.
When France withdrew from NATO, there was a huge outcry against the move. There were charges that France intended to go Communist and join the Warsaw Pact. (The fact that Communists were a genuine political power in most European nations after WWII lent some (undeserved) credence to the fears). There were complaints rhat they were "ungrateful" for our WWII support. Most of this was arrant nonsense, but it played well in Peoria.
08-25-2000, 02:12 AM
I'll go with sofaking's comments about mutual indebtedness, tomndebb [as usual], and offer the following, having lived and worked extensively in both places:
1. France's seeming conflict with the US in matters political during the Cold War ("What ? they got Communists in the gubbiment ?") and recently ("What, they harbor Iranians ?"), and:
2. Americans generally figure we own the patent on democracy, forgetting a good deal of history. But we also have always had a good deal of space, and lack of invasions. Imagine each state had its own language, foods, in otherwords a very distinct culture, and the present antipathy of Idahoans for Californicators, Virginians for New Yorkers, etc... might approach the self-protective instinct of the French to retain their language and culture, around since well before the "discovery" of the New World. The French defensiveness about culture (understood as snide or snobbish behavior by Leno, Letterman, and people who inform their politics by TV) is rooted in the startling erosion, in a generation or so, of their standing internationally. I'm not saying that English shouldn't now be the language of diplomacy, or that you don't have an education if you haven't read Montaigne and Rousseau (without whom, in certain ways, the US wouldn't exist), but that the sudden loss causes some tension.
The Wise Use Movement in the West is the closest analogy here, where also just a generation or two ago you could pretty much do what you wanted, and suddenly now ranchers feel hedged in, and lay claim to everything from birthright over US lands to traditional claims to wasteful or destructive practices, and "Damn them Easterner Liberals/Californicators".
08-25-2000, 07:03 AM
I would agree with everything said above, but I don't think Americans hate the French. They just make fun of the French because all they ever hear about them seems a little snobbish and/or weak: surrendered in WWII, won't let American words enter their language, decry the invasion American culture, rude to tourists, separated themselves from NATO.... I think the problem is that Americans don't hear enough about the French. The US is a significant portion of the news in France every night. Americans see France in the news about once a month and it is mostly things that confirm their opinions (French trash McDonald's). If Americans heard more of the events going on in France, they would come to the conclusion that the French are pretty much like themselves, and that their differences, where they exist, are decreasing.
Of course Americans don't hear much about the goings on in any country. The limited information they receive about the French, like the Polish before Solidarity, makes them easy to ridicule.
08-25-2000, 09:03 AM
Several of the above posts note that Americans vilify/mock the French for surrendering in WW II . . . would you American posters be surprised to know that Canadian schoolchildern are taught that Americans were 'Johnny-come-latelys' to both wars, especially WW I, in which Canada lost more troops per capita than any other country. In WW II American firms made a fortune selling arms to both the Axis and the Allies before 1941, while Canadian troops and sailors were fighting in Europe, Asia and Africa.
There are records of American officers refusing to relieve Canadian units at the front in WW I out of fear that the Canadians (who had been in the trenches for 3 years before the Yanks arrived) would turn on their raw recruits in anger.
All this to say that nobody in Canada believes the Amercian military is afraid to fight today, so why let past historical dithering influence modern sentiment? Times were different in 1917 and 1939, no?
08-25-2000, 11:05 AM
Come on, this is easy. I can't tell you how many tourists coming back from Paris complain about the French. That's where the image comes from. I know the rest of France is better than Paris, but how many tourists go to Lyon? Throw in France's obsession for its own language and your off and running. By the way, I once asked a person with a French accent if she was from Canada (I don't live far from there). She sniffed "No! I am the real thing!" I don't think the French are all that impressed with the Quebecois.
08-25-2000, 11:26 AM
All the above is good info, and good reasons for antipathy between the two countries. I was aware of the vast majority of the histories, including the De Gaulle issue which also carries over to French antipathy for the Brits, and vice-cersa. I know that world history as taught in American K-12 is different than world history taught in most of the rest of the world. I have heard from Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and even Danes that the U.S. is considered to have been slow to enter the WW's and is therefore somewhat responsible for much of the damage done in the later stages of the wars, because they would have been over sooner if we had gotten involved sooner. (I won't comment on the reasoning involved in that difference of opinion now, but I have had long discussions about it in the past.)
I also agree with Fernmeldetruppe that is isn't really hate, it's more like a general lack of respect in the media. It bothers me because as mentioned repeatedly above, historically the French, like many other nations, have been allies AND enemies of the U.S. on and off for all of our history. We wouldn't have a history without them.
I still don't see how the things above that caused the antipathy are enough to justify the disrespect shown in the media. Other nations have similar patterns of political behaviour but are not shown similar disrespect. Italy changed sides in both WW's and Germany is seen as the aggressor and responsible party. If politics and wars are the driving force, shouldn't our recently disolved cold war with Eastern Europe have them as the butt of our jokes? If it was strictly a perception of cultural snobishness then wouldn't the Japanese be a target? As I understand it, while it is unlikely one would encounter a rude host in Japan, if you are not born into their culture you are likely to be considered a foreign person forever. Even natives who spend too much time in the U.S. or elsewhere are given a label as a type of foreigner. Japanese executives working in the U.S. are thought to rotate back to Japan every three years or so to prevent this.
To me there doesn't seem to be enough of a difference between France and other nations to justify the continuous low levels of disrespect. I have three alternate explanations that maybe someone can give me feedback on:
(1) It is my perception - since talking with my Danish friend I have been specifically sensitive anything anti-French, much like people who read horoscopes remember only the accurate predictions, and none of the errors; (2) Other nationalities have more successful anti-defamation groups, due to larger concentrations of ex-patriots living in the U.S. (I would be a comedian making anti-French comments in New Orleans would find a somewhat hostile crowd.), and spend more effort on asking media personalities and their writers to stop, (3) It is just a persisting irrational issue, similar to sports team rivalries, which seem to fill the need for an opponent.
I think number 1 is most likely, but all the feedback above seems to dismiss it. I hate "all of the above" solutions, but sometimes that is just the way it is. People are too damn silly.
08-25-2000, 02:42 PM
I've absolutely nothing against the french .. as individuals.
I'd not trust them as a people. But then, I'm British :)
France is a beautiful country, wasted on the french ;)
08-25-2000, 02:48 PM
Has anyone noticed that almost every episode of The Simpsons has a French joke? It seems almost obligatory. I haven't found anything concrete about that, though.
08-25-2000, 03:57 PM
My grandfather was an Army Air Corps pilot in WWII and he completely WIGGED when I told him I was studying French back in middle school. He doesn't trust the French, and he makes that fact very well known whenever someone brings up the French culture, language, etc. In fact, he and my grandmother got in a tiff when my grandmother wanted to visit France in the early '80s. He refused to go, and my mom had to go in his place.
I guess that some WWII veterans might be contributing to the anti-French sentiment. Maybe they pass it down to their kids.
Personally, I'm not anti-French. But I don't think Americans can count on France like we did in the Revolutionary War days. Remember when the U.S. bombed Libya in '86 and Mitterand wouldn't let the planes fly through French airspace?
08-25-2000, 04:09 PM
I still think that if you watch movies and TV shows from the 1930s through the early 1960s, you are not going to find the pervasive appearance of an anti-French attititude. Posing it that way recalls a related issue to my earlier post: Vietnam.
The French fought their Indochina war as an attempt to hold on to the empire. Ike had suggested that if they wanted U.S. support, they had to frame it in terms of Communist containment. When the French finally left, Ike went to the southern division of the country and made good on his own recommendation. As Vietnam became a bigger and bigger war, the French publicly chastised the U.S. on numerous occasions for our involvement. Whether this was a matter of "You wouldn't help us, but now you're going to try it yourselves?" or some other feeling, it was certainly true that France was the loudest group condemning U.S. actions. If this feeling was general throughout the population, and not a manufactured response by the government, it might explain a lot of the person-to-person incidents of perceived rudeness.
The image of the rude French has been around for quite a while. My parents were warned about the rude French, but only encountered two rude people, one waiter and one salesclerk throughout France and Paris. I was warned about the rude French and did not encounter any rude people on multiple visits to Paris and France (in one year-long period--I don't get to fly over each spring, or anything like that.)
However, jokes in which someone mentions France and someone else asks who they surrendered to, this time, are fairly recent. I wonder if South Park, The Simpsons, and a couple of other TV shows have been drumming up more anti-French feeling than is actually widespread in the country (much as "Polish" jokes made a splash across the country while Laugh In was on, then retreated to the Chicago/Detroit/Buffalo/Pittsburgh locations where they had been endemic for years).
08-25-2000, 05:45 PM
I have to agree with tomndebb. I can't cite specific examples, but I have a vague recollection of France, and especially Paris, being held up as an exotic, romantic, polished, erudite place in American television and film up to the 60's (reruns). The whole "ah, Paree!" sort of thing. Now, such gushing affection could only fly if followed by a cutting remark.
However, I think it was the whole Lybia thing that really fanned the flames recently. Here are the brave American boys in blue, going in to fight the evil-dictator-of-the-month. Totally black and white. And here's France displaying obstinacy and fear of reprisal--the sort of behavior Americans detest (when we're not doing it ourselves--see WWII). And, just to underscore our contempt, we "accidentally" send a laser-guided bomb into the French Embassy's flower garden. The whole incident has a "did it in spite of you, you coward" sort of feel to it that makes me a little uncomfortable at times.
I think it was at that point that the contempt grew into its own genre of humor. My guess is that prior to Lybia, there were plenty of Americans who had been turned off by the French, but largely on a personal basis--tourists, war veterans, perhaps businessmen. But after Lybia, all Americans were encouraged to view the French as stubborn, insular, and timid. That's a ripe target for American humor.
What we really need is for a sociologist to hang some numbers on this, somehow.
As an added aside, I swear I read an article this year where John McCain was quoted in the Washington Post as saying something like "that's just one more reason why I hate the French." I can't find it now. Anyone else see that quote?
08-26-2000, 01:44 AM
Anti-French humor definitely predates Libya and The Simpsons. I remember reading numerous anti-French jokes in the National Lampoon, for example, back in the '70's.
08-26-2000, 10:50 AM
I think many have touched on these issues, but I thought it would be useful to state them. The relationship between the US and France is complex and not easily defined in a sentence. We agree with each other on somethings, but not others. Also, neither American nor French opinions are homogeneous. Americans have wide-ranging opinions on free trade, isolationism, military deployments.... The American leadership is particularly divided on issues important to the international community like warhead reduction, green-house gases and the US debt to the UN. It must be quite difficult for non-Americans to square these issues and say "I like Americans" or "I don't like Americans because they think...", but I believe non-Americans accept the situation and think "Americans have done good things and bad things, but America is neither good nor bad".
I think Americans have a hard time with this complexity. They prefer: "You are either with us or against us." No doubt after Lockerbie, some French may believe that their denial of airspace to the Americans for the Libyan raid was justified. Other French still can't believe that their country didn't allow a US flyover. I am sure that this situation is viewed as a tactical difference of opinion at a particular point in time. To many Americans, this was a loyalty test; not a complex international issue. Americans like to categorize countries as friends or enemies: "If you don't agree with us, you are our enemies." The French are classic "non-agree-ers". This allowed them to be labeled "non-friends" and therefore acceptable objects of derision.
Of course this is a generalization. As individuals, Americans are prefectly capable of dealing with these complex issues. However, not having dealt with a lot of French people personally (or not studying the issues), Americans revert to the friend-or-foe classification based on an insufficient sampling of French attitudes.
Without making this any longer, I agree with all three of Engineer Don's causes. #2 probably being the one where the most in-roads can be made: "Better Marketing".
08-26-2000, 01:29 PM
Engineer Don says:
I have heard from Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and even Danes that the U.S. is considered to have been slow to enter the WW's and is therefore somewhat responsible for much of the damage done in the later stages of the wars, because they would have been over sooner if we had gotten involved sooner.
The next time one of my fellow Danes try to argue that point, please feel free to administer a swift kick to the seat of his pants and tell the ungrateful bastard it was from me. Denmark did just about all that France has been accused of: Surrendered with hardly a fight, had a highly collaborative government (at least until '43), helped build our part of the Atlantic wall, sent farm produce south etc. Sad to say, more Danes got killed wearing a German uniform than did in Allied service or the resistance. Not our finest hour - though we did manage to get (most of) the Jews to Sweden, which is about the only thing that makes the sad story even remotely bearable.
"Somewhat responsible", indeed! America did what was needed when it was possible and I for one am grateful.
Sorry about the hijack (and the rant, for that matter...)
08-26-2000, 06:03 PM
Spiny, you guys didn't just get most of the Jews to Switzerland. Dennmark was the only example in WWII where an entire nation worked to rescue a hunted people. And you did it in a matter of days and weeks. That's pretty admirable, in my opinion.
As for collaboration, well, every government under German control had their Quislings.
A subjective question for those with experience farther back than I have: is the current state of French-ragging greater now than it was in 1980? 1975? 1964? 1954?
08-26-2000, 11:54 PM
SofaKing just reminded me of another issue here: the French have some dubious involvement with anti-Semitism, from WW2 back to the Dreyfus Affair, which may have left some lingering bad blood in the US and US media.
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