America was a grouping of British colonies. Most of the elite identified with England, its culture, its industry, its political system. The Revolution was a huge wrench and a huge internal conflict. People wanted to be English but the French won the Revolutionary War for us. Literally. We couldn’t have won without them.
The Federalists stayed British and anti-French. The Virginians sought closer ties to France. Then came the French Revolution and the Terror, which totally disillusioned the Francophiles. The Jeffersonians won the political battle; the New Englanders won the cultural battle. Britain, despite the War of 1812, stayed the mother country in Europe. They hated the French because of the hundreds of years of war and that hatred crept into American attitudes. It didn’t help that the French kept going back to monarchy and repression. They were aware of the estrangement, which is why you see gestures like the Statue of Liberty. Private groups made that happen, though, and they never won over the masses in either country.
Except maybe for New Orleans, there is no French culture in the U.S. It’s not a heritage ethnicity the way Italian or Polish or Irish is. There are a handful of French restaurants. Most people couldn’t identify anything particularly French. You need that to build up closeness and good will.
The feeling after WWI was that American boys went off to die in a useless war fought in France. Then it happened again in WWII, only worse, with the French actually surrendering. After the war DeGaulle sought to make France a third power and refused, unlike the British, to be a lapdog of the U.S. Add ignorance and resentment to a deep bed of cultural differences and a stereotype emerges that is seemingly unshakable. France has a bad brand and hasn’t tried seriously within living memory to improve it.
Just like everyone else I found the French to be friendly and receptive when I went to Paris, which is the greatest city I’ve ever visited. The French don’t really care that much about what the U.S. as a nation thinks of them, which is probably their deepest sin.