French-bashing  credit miquelon.org
 French-bashing favorite themes    
 Theme   Typical French jokes
  •  The French always surrender, they are cowards, ....
  • Buy a French rifle on e-bay : never used, dropped once.
  • The last time the French asked for "more proof", it came marching into Paris under a German flag (David Letterman)
  • "For some reason, France and chicken match together" (a commercial campaign by Subway in 2004 about a new chicken sandwich)
  • "French surrender again : this time, it's their cigarettes...": Herald, Everett WA (Jan.2008)
  • Read my editorial about "surrender jokes" and American racism.
  • More to come
  •  The French are ungrateful, we saved them several times, ....
  •  I don't know why people are surprised that France won't help us get Saddam out of Iraq. After all, France wouldn't help us get the Germans out of France (Jay Leno)
  • Read about gratefulness
  • More to come
  •  They are conceited
  • Buy a Frenchman for what he's worth and sell him for what he thinks he's worth
  • More to come
  • They are unreliable
  • (an endless source of French-bashing in the economic and/or British press reporting about the attittude of the French government with its partners regarding the economic and monetary policy of the European Union) (very frankly, I can understand that...)
  •  They are dirty
  •  They put on perfume rather than taking a bath (read a letter about it)
  •  More to come
 Some of the messages sent to the webmaster illustrate some of the stereotypes above.
 Some French-bashers    
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Jay Leno is an endless joker about the French surrendering, smelly, etc.... According to miquelon.org he illustrated in March 2008 "he is an insensitive patronizing buffoon" when he asked actor Ryan Philippe about his first role as a gay teen on daytime TV :"Can you give me your 'gayest look?'". There is no difference between openly mocking sexual orientation, racism and anti-French jokes. Bill O'Reilly does not like France and the French. That is his absolute right. He loves to express it on Fox News at any occasion. Richard Chesnoff hates everything in France and particularly the French. See examples. Why did he choose to buy a house and retire in this hateful country?
 ..and a few examples...   The US press and French-bashing
  • According to Fox host Sean Hannity, the two Socialist Presidents, Francois Hollande and Barack Obama, are expected to work closely together because they share a common goal: “To make each of their country the best possible version of Francennier.” and "There are already signs that Messrs. Obama and Hollande are collaborating, Mr. Hannity said, and the French know a thing or two about collaboration." (Fox News, May6,2012)
  • "Well, there's nothing funnier to me than the French. The French Resistance is probably the biggest mythical joke that ever existed. There were four guys in the French Resistance. They couldn't hand over the Jewish people fast enough. Oh, please, don't tell me about the French. The French have all sorts of secret deals with Saddam and everybody else for two cents a liter. It's an easy target." - James Douglas Muir Leno, Interview with Nikki Finke, LA Weekly.
  • Former Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and candidate to the Republican presidential nomination of 2008, had the unfortunate luck of having his strategy leaked to the Boston Globe in February 2007. How does Mitt Romney plan to discredit Hillary Clinton? By - I kid you not - making her sound French. Mind you, Republicans had some measured success with making Kerry "look French" during the last election. So why not capitalize on Anti-French sentiment for the 2008 bid?
  • "The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey I don't know." --- P.J. O'Rourke (1989). Note " smallish ", " monkey-looking " and " little " cups of coffee as opposed to "large " glasses of whiskey (" big " size for a virile drink and " inside " which seems to be more manly than "outside " which is " stylish " and presumably effeminate).
  • Says Franck Costigiola (Univ.of Rhode Island, Cahiers de l'IHTP N°28, 1994 ) : "...when they describe France, Americans always use words used to describe a fickle woman : emotive , hypersensitive, hysterical, frivolous, unrealistic, unrestrained, too much attracted toward food, drink, sex and love", as opposed to the masculine virtues of the Americans : "...reasonable, calm, pragmatic, efficient and wise...". Read the results of a survey (published by the L.A.Times) about the adjectives associated with the French.

For a change : HOW ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF FRENCH-PRAISING ? Do you remember in 2003 the anti-French newpaper articles ("the French are cowards and traitors"), the freedom fries and the Beaujolais poured into the gutters of New-York after France said that the invasion of Iraq war was a stupid mistake ? I have never read any article saying that France was 100% right and the US 100% wrong ......

 

France and the French, as seen by the U.S. press : zero, except for clichés (fashion, food, strikes) or sensational happenings. Conversely, whether you read about the USA as a superpower, an economic giant, or a place where everyone's running amok with guns, you READ about the U.S.A. every single day ! Among the most familiar themes in the US press:

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? Many French-bashers live in France and enjoy it ! For me, this is amazing. If you hate a country and its inhabitants, how can you happily be among them every day ? The classical (racist) joke is "it's a nice country : too bad there are so many French people around". What these French-bashers like in the country is not only the climate but things that are somehow related to the French (the way of life, the culture, etc...) but they hate to admit it ! For me, this is a shere example of racism or colonialism : you enjoy the landscape, the food, etc... but people are just objects. When you are invited to spend a week-end with friends in their cabin on Lake Tahoe, do you say :"I loved their cabin : too bad they were there"? Among many, the list of French-bashers living in France includes Richard Chesnoff, Richard Perle, etc...

  • French-bashing and business : the California fast-train project in 2015 gives an excellent example of French-bashing. In the call for bid, the legislature demanded that the SNCF (the French railway company, one of the world leaders in fast-trains) apologize for its "participation in the Holocaust" (during the German occupation 1940-1944 of France, deportees were transferred to Germany in its cars, which had been requisitioned by the German Army after the French surrender). Among the other competitors were Siemens from Germany and Hitachi from Japan : nobody demanded them to apologize for the Holocaust and for Pearl-Harbor, but the French competitor had a special treatment, in California as in several other US States.
  • Islam and French-bashing: everything about the so-called Islamic veil and the burkini raises torrents of French-bashing ; for many US medias, the French idea of secularism is just sheer hypocrisy and forbidding visible signs of a religion is the remains of colonialism etc. Read the NYT for multiple examples.
  • Gripes about the French in WWII : Gis' complaints about the French were so numerous that in 1945 the Information and Education Division of the U.S. Occupation Forces published a booklet summarizing, and responding to " 112 Gripes about the French ". (read them). One is tempted to say " Only 112 ? ". The list is an honest and compelling one. Some of the gripes are petty ; all are deeply felt. The Gis list cannot be underestimated. If still today, American tourists are surprised when the French are " nice ", or " helpful " or " not dirty ", it' s because since World War II and before, the image of France and the French was largely formed by the unhappy GI. His beefs on the French returned home with him and were passed them on until they became part of giant Urban Legend whose flames were fanned by Francophobes like Bill O'Reilly.
  • What is the worst anti-French site ? I propose I hate France ! It is filled with hate, prejudices, racism and contains everything you can imagine and more. It is vulgar and not funny but I assume that its author is vulgar and not funny at all. Americans often say that the French are anti-American but I have never seen anything like that in France, by far....
  • See a funny anti-anti-French video of Bill Maher, after the Franco-American crisis about Iraq in 2003
  • However : many criticisms of the French are well-deserved : read my page about irksome France !
  • More to come...
 
  • Obliterated memory ? An American myth : the French refuse to look at their (ugly) past ! For many Americans, even when they know France and the French, it is common wisdom that the French do not want to see the worst aspects of their history like the Vichy government or the Algerian war. For them, only Robert Paxton dared to study the Vichy period and no book and no movie ever mentioned the Algerian war. Very frankly, this is not as true as the New York Times believes, as any serious bibliography or filmography can easily establish, but it is consistent with the image of the French that American media like to maintain (cowards, ungrateful, traitors,etc…). If you watch French TV (instead of Fox News) and read French newspapers (instead of the New York Times), you'll have a more balanced opinion....(this paragraph is under construction : it will be completed with examples)..

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? Among his (many) anti-French statements, Thomas Friedman wrote "(In Europe) Poland is to France what Advil is to pain in the neck." (IHT, Dec.29, 2003). He also said "If France was a stock, I'd sell it". What people who don't read French don't know is that every year there is a plethora of new books by French people deploring the decline of France, criticizing French politicians, analyzing and scrutinizing their country and their countrymen in the most critical way. In truth, the French don't need foreigners to bash the French. They're quite good at doing it themselves (see examples)....

Cyrano de Bergerac : understand the French through a play!

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of the most famous plays of the French theater. Written by Edmond Rostand in 1897, the play (in verse!) has been a constant success since and was made into an excellent film starring Gerard Depardieu (read about it). The character of Cyrano (a historical figure of the 1640s) makes him somehow a quintessential Frenchman : romantic and sentimental, too talkative, aggressive and generous, idealistic and irrational, etc. He dies at the end of the play saying that the the only thing he takes with him as he dies is his "panache". He is unsuccessful in his love for Roxane but he says beautiful words about his love, even unshared. He is very ugly, with a ridiculous enormous nose, but in his most known tirade, after someone makes fun of it, he mocks his own nose in a hyper brilliant very long tirade in which he ridicules his nose with extraordinary funny images and he concludes
Je me le dis moi-meme avec assez de verve
Mais je ne permet pas qu'un autre me le serve.

("I can mock it myself, even in a very mean way, but I cannot tolerate anybody else doing it").
Then he wins the duel with the person who insulted him. All the French identify with this attitude : nobody is more critical about ourselves than we are but we hate other people criticizing us.  

Read about criticizing Americans (as seen by the French)!

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? The first appearance of the phrase "cheese eating surrender monkeys" to refer to the French seems to have been in the New York Times Book Review (Ted Widmer, "The Wayward Media", March 16, 2003), because the French government did not support the (very intelligent...) war on Iraq. How elegant and classy....

 

Sources on French-bashing

In May-June 2011,when the(French) IMF director was prosecuted for alleged rape, the DSK Saga in New-York gave the gutter press a great opportunity for French-bashing...

To related pages : intercultural differences, questions about the French, French attitudes, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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