vendredi 23 novembre 2007

An American education.



Hmmm ... France. What is there to say? The churches have been empty for years. The young are unemployed, hopeless. Marriage is dead, the best hetero relationship the daughters of that nation can hope for is a few years shacked up. The 'new Frenchman' will be what was formerly known as a 'North African' sooner, rather than later due to unbridled and uncontrolled immigration. The elderly are allowed to die off in droves due to a simple natural occurrence known as 'hot weather' during the summer. Four weeks of vacation, no drive to work in the populace. Retire on the State around 50.

Good cheese. Good wine.

How much of France do we wish to emulate??

Hmmm... Al Martino is a Francophile and it shows... Fair to say it just got 13 recommandations for his witty comment. Is Al prejudiced and presumably convinced the French are antiAmericans by virtue of their morality? To the best of my knowledge there are just a few dozens in America who think likewise.

When asked why, the explanation probably will have something to do with French education, myths, and a systematic bias in the representation of America and Americans. The French are simply assumed to put some negative spin in just about everything related to America.

What is odd however is that millions of young French have been exposed to a very positive image of America and Americans ever since the end of WWII through the comic strips they were avidly reading. 

The 6 most famous ones are Buck Danny, Lucky Luke, les Tuniques bleues, Jerry Spring, Blueberry and Steve Warson.

- Buck Danny, started in 1947, was the most pro-American strip you could think of, to the point it would have made George Washington’s mother embarrassed! The series started just after the end of WWII with a recollection of the Pacific war and portrayed 3 heroic American pilots. Staunchly anti-communist, the strip enthralled literally millions of youngsters in the 50s’ and 60s’. Very realistic and incredibly accurately documented, Buck Danny was THE American hero.

- Lucky Luke was another breed of American figure (1948). Non-realistic as opposed to Buck Danny, Lucky Luke the Cowboy has had over 50 instalments with many made into animated movies. Still a hit with French teenagers, Lucky Luke is the cool, good natured American guy, the one everybody wants to be friend with.

- Les Tuniques bleues (”The Blue Tunics”) was started at the end of the 60"s. Set during the Civil War, the series recount the adventures of two rightful and generous American soldiers, depicted in a sympathetic and faithful light and dedicated to the defence of the good old Stars’n Stripes.

- Jerry Spring, another hero of the late XIXth century, probably was the most elaborate of these characters, with a moral dimension that made him the most human of all of them. Modest, Jerry Spring deals with situations where morality is the key issue and fights both good and bad guys. More than 20 albums of his adventures were published between 1954 and 1970. The drawings were sheer masterpieces!

- Lieutenant Blueberry was created in 1963 by the same author as The Adventures of Buck Danny. But times having changed, Blueberry is a former soldier who’s been mistreated by the army and acts on his own. He reflects the disenchantment that the western, as a Hollywood genre, went through in the 60s. Blueberry knows failure, doubt and sometimes edges on despair. Another very human figure from America.

- Steve Warson holds a special rank in this list because he wasn’t so much the hero of a serial but the closest friend of the French hero, Michel Vaillant (1959 and on). A movie featuring their feats was released 9 years ago. The unusual thing about Steve Warson is that he impersonates the wise and clever one as opposed to Michel Vaillant himself who too often acts abruptly and out of anger. Another positive American figure for the young French teenagers.

So, with millions of French having been exposed in their youth to such a positive spin about America and the Americans, and with these heroes still being very popular, is it really likely that the French would be so rabidly anti-American? And has any American teenager ever had the opportunity to read any comic strip with such a positive view of the French? The only one I know of is Pepe le Pew, a stinking womanizer… Talk of a positive image here.

(all of these strips originated from Belgium but France being a much bigger market, this is where they went to stardom)

9 commentaires:

Obob a dit…

Can't lie, I have never heard of those cats. But the love-hate realtionship between our two countries is rather humorous. With Japanese animation the rage to date, maybe you guys on the other side of the pond need to market an genre. You have the intellectual arthouse films, but the real money is the cartoons and teens here. it's all about marketing and creating something that will drive us adults, on papaer at least, nuts

Greg a dit…

Le Pew wasn't just a womanizer - he had hygiene issues. The cartoon is replete with signs in franglish, designed to make you laugh. In the V.O., Le Pew has a thick French accent. It completely mocks the French in every way! Most frenchmen are amazed when I tell them this. How could they miss it??

As to the French and their relationship with America, it really is schizophrenic. There is the subconscious - where the French adore America; and the conscious, where they hate America. If you ask a Frenchman a question about America - the subject is unimportant - he will list a series of pre-set negative images. For example, ask him about health care in America: "Many people have no insurance, and the poor get no medical care." Violence: "Most Americans own guns. America is much more violent than most countries." Unemployment: "Yes it is low, but what good is a job that pays minimum wage with no benefits? Plus, the boss can fire you for no reason." Religion: "There is little or no separation of church and state."

But then ask them which movies they saw last (probably some Hollywood production). Check the sneakers (Nike). Check the jeans (Levis). They love American cars, though you never see any in France. They want to be American in many ways. They drink in our culture, but have no intellectual difficulty criticizing it vigorously.

I like to tell the story of my meal in the McDonald's near the Hotel de Ville, corner of Rue de Rivoli. Two older ladies next to me devour their Royal w/ Cheese and Coca Cola over a conversation on American cultural imperialism. True story, and I think one that says it all.

Anonyme a dit…

Salut Flocon,

Bonne nouvelle pour ton audimat : un avion est rentré, et c'était le mien.

Etchdi

Flocon a dit…

Hi obob

"I have never heard of those cats."
No wonder, these caracters didn't make it in America. The publishers didn't even try (save for Lucky Luke in the 80s', I think).
As mentioned in the post, they were published between (roughly) 1947 and the 70s'. I've lost track of them by now (my teen age is far away...) but Lucky Luke is now a very, very popular hero all through Europe. Probably a little less in south Europe and virtualy unheard of in the UK where the comic strips market is pathetic.
I ain't no specialist of this art form (let's say) but the American production is very different in essence and style from the French one.
Actually, these strips were from Belgium but all the artists had their main source of inspiration from the American strips of the 20s' and 30s' they had been deprived of during the war.

Flocon a dit…

Salut Greg,

"Most frenchmen are amazed when I tell them this."
I'm not surprised here. You know the saying: "americans think the French hate them whereas the French think Americans love them. Both are wrong."
Which, read "backwards" means "Americans hate the Frech whereas the French love Americans..."
So when said French see this Pepe le Pew, they indeed can't believe Americans would portray them in such an unflattering, disrespectful, demeaning and vulgar light.
Innocent French... They present Americans to their youth in only positive tones whereas Americans have only contempt and sneer in their only "French" comic caracter. Ain't life unkind?

"As to the French and their relationship with America, it really is schizophrenic. There is the subconscious - where the French adore America; and the conscious, where they hate America"
Once again, I have to disagree with you here. There's no hate I you always seem to state.
Like all over the world, people take what they like from America and critizise and discard what they dislike. Where's the schizophrenia? Don't you do the same with people around you? That's the way the cookie crumbles as I see it...

Regarding the movies, it's mainly an economic issue. The American industry is dominant the world over and it's also because the productions are generally of good quality.
Sneakers and Jeans (from Genova in Italy) are mere industrial products. It's like saying consumers love America because they use HP computers or Kodak films...
As for the supposed love of the French for American cars??? Renault/Nissan is one of the 5th largest car makers in the world. The "natural" and historical market is France... But you're right, there's a ferocious competition on this market and the American car-makers haven't really made it in France (although I can see Ford escorts etc). Nothing to do with schizophrenia or hatred of America.

As for the incident you relate, these ladies weren't having an atiitude in contradiction with their speech: They were indeed victims of American imperialism... ;-)
Who would be fool enough to have one's meal in a MAcDO with Coca?

"It says it all"
A story involving 2 or even 5 persons don't tell it all, IMHO... ;-)

Thanks for your comment Greg.

Flocon a dit…

Salut Etchdi
Tonton Cristobal est donc de retour!
J'espère que tout s'est bien passé comme tu le désirais.
Oui, mon audimat a connu des hauts (petits) et des bas (beaucoup) ;-)

Si tu as le courage, le temps et l'envie de remonter les "archives" peut-être trouveras-tu quelques choses à ton goût...

Flocon a dit…

Etchdi
Je suis pas malin moi...

"Un avion est rentré et c'était le mien"
L'avait pas vu l'allusion au titre de Buck Danny le Flocon...
Pas malin ce garçon décidément.
Excuse le retard à l'allumage mais c'est très bien trouvé, bravo :lol:

Anonyme a dit…

Let's be practical for a moment. Anyone having recently compared teh output of the French film industry vs. Hollywood, would have no doubt about the quality advantage Franca has over the US. In a similar vein, let's move on to food & wine. In a more genral context, the english language has addopted french for "joie de vivre", wheras for teh average American, quality of life means more money less time and no freinds.
If the French dislike the American way of life, who could possibly balem them?

Flocon a dit…

Anonymous,

I've lost contact with the output both of Hollywood and the French film production so I can't decide about the respective quality of each. The situation may be more balanced than what you suggest, may it not be? (I don't know if such a formula is valid???)

"If the French dislike the American way of life"
Maybe in the end each society prefers its own way of life and is reluctant to be imposed one which has no real cultural roots...