mardi 11 décembre 2007

Memories die hard.

Probably the most sensitive issue Europeans have to deal with when they meet Americans has
to do with the image of America and Americans in the eyes of foreigners. There’s no hiding that many Euros still hold the prejudice of lack of culture, brutality, rudeness as the most salient traits of Americans whereas said Americans very often suspect some haughtiness and superiority complex from Europeans. 

At a time when Europe meant names like Wagner, Rimbaud, Dickens, Rossini, Dostoyevsky and thousands similar landmarks, America was the land where Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, Calamity Jane, the Dalton brothers etc. were the most famous characters of the Nation. To the point that they now belong to “the legend of the West”, so to speak, with innumerable books and films that have been written and directed in order to tell their stories. They seem to have attained some sort of hero’s status in the History of America.

Of course, there were also F. Cooper, E. Poe, H.W. Longfellow but their popularity certainly didn’t compare with that of the aforementioned outlaws.

Other names come to mind such as Buffalo Bill who came touring in Europe as well as P.T. Barnum whose name, in France at least, has nearly become synonymous with Capernaum.
And this American apparent fascination for criminals has endured long into the XXth century. Think Al Capone or Bonnie and Clyde for example… 

All these characters are still very famous in Europe and Americans may be surprise to learn it but the Dalton brothers in particular have been immensely popular since the 50s’ due to a comic strip which started publishing their (fake) adventures in 1957. 

Now, when the XIXth American century is associated in the mind of all Europeans to criminals and cow-boys before philosophers and musicians, no wonder the memory lingers on and recalls on souvenirs dating back to the time when to all European children, America was the land of adventures and reckless characters.

Memories die hard indeed and although America after the XXth century is now at par with Europe when it comes to arts and culture, the souvenir of America in the making will still weigh heavy in the image of the USA abroad.

13 commentaires:

LASunsett a dit…

Hi Flocon,

When I lived in West Germany in the late 70s, I was very surprised to learn that Germans liked country and western music. They even had German artists that sang popular American C&W songs in German.

Their fascination with cowboys usually meant, I would get asked a lot of questions about such legends as you mentioned. Most understood that America was not in the wild wild west era then, but that didn't stop the fascination.

Flocon a dit…


Every now and then there are reports on French TV about parochial associations who also meet for C and W concerts and festivals. They also indulge in scene revivals. I don't know how it compare with Germany.
And I can't recall hearing them singing CW in French...

But the wild west myth is indeed very popular, particularly in the comic strips department.

LASunsett a dit…

//And I can't recall hearing them singing CW in French...//

I wouldn't think that C&W would sound very authentic in French. Come to think of it, I am not sure how authentic it sounded in German. But, try, they did. And it didn't sound too bad. I guess I'd have to hear it to be able to judge.

BTW, I am not the biggest C&W fan. Outside of a few selected songs here and there, it's not a style I am into very much. As you know, I like R&R. It's international and it's good in almost any language.

Anonyme a dit…

Country and Western in France, you say? Well, we have that in store: the Breton "bagadou" ;-)

Anonyme a dit…

Do Americans love outlaws, or do they cherish the underdog? Do Americans relish gangsters, or do they simply deplore the kind of government that places prohibitions on the consumption of alcohol? Was a lawman opposite from an outlaw? Who were the frontiersmen, and how are they distinguished from cowboys. Is “cowboy” poetry really art, and was Frederic Remington really an artist, or just a specter in the mind of a whiskey sodden or peyote smoking American? Does the music of the South and West tell a story about the American experience, or are they just a bunch of ignorant word-slurring rednecks that deserve sympathy from those who prefer tea to beer and relish Baroque symphony over a dueling banjo?

There was a time when the only “justice” available to honest folk came from the serious end of a .45 revolver, but contrary to popular myth, the west was never “out of control,” and few actual events in the manner Louis L’Amour novels and Hollywood films. It did take a while to tame the west — not as long as one might expect — and there were casualties along the way, some innocent, others not. For an excellent history of one cultural group, you may want to read James Webb’s excellent

It might even be interesting to compare the settlement of the American West by European Celts with the early development of present-day France. Same people, different Era, advanced technology. To the extent that Americans relish murder, necktie parties, or the wholesale destruction of communities during the Civil War, you have to understand that Americans are always rooting for the “good guys.” They’re the ones wearing white hats.

Obob a dit…

As long as anyone in France does not believe the Dallas Cowboys are America's Team in football, I don't mind the cowboy image. I draw the line there. And the Packers are a communist regime.
In reality, look at what our athletes wear during the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics, cowboy hats

Flocon a dit…

Salut Etchdi

En veux-tu, en voilà...

(ah ben tu l'as bien cherché. ;-) )

Flocon a dit…


This one's for you.

(I'm ashamed)

Flocon a dit…

Hi obob

"As long as anyone in France does not believe the Dallas Cowboys are America's Team in football, I don't mind the cowboy image."

Fear not obob! :-)

Flocon a dit…

Hi Mustang

Interesting analogy regarding the respective development of our two countries.

Now what time period does the authour refers to when he speaks of early development of present-day France?

Thanks for the link anyway

superfrenchie a dit…

Hi Flocon:

That Sheila video is priceless. Is it C. Jerome I recognized at the banjo? Someone else?

Flocon a dit…

Salut SF

Tu n'as pas reconnu Nino Ferrer?
On en trouve de ces perles sur youtube!

superfrenchie a dit…

Ah Nino Ferrer. "On dirait le Sud...."

Et pourtant, moi qui adore les chanteurs morts!