American Images in Today's France

By Singer, Barnett | Contemporary Review, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

American Images in Today's France

Singer, Barnett, Contemporary Review

A well-worn shibboleth still much alive, and now wrong-headed, has it that France is inveterately anti-American; when, in fact, the country for the most part has never been more pro-American, or certainly in the forty years or so since I began visiting or working there. The decisive victory of Nicolas Sarkozy in the Presidential election in May followed by his party's triumphs in the National Assembly elections in June gives support to my contention. His socialist opponent made much of Sarkozy's pro-American sympathies both in foreign affairs and in his belief in 'Anglo-Saxon' ideas about reforming the French economy. According to the Guardian, 16 May, French commentators saw Sarkozy and his stylish wife as 'very American' and 'a la Kennedy'. Both of them, avid readers of books about the Kennedys, would have taken this as high compliment.

Despite publicized differences in foreign policy, the average French person in a variety of age groups has really bought into recent American trends with a vengeance. And paradoxically, given that this is hardly the healthiest era in American history and civilization, the quite uncritical, sometimes typically French reshaping of an American mentality to the Gallic scene now poses a threat to the future fabric of France's democracy. After September 11, we heard a lot about America as an exporter of democracy, or more perfected democracy, around the world; but in the French case, the snapping up of today's American movies, computer culture, clothes styles, and some of its eating and drinking proclivities has eroded what is typically French about the country, which will inevitably weaken its civilization, especially in the face of current serious threats to its existence.

But first, where does my view of France's recent love affair with American mores fit into the 'literature?' On the whole, it doesn't, and this is partly the nature of who retails the shibboleths. One simplistic starting point for such interpreters takes off from the French government's publicized differences with President Bush on the Iraq war. Then come a whole array of additional cliches that simply regurgitate the putative ways France once seemed to behave vis-a-vis America. Take recent pot-boilers by John J. Miller and Mark Moleskins, Our Oldest Enemy: a History of America's Disastrous Relationship with France, Denis Boyles, Vile France: Fear, Duplicity, Cowardice and Cheese, or Richard Z. Chesnoff's The Arrogance of the French: Why They Can't Stand Us, and Why the Feeling is Mutual, partly based on the fact that his French village neighbours haven't given him the time of day! Certainly anyone with suspicions about French anti-Americanism could point to the sensible book-length prediction by Pierre Biarnes, to the effect that Le XXIe siecle ne sera pas americain; or to critiques of the States after September 11, such as by Gerald Messadie in Mourir pour New York?, not to mention those of the abominable crank, Thierry Meyssan, in his L'Effroyable imposture: 11 septembre 2001, beloved in certain Arab milieus.

But staying in the realm of books, the other side is well represented, too: Genevieve and Philippe Joutard have recently found many Americans on both sides of the Atlantic who love La France, and they think the oft-cited tendentious feelings between these countries are decidedly exaggerated. The venerable Jean-Francois Revel weighs in with his passionate defence of the United States in Anti-Americanism, and Philippe Roger, a professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, treats a long lineage of French anti-Americanism that he believes needs and is now getting much revision on the ground, despite what the 'clerics' keep perpetuating.

My intent is to go at this problem with anything but a hair-splitting approach, repeating that by and large, France in recent years has never been so pro-American; but that paradoxically, this poses a grave problem to the health and future of its democracy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

American Images in Today's France


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.