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Even Shakespeare bashed the French.
February 25, 2003 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Even Shakespeare bashed the French. Here's the play in which Willie the Shake indulges in a bit of Frog-bashing.
posted by mrmanley (53 comments total)

 
I didn't know racism was in again.
posted by goethean at 8:37 AM on February 25, 2003


technically, said frog-bashing continues on into this play, then this play, then this play, culminating in the battle of agincourt.

incidentally, the word "frog" appears in none of the henry iv plays, and only once in henry v:

If I could win a lady at leap-frog, or by vaulting into my saddle with my armour on my back, under the correction of bragging be it spoken. I should quickly leap into a wife.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:44 AM on February 25, 2003


goethean:

I don't know that you'd call it racism, since fun is being made of a (purported) national character, not the physical characteristics of any individual. I guess you could call it culture-ism, but that's not very euphonious.
posted by mrmanley at 8:47 AM on February 25, 2003


There has been a lot of mention on MetaFilter lately of a dislike for the French. I don't understand where it comes from, why it seems to go on and on and on. Why are the French picked on? Can anybody explain this to me? Anybody?
posted by ashbury at 8:55 AM on February 25, 2003


All of which goes to prove that frog-bashing requires no actual excuse, and can be enjoyed at any time, with the support of no less an authority than the Swan of Avon.

Yes, this was a historically informative piece, and meant for humor. But I'm a little less cheery for reading it, because it underscores for me once more how nationalism and hatred are being and have been packaged and sold as Fun for the Whole Family.

Haven't we gotten ANY smarter since Shakespeare's time? Debatable.
posted by clever sheep at 9:00 AM on February 25, 2003


There has been a lot of mention on MetaFilter lately of a dislike for the French. I don't understand where it comes from, why it seems to go on and on and on. Why are the French picked on? Can anybody explain this to me? Anybody?

Ashbury, have you been looking at the news lately, are you one of the Americans that gives fuel to the European impression of "Americans being self absorbed and not paying attention to the world outside of the US"?
posted by tomcosgrave at 9:04 AM on February 25, 2003


Why are the French picked on? Can anybody explain this to me? Anybody?

Well, in the case of the English, it's because they're next door.
posted by Summer at 9:15 AM on February 25, 2003


Why are the French picked on? Can anybody explain this to me?

Here's one take on it.

Ashbury, have you been looking at the news lately?

I think what Ashbury specifically wants to know is why the French are being singled out for abuse, whilst other opponents of the war, such as Russia, are left in peace.
posted by Ljubljana at 9:23 AM on February 25, 2003


Why are the French picked on?.

Don't get me started.

Al Bundy sez: "It's good to hate the French!"
posted by mrmanley at 9:24 AM on February 25, 2003


As Summer says, us English types take the piss out of the French all the time. The French pick on the Beligians. They pick on a small village on the cost. There they pick on the guy who runs the bakery.

The Americans are at it because the French refuse to join in the war.
posted by twine42 at 9:25 AM on February 25, 2003


Sheesh. Of course Shakespeare would be up for a little French bashing. There was kind of sort of this whole centuries of war between England and France thing going on.

In a stunning development, it was recently discovered that movies were made in the 1940's that lambasted Germans and Japanese. Even cartoon characters took part in the public ridicule and stereotyping of other nations.

Seriously. How is this in any way relevant to anything, other than the fact that we're NOT at war with France but continue to bash them anyway?
posted by RKB at 9:30 AM on February 25, 2003


Well, not only do the french oppose the war, but they're fairly rude about it, making snide comments not only about the US, but about any country that dares to agree with the US. Chirac has even made veiled threats to refuse some of the Eastern European nations entry into the EU as punishment for supporting US policy. Combine this with the fact that France itself has no qualms about intervening wherever they like, and that they have a great deal of money invested in the current regime, and their policy seems hypocritical to many.

Of course, anti French sentiment has been simmering for years, due to France's lack of recognition for the American defense and liberation of France in WW1, 2, and the cold war, and the reconstruction under the American Marshall Plan.

Other countries may oppose the war, but they usually do it a more agreeable and unbiased manner.
posted by unreason at 9:33 AM on February 25, 2003


If you read enough Shakepeare you will find that his plays often make fun of a number of other countries--he was very much a pro-Brit guy! and then makes fun of Englishmen who visit Italy, France etc and return home to ape the manners of foreign cultures. That sort of thing was not at all unusual at a time when nationalism was taking hold. And of course he was also playing to the likes and dislikes of his audience. He said some not-nice things about blacks, Jews, Turks too--but be careful: it is the character speaking and not the playwright who makes these remarks. Example: Plonious, giving advice to his son, says something about "Be true to tyhself etc" But there is no one in any play or novel more the hypocrite than Polonious. That is, Shake is making fun of him and his self-righteousness and moral bombast.
posted by Postroad at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2003


I dunno - I've always enjoyed making snide remarks about cheese-eating surrender-monkeys, but it almost seems less fun now that there's a "reason." Or maybe I just don't like the bandwagon-jumpers.
posted by nickmark at 9:54 AM on February 25, 2003


tomcosgrave, make no mistake, I am proudly Canadian, which might well explain why I don't understand the dislike of all things French. Yes, I do read the news and I can certainly understand that certain people will deride their decision to not back the current war effort, but as Ljubljana mentions, there are other countries who aren't backing the war who aren't targets. I also understand that France has made some very undiplomatic comments, which wouldn't endear them to pretty much anybody, but I'm talking more about why the French have been targets for decades.

Of course, anti French sentiment has been simmering for years, due to France's lack of recognition for the American defense and liberation of France in WW1, 2, and the cold war, and the reconstruction under the American Marshall Plan.

This is a far better reason to dislike the French, if it's true, and addresses my question far more accurately.

To be devil's advocate, though, doesn't the U.S. have similar attitudes as the French, but perhaps at the opposite end of the spectrum? Perhaps Americans dislike the French because they are so similar?

I've always felt that Shakespeare portrayed what he say in the world around him, as any true artist should. That he would make fun of anybody and everybody comes as no surprise--I'm sure that he snarked on his own people too.
posted by ashbury at 9:56 AM on February 25, 2003


Also, keep in mind that the historical background of tensions between Britain and France is a family quarrel in a sense. The Normans conquered England in 1066, French was the offical court language of England for an extended period after that, and France and England fought many times over disputes about territory and conflicting claims to the throne of France.

One reason for Americans to like the French: they saved our ass during the American Revolution. Our involvement in World War I was acknowledged as paying back the debt we owed the French, as demonstrated by the (then-)famous phrase, "Lafayette, we are here." (The Marquis de Lafayette led the Americans to victory in several battles during the revolution.)
posted by kirkaracha at 10:04 AM on February 25, 2003


RKB, if you read the article by John Derbyshire in the first link, you'll see that at the time Shakespeare wrote his plays, England and France were allies (specifically against the Spanish). True, they had been enemies on and off for centuries up to that point, so there had been plenty of time to develop anti-French stereotypes.

Still, one need not be at direct odds with any particular group to enjoy making fun of them. People are more likely to make fun of the people they see or have to deal with the most often. Thus Georgians and Alabamians making fun of each other all the time -- and there's no particular rivalry there. People here in NYC love making fun of Jerseyites.

The anti-French sentiment may be louder right now because of political frustrations, but it's nothing new.
posted by meep at 10:07 AM on February 25, 2003


due to France's lack of recognition for the American defense and liberation of France in WW1, 2, and the cold war, and the reconstruction under the American Marshall Plan.

Because this particular reason seems to come up again and again, I'm curious:

What the hell? Lack of recognition? That seems extremely generalized and lacking any sort of basis in history. I've seen old newsreels of Marshall Plan pilots in Europe being greeted by swarms of grateful Europeans. What more do you want? It was 60 years ago, for crap's sake. Were you alive then? Do you want them to thank you, specifically? Some sort of memorial, maybe, in your front yard? Oh, and were we looking for thanks? Or maybe we did it because we hate tyranny, not to make the French thank us. By the way, the Jews never thanked us for freeing all of them from the death camps, did they? Hmm.
posted by drinkcoffee at 10:13 AM on February 25, 2003


Question:
Can you all non-french, just, say, GIVE US A BREAK FOR A SECOND?
posted by Sijeka at 10:16 AM on February 25, 2003


Still waiting for the current administration to give back the Statue of Liberty, for more reasons than not liking products from France.
posted by RKB at 10:19 AM on February 25, 2003


"Other countries may oppose the war, but they usually do it a more agreeable and unbiased manner."

I agree, problem is, they're unheard. and quite frankly, i'm sure bush doesn't even know belguim is against it.
posted by Sijeka at 10:21 AM on February 25, 2003


As for Americans, however much they make fun of the French, Paris is one of the most desired destinations for a vacation. So much so that it's a cliche to want to vacation in the City of Lights(...of a thousand synagogues on fire. Fscking anti-semetic, alcoholic, surrender-monkey, frou-frou, truffle-eating bastards.).

We also make fun of Canada, but, really, who doesn't love Canadians? They're so quaint!
posted by stavrogin at 10:23 AM on February 25, 2003


In his youth Dad had had some intimate encounters of the military type with both France, as ally, and Germany, as enemy. Those encounters had left him with an abiding admiration for the Germans and a deep loathing of the French.

It's only anecdotal, but I've heard similar accounts from both sides of my family. Both grandfathers fought in WWII and both repeatedly made it clear the distinct treatment they experienced from Germans versus from the French left them wholly bitter about the French. Is this impression at all documented? I'm curious about whether it's at all common.
posted by ifjuly at 10:26 AM on February 25, 2003


"Still waiting for the current administration to give back the Statue of Liberty, for more reasons than not liking products from France."

Classic! :)
posted by Sijeka at 10:26 AM on February 25, 2003


Say what you will about they French, they'll always have my respect for (a) Lafayette, and (b) farting in King Arthur's general direction.

Can you all non-french, just, say, GIVE US A BREAK FOR A SECOND?

The moment the reverse happens and all you non-Americans give us a break for a second, we'll be happy to oblige :)
posted by UncleFes at 10:39 AM on February 25, 2003


French attitudes towards "The United States" in the abstract are always tempered by a resentment that "The United States" has the gall to presume its way of life, policies and culture are better than anyone else's. (Whether or not it's true seems to be beside the point.) American attitudes towards "The French" in the abstract are always tempered by an awareness of that resentment and an interpretation of it as a Gallic presumption (whether or not it's true seems to be beside the point) the French way of life, policies and culture are better than America's, and presumably anyone else's.

Why this plays out so frequently as adolescent chauvinism is not that apparent to me. Many, if not most, French people are more in love with the idea of America than many Americans I know, and the idea that individual French people don't have an appreciation for their liberation from Nazism appropriate to the historical distance of that event seems absurd to me, based on my exposure to French people. That's just an excuse for a scuffle, fought with slaps and not fists, for the title of "Greatest Example of Democracy."

You'll excuse me if I don't give a crap who thinks they're winning. Let's admit that France does some great stuff, The U.S. does some great stuff, neither of them are perfect, and if we have to make some chauvinist/racist/nationalist jokes as an outlet for our discomfort, let's at least make them funny and not the same worn out crap. I have yet to see any real innovations on that front since the invention of the surrender monkey.
posted by sj at 11:21 AM on February 25, 2003


The "cheese eating surrender monkeys" lost 1.1 million troops during WWI and another 100,000 during WWII. I have been known to make fun of the French (mostly for doing stuff like not allowing allies to do fly-overs during military operations) but the vehemence I have seen displayed lately toward Chirac and his country leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by xyzzy at 11:27 AM on February 25, 2003


Stanford's Geoff Nunberg had an interesting commentary on Fresh Air a couple of weeks ago about France-bashing, especially in the press. He says that the satisfaction comes from the mix of infatuation and exasperation we (meaning the US) have with the French. In bashing the French, you can look down your nose and seem cosmopolitan at the same time. Interesting read.
posted by footballrabi at 11:33 AM on February 25, 2003


problem is, of course anti americanism is like some kind of french tradition here, but it's also an european one now. why do u think we created the Euros for?
Why drawning is all sort of tasteless jokes just when France speak its mind about the war?

More importantly, can a (old, *somehowù respectful when it comes to political and institutional history) country have its say when it comes to international relations without having to face moronic media bashing?

Because surely if Luxembourg was to claim its opposition for the war, Bush and co couldn't care less. Hence Old EU. bullsh!t.
posted by Sijeka at 11:45 AM on February 25, 2003


France is the only country to have withdrawn from NATO....which it later rejoined....

I think that a generation of American policy thinkers were soured on France because of this. A country that was clearly living under an American security umbrella (four US divisions based in Germany, between France and the Warsaw Pact, as well as US naval forces keeping the seas clear for commerce) but withdrew from the alliance, forced the headquarters to be moved to Belgium from Paris (where they were originally placed to appease French nationalist sentiment) etc etc etc.

Additionally, the moralistic tones of Chirac recently become grating when you see thing like an invitation being extended to Robert Mugabe even while the EU has imposed a travel ban on Mugabe.

As to why Americans aren't bashing the other major nations opposed: well, who honestly expects Russia or China to fully support US military moves? And Germany, despite being annoying, appears principled in this debate...and isn't doing things like unilateraly deploying its troops in African nations against the will of the populace (as France is doing in Cote d'Ivoire.)
posted by pjgulliver at 11:56 AM on February 25, 2003


and isn't doing things like unilateraly deploying its troops in African nations against the will of the populace (as France is doing in Cote d'Ivoire.)

You could just as easily say "as the U.S. is doing in South Korea."
posted by ashbury at 12:06 PM on February 25, 2003


but what i wanna know is, since when decisions of a country can be "annoying" ? Just because we don't agree, we're annoying? Just because what the Bush administration does is wrong, we're annoying?

'Scuse me, but was Charles DeGaulle annoying, then? (well he was controversial, i'll give you this, but just because he told the americans to [insert vulgarity here] he was annoying? Just because he wanted France to have its say on precise subjects?
(this has nothing to do with his retarded anti-european comments, btw)


So when a country simply disagree and has the arrogance to enlighten this and come up with different propositions, it's annoying? And deserves to be bashed?

Well then, wonder why anti americanism still remains a big part of our culture then...

Who stole the art of arguing?
posted by Sijeka at 12:28 PM on February 25, 2003


..and i don't see the link between the Iraq conflict and the Côte d'ivoire issue (where i'll gladly admit that France totally f*cked things up in a very totalitarian kind of way.)
posted by Sijeka at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2003


..and i don't see the link between the Iraq conflict and the Côte d'ivoire issue

link? Iraq is the future Côte d'ivoire of the US.
posted by goethean at 12:55 PM on February 25, 2003


I'm afraid it's not that simple.
one thing: histories of both countries are certainly not linked like the cote d'ivoire and france's respective pasts are.
posted by Sijeka at 1:05 PM on February 25, 2003


French people take of their shoes at the drop of a hat, this is inexcusable, especially in close, cramped quarters with strangers such as on airplanes and train compartments. For this alone they deserve man's eternal wrath and scorn.

But anyway France is still one of the best countries on earth... Americans have never (save the snots who started this country) liked the French because the average artless American derides pretension before all things, while the Frenchman has made pretension an artform, and hates artlessness above all.
posted by chaz at 1:21 PM on February 25, 2003


By the way, the Jews never thanked us for freeing all of them from the death camps, did they? Hmm.

I guess when you were watching those newsreels of Marshall Plan pilots you turned it off when they showed films of the emaciated living skeletons who were lucky enough to survive the mass murder of 6 million crawling from their hell to greet and thank with tears and more their liberators. Or maybe you're just trying to paint a whole race of people as ungrateful bastards. No wait, that can't be it because you're arguing against that when it comes to the French.
posted by chris24 at 2:00 PM on February 25, 2003


<nitpicking>

Actually, Shakespeare probably wrote less than ten percent of 1 Henry VI (maybe seven scenes in total), and he almost certainly didn't plot it. It's also inaccurate to describe it as Shakespeare's first commercial success. No one knows how successful it was; no record of performance or audience takings exists, and the thing was probably written after 2 and 3 Henry VI, as a (hastily written; collaborative) way of cashing in.

There's a fair bit of fairly crude race/culture-baiting in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. The Scottish are frequent targets (Edward III), as are the Dutch (The Dutch Courtezan, and on occasion, the Welsh (or maybe that's just Middleton). There's probably less of it in Shakespeare than in some of his contemporaries. If you want crude culture-baiting, try reading Edmond Ironside, or some George Peele. (Or don't -- it's some of the worst dramatic writing ever.)

</nitpicking>
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:26 PM on February 25, 2003


I'm just waiting for next week's installment, in which he describes how The Merchant of Venice makes it a-ok to cast Jews as grasping moneylenders. ('Let me say 'amen' betimes, lest the devil cross my prayer, for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew.')

Lamest. Justification. Ever.

And if being 'rude' and 'annoying' are now to be defining criteria of foreign policy, why hasn't Donald Rumsfeld ritually disembowelled himself yet? Did Clinton pack the maturity and gravitas with the furniture when he moved out of the White House?
posted by riviera at 2:35 PM on February 25, 2003


French-bashing is not racism, since the french is not a homogenous race.
Of course, the same can be said about jew-bashing.

If Israel was opposed to the war, I bet we'd see a lot of funny but "harmless" jokes about jews.
posted by spazzm at 2:41 PM on February 25, 2003


I guess when you were watching those newsreels of Marshall Plan pilots you turned it off when they showed films of the emaciated living skeletons who were lucky enough to survive the mass murder of 6 million crawling from their hell to greet and thank with tears and more their liberators. Or maybe you're just trying to paint a whole race of people as ungrateful bastards.

I'm not trying to speak on behalf of drinkcoffee at all, but what I think he meant is: just what does the US want? Sure, the specific jews thanked the american soldiers, just as the emancipated frenchmen did. I don't think anyone's forgotten what the american intervention meant to the outcome of WWII. But surely that doesn't mean the french (or jews, for that matter) have some sort of a historical debt to pay to the US? Should they say "well, we do think this war's a lousy idea, but since several thousand americans died 60 years ago, it's only fair a similar number of frenchmen go to war to die in Iraq today"?

The american sacrifice in WWII was very significant, but surely it wasn't a loan?
posted by Hjorth at 2:50 PM on February 25, 2003


French women taste just like chicken
posted by Postroad at 3:27 PM on February 25, 2003


Hjorth, I agree it's not a loan. But no one's asking them to go die in Iraq either. 1441 does not require them to commit troops or sacrifice anyone. The coalition that will defeat Saddam if necessary does not need their military. I think people are irritated at France's obstructionism in fulfilling the terms of 1441, which they voted for and seem pretty clear, especially since their reasons seem are just as clouded with self-serving and questionable motives as are typically assigned to the Bush administration.
posted by chris24 at 4:25 PM on February 25, 2003


My own personal feelings here, but I've worked with people from all over the world and I've found the French the hardest to work with. I've started to actively avoid working with French companies because of the difficulties I have had with them in the past. Since then, I've been a major purveyor of French jokes. That is, until lately, now it isn't fun anymore with everyone else doing it.

I just wish that EVERYONE WOULD LAY OFF THE FRENCH SO I CAN HAVE MY FUN BACK!
posted by Plunge at 4:44 PM on February 25, 2003


Not that it is at all related to what Shakespeare had to say about the French (which is what I believe this thread was supposed to be about) let's get the point of 1441 straight. It was, in no uncertain terms, to get inspectors back into Iraq, to allow them time (until the end of February or so, I believe) to report back on their findings and THEN decide what to do about it.

If, during the couple of months that the UN had alloted for the inspections, there was clear and obvious evidence that Iraq was up to nogoodnicks, then "serious consequences" would follow.

The administration knew this was a risk all along. Getting the UN to agree to send weapons inspectors back to Iraq -- even with tersely worded "or elses" -- is one thing. Getting the UN to agree that there is sufficient cause to go to war is another thing entirely, and is the real reason for all of the administration's bashing of anybody who questions the evidence, or wants to slow down the dogs of war.
posted by RKB at 5:10 PM on February 25, 2003


I think France is a great country.

French-bashing is a really old, really stupid meme. To see the reason why people bash the French you only have to look as far as our picture of the stereotypical frenchman: over-cultured, pretentious, effeminate. I've always felt the source was that familiarly-American strain of anti-intellectual and anti-cosmopolitan machismo that we can't seem to shake. It's embarassing; you can tell a lot about someone by what they ridicule in others.

And anyway, if they're supposed to thank us for saving them in WWII, when are we going to thank them for, you know, giving us independence from Britain and all?
posted by Hildago at 5:24 PM on February 25, 2003


Plunge:
I have not worked with people from all over the world, but I've worked with chinese, german, swedish, norwegian, french, australian, aboriginal, malaysian, moroccan, palestinian, israeli, english, american, polish and danish people.

And, surprise surprise, none of the stereotypes we hear are true: The polish are not stupid, the australians are not brash and colonial, the french are not effeminate or pretentious, the english are not snotty - and so on. You get the idea.

Heck, I even like americans.

If you have problems with foreigners, it is likely that those problem stem from yourself and your attitude towards others.
If you find that you don't get along with people, you can either bitch and tell jokes about how crappy they are - or you can shut your hole and bear it.
posted by spazzm at 7:46 PM on February 25, 2003


If you find that you don't get along with people, you can either bitch and tell jokes about how crappy they are - or you can shut your hole and bear it.

Or just not work with them. I've found some stereotypes to be wrong, a few to be right, what do you know. As far as the French I've worked with, three seperate occasions, it was an abysmal failure each time. So, since I'm not in business to fail, it is easier to just avoid working with certain groups in the future. Luckily, I don't have to shut my hole and bear it. I can decide who I want to work with.
posted by Plunge at 8:47 PM on February 25, 2003


Plunge:
I didn't mean that you specifically should "shut your hole", I apologize.

But if you have worked 3 times with french people, and every time it was a failure - shouldn't you at least consider the possibility that part of the blame lies on you and your attitudes to the people you where supposed to work with?
posted by spazzm at 10:28 PM on February 25, 2003


You could just as easily say "as the U.S. is doing in South Korea."

You could just as easily say that, but your analogy would be ridiculously inaccurate.

As far as France-bashing? Bash on. They'd likely return the favor gladly.
posted by hama7 at 11:54 PM on February 25, 2003


Input from a Frenchman in America.
Norman Madarasz shows his francophilia by explaining the true reasons that Chirac has no option but to oppose the war (it has a lot to do with democracy).
On the other hand France's stand has made them surprisingly popular with the majority of the citizens of Europe (old and new). So, this more than compensates in terms of "World Ratings" all the Rush Limbaugh fans and the looney right in the US which has developed such a dislike for all things French.
posted by talos at 1:16 AM on February 26, 2003


Also: apparently, according to Le Monde, not all americans have embraced francophobia, yet.

To expand on riviera's and spazzm's point, how would MeFi react to a similar post with "Jews" in place of "French" and "kikes" instead of "frogs"? How would MeFites then react to the argument that:
I don't know that you'd call it racism, since fun is being made of a (purported) national character, not the physical characteristics of any individual. I guess you could call it culture-ism, but that's not very euphonious.
posted by talos at 1:35 AM on February 26, 2003


Except would it be Jews or Israelies? Plenty of people seem to have no problem at all deriding the last group.

Why is it any different to deride people for where they are from than it is to make fun of them because of what they believe, what they think or what religious organization they belong to? The last is something that is certainly the object of much mirth here.

For some reason, people are getting their shorts in a wad over French based humor... whatever...
posted by Plunge at 7:44 AM on February 26, 2003


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