Saturday, June 24, 2006

Liberté, Egalité, Comédie

So, as Patrick notes, I've been wondering why people find the French to be so insufferable, and why I don't. Actually, I think the last time I heard that the French are rude, it was from a border guard, and he didn't actually say that he'd had bad experiences with the French, but that he had heard that they can be quite rude, or anti-American or whatever.

I was amused to no end when the fake French Bread place at the mall, which is called Bread of France of something like that, posted a huge sign reading: "We support the war in Iraq" because it was clear that they had gotten complaints and had to put the sign up. Somehow the image of an angry patron yelling at the hispanic girls at the fake French bread place for not supporting the war in Iraq cracks me up.

It’s strange to me when people at home tell me they hate the French because I think that French people are some of the funniest people in the world. There’s something very endearing about people who spend their entire Sunday walking around, buying bread, and frowning. And honestly, nobody in the world frowns like French women do. It's like they come out of the womb aloof and frowning. There's this one serious expression that everyone has here, and it's painfully funny. It's like watching a row of old people at church after one of them farted.

Admittedly, they can be overly serious at times. Remember that many of these people were actually raised with both Catholic and Marxist values, which is enough to make anyone a little screwed up. You grow up thinking that every time you masturbate it hurts the working class! But, honestly, hangups aside, the French are just impossible to dislike. How can you hate people whose national identity is wrapped up entirely in bread and accordions?

And their real saving grace is that French people have a sense of how funny they are, but not enough to stop being funny. The French tend to see themselves as the little guy who triumphs in the end. Every other French movie has this theme. Their sense of humor is either very broad or extremely dry. Often, I will see one of them freak out about some minor thing and suddenly realize that they’re just being tongue-in-cheek. Also, they tend to disapprove of everything anyway. So, my conversation with the French scholars Thursday was like this (but, in French)…

Me: I would like to learn to speak French better.

Scholar: You have to work hard at it and you will get better.

Me: I’ve tried to learn from watching TV.

Scholar: No, you can’t watch TV. You will learn slang!

Me: Okay. Maybe I will go to a bar and listen.

Scholar: No, you can’t go to a bar! They cannot speak French there!

Me: Oh, okay.

Scholar: You can’t eat your bread without cheese! Where is your cheese?

And so on. So, I just find it impossible to be insulted by the French. They're just too much fun as people to imagine actually hating them.

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