My fear had nothing to do with French people. I didn’t know any actual French people. What scared me was the idea of French people I’d gotten from movies and situation comedies....My understanding was that, no matter how hard we tried, the French would never like us, and that’s confusing to an American raised to believe that the citizens of Europe should be grateful for all the wonderful things we’ve done. Things like movies that stereotype the people of France as boors and petty snobs, and little remarks such as “We saved your ass in World War II.”
—David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day
David Sedaris wasn’t granting any interviews before his Missoula appearance, but hopefully he’ll stick around for a little Q and A in the UM University Theatre this Tuesday. Because he’s spent so much time in France, someone is bound to ask Sedaris for his take on this whole big rhubarb over Freedom fries and Freedom toast and what on earth French people actually thought about it.
For instance, do they really buy that the average American has spent the past six months purging himself of any seditious French influence, for example by loudly ordering “egg-folds” instead of omelettes and insisting on calling potpourri “smell-chips?” Almost certainly not, but you never can tell. Because to hear some Americans tell it, the French haven’t done anything for the past 60 years but act insufficiently grateful that their living rooms aren’t still full of Nazis sending secret communiqués to each other.
It was a nice change of pace to read an interview with French melodic hardcore band La Fraction in the most recent issue of punk ’zine Maximumrocknroll, if only because band members bring a slightly different perspective to the debate. An equally narrow perspective, to be sure, but something different just the same. On some level, haven’t most of us been hoping to hear French people say they know it’s not all our (i.e. the people’s) fault?
“It is a fact that the French are hesitant about America,” La Fraction members told interviewer Yannick Lorain (a French-speaking Canadian himself), “both on an ideological level as well as a cultural one. Granted, we surely don’t see much of the good side of the U.S. here in France, but there is no denying the prejudices.
“We read of this funny and rather stupid [Freedom fries] anecdote in the press,” the interview continues. “We generally have a bipolar vision of the U.S; first of all, of the American people [who] found themselves with an administration and a president that wasn’t democratically elected, who took democracy hostage. That evidently brought about a manipulation of public opinion. Unfortunately, in this situation the public found itself a witness to a government it didn’t choose.”
La Fraction formed in 1992 in Paris, and after 11 years the lineup remains the same. They have been on tour in the United States since the beginning of October. To judge from their closing comments in the MRR interview, members have taken up the French/Freedom joke for themselves: “We’re all happy to be able to play our freedom punk for you this fall!”