By Katie Kieffer
Americans want relief from depression, recession and inflation. Poseur Americans are increasingly gravitating towards French culture in an attempt to escape economic doldrums. Touché, even Tiger Woods may consider an escapist move to France in the wake of his admitted affairs.
I first noticed this trend when one of my besties wore a rhinestone-studded Eiffel Tower necklace from popular Forever21. Her bling was cute – but annoying – simultaneously. Why couldn’t it be a bejeweled Chicago Spire or Empire State Building?
A few weeks later, I went to babyGap to buy a baby shower gift. I found an adorable shirt – and upon close inspection – noticed the French translation, “le chat,” embroidered beneath the kitty cat on the shirt. Again, tres cute, but how many American babies need to say “cat” in French before they can say “Mommy” in English?
French culture is permeating American culture. I toss on the radio in my car and I’m greeted by Jesse McCartney singing: “Parlez-vous français? Konichiwa, Come and move in my way!” The beat is catchy, although not exactly hard-core. (I realize McCartney isn’t after a tough-guy image – he wants to be cutesy-romantical and appeal to swooning teenage girls.) Switching the station, I hear Lady GaGa crooning, “Je veux ton amour et je veux ton revenge. Je veux ton amour.” in her hit single, Bad Romance.
I pop into my local bookstore and I’m faced with the option of buying Debra Ollivier’s new book, “What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind.” I think American women are sufficiently sexy on our own, thank you very much, Ms. Ollivier. Maybe Tiger Woods has had enough of them, but I am one American woman who doesn’t regret her birth certificate.
At the box office, I encounter the trend again: I can choose between watching Meryl Streep‘s French-trained chef character in It’s Complicated, or watch Michael Cera fall in love with a girl who has “a love for everything French,” in Youth in Revolt and try to win her over by creating “an alter ego for himself, a smooth-talking and smooth-smoking French bad-boy nihilist, named Francois Dillinger.”
I studied French in high school (by choice) and I appreciate the beauty and romance of the language. I also enjoy many French foods and the charm of French traditions. But, first and foremost, I’m an American. I’ve read a history book or two: If it weren’t for the help of the American allies during World War II, French culture would be history – literally.
France is failing at its own MO: If Al Gore invented the internet, then France invented romance, but it seems the French government has lost trust in its citizens to properly love each other. A new French law – expected to be implemented within six months – will outlaw arguments or rude remarks between spouses and partners. France is not the country America should look to as its cultural trend-setter.
We don’t need to get a “New America” that is more like Europe. France, for instance, is a quaint place to visit, but “quaint” is not the type of society we want to downgrade to. European arts are beautiful and romantic, but European health care is costly and inefficient. Many Europeans come to America for high quality and quick procedures.
The current U.S. Administration and its jet-setting peeps from Copenhagen have other ideas – they think America is in the Stone-Age compared to the man-made global warming enthusiasts overseas, as Rush Limbaugh pointed out.
I think we should leave this French obsession in 2009 and adopt a better trend that will benefit, not ignore, our economy in 2010: Los Angeles interior designer, Peter Dunham forecasts: “We want comforting things. More American pie, less flash in the pan.” What does this “American pie” look like? “In 2010 and beyond, a “made in the U.S.” label will resonate strongly with buyers because people want to strengthen the economy. Buying more local items is also better for the environment,” reports Stacy Downs of McClatchy Newspapers.