Quelle Horreur!

Quelle Horreur! – Brief Article

George Kalogerakis

Skyrocketing crime, tacky reality TV, ghetto-blaster fashion–mon Dieu! Is France finally morphing into the U.S. of A.?

THE MOST ENTERTAINING OF LIFE’S three acknowledged certainties–death, taxes, and Gallic condescension–has taken some hits lately. Although the French have never needed anyone’s help to feel superieur–for they are the best! This fact, she is beyond dispute!–their famously mystifying and determinedly selective embrace of American culture has actually strenghthened their snooty hand. Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rourke…Oh, we laughed, but there was always that fleeting, unsettling moment: How long had it been since we’d seen The Disorderly Orderly? By cherry-picking American pop culture so confidently, the French made us feel that they knew what they were doing.

But now they’ve blown it. The French have gone unaccountably American, in a homegrown, unrefined, declasse way. Examine the evidence:

France’s crime rate is on the rise. According to the FBI and France’s interior ministry, last year there were 4,135 crimes per 100,000 residents in the U.S., and 24,244 per 100,000 in France. We’re still ahead in such elite categories as murder and rape, but an unanticipated Gallic gift for cell phone theft–900 such crimes reported per month in Paris alone–shows great promise.

French design houses like Dior and Chanel are doing their part to bring back homeboy chic. The runways for fall were filled with brightly colored sweatshirts (how Times Square) and the ultimate couture accessory: the ghetto blaster.

France’s pop music offerings have traditionally been a few beats shy of a measure (one exception: Serge Gainsbourg). But now French DJs find themselves at the forefront of electronic music. With performers like Dimitri from Paris, Air, Cassius, Daft Punk, and Mirwais, e-music is the hot new French export. Can the bridge-and-Chunnel crowd be fare behind?

Finally, France’s voyeuristic 22-hour-a-day reality TV show, Loft Story, was watched by more than 7 million viewers each episode earlier this year, making it one of the most popular and profitable television shows in France’s history–bigger there than Survivor was in the U.S. In one episode two participants were caught on camera having sex in a swimming pool. That alone can make the preservation of a hard-earned cultural snobbishness a dicey proposition.

Yet there’s hope for those of us who have always enjoyed being looked down upon by the French. The Loft Story phenomenon inspired condemnation, soul-searching, and even protests in the streets of Paris. The French, it seems, are deeply, genuinely embarrassed by the success of something so aggressively lowbrow.

How very … un-American.

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