The Null Device

French villains in Hollywood

One possible side-effect of the recent France-vs.-Texas spat: more French villains in Hollywood films, replacing the usual British-accented bad guys.
The news from Beverly Hills is that producers are telling scriptwriters to 'think French'. This is a relief. For years, a British accent in a mainstream movie served as cinematic shorthand for shiftiness or downright evil. Now we can at least hope for a return to an older cinematic tradition in which the British are loyal sidekicks, chirpy corporals or colonels in the mould of David Niven.
For decades, the US love affair with France was sustained by admiration for its culture, food and wine. A visit to Paris has long been the ultimate stamp of sophistication among the US middle classes. It is hard to pinpoint when things began to change. It was certainly before September 11, as populist politics pursued by Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and now his son, sought to link liberalism with elitism and the hint of foreign conspiracy.

There are 10 comments on "French villains in Hollywood":

Posted by: gjw Thu Feb 13 12:12:28 2003

I cannot believe how much Americans have started hating France just in the last _week_. Hanging out on Metafilter, and the #mefi chat room, there's been nothing but snarky racist comments about the French - people saying they're going to dump their French wine collection, stop watching french films, just this really hard-core bitterness about the fact that a European country _dare_ take a stand against the mighty US.

Posted by: acb Thu Feb 13 12:17:11 2003

I guess the next Jean-Pierre Jeunet film won't be playing in Peoria then.

Posted by: Graham Thu Feb 13 12:28:11 2003

Of course, it was much the same here when the French were doing the nuclear tests.

Posted by: Beth Thu Feb 13 22:47:05 2003

I'm imagining a French Spike on Buffy...

Posted by: gjw Thu Feb 13 22:49:29 2003

Good point, Graham, how quickly I forgot about the nuclear tests. Although in that case the French were exploding atom bombs in the pacific; in this case they're trying to _prevent_ war. Maybe.

Posted by: acb Fri Feb 14 01:05:39 2003

Were there French villains in any 1980s Australian tax-writeoff films?

Posted by: Doug Fri Feb 14 01:43:15 2003

Well, Jean Reno did play an assassin in "The Professional" in '94. I guess we're not allowed to sympathise with his character as an anti-hero any more, huh? (Although he was meant to be an Italian in that film ...)

And can we get some kind of guarantee that Hollywood will cast people with actual French accents in these roles, as opposed to anyone with a non-US accent who wanders in off the street?

Posted by: Doug Fri Feb 14 03:53:05 2003

Wait a minute - the Germans are as anti-war as the French.

Or do US producers think it's somehow kinda tasteless to suggest that the German's should help start a war?

Posted by: acb Fri Feb 14 04:11:52 2003

The Germans aren't permanent security council members. Also, isn't the German Green government rather precarious and likely to be swept away by centre-rightists in the next election?

Posted by: gjw Fri Feb 14 06:27:23 2003

That might depend on how this here war goes. made an interesting point the other week - support for the Greens in Australia might fall away quickly, should Bush's war run quickly and smoothly without too many casualities.