He's not a friend. He's French.
A French character who is depicted as the villain, the antagonist or someone who's just plain mean. Usually seen in comedies.
Often the French Jerk has just flown in to the United States and meets The Hero
. Upon meeting, the two will go into an argument about whose country is better, with the Frenchman usually winning.
The French Jerk is distinguishable by his obvious arrogance, about himself and/or his country. If they are in some sort of competition, such as a sport tournament, he is The Rival
to The Hero
, and they will always face each other in the final fight. Sometimes, despite the fact that his traits would turn off most people, the Frenchman is popular among his peers and the general public. He openly shares his opinion that the U.S.A. sucks and the French are superior to the U.S.A. and other nations in general.
After the conflict is resolved, however, he often will have grown to love the U.S.A. and isn't as arrogant about himself or his country as he was before. This follows after he is defeated by the Americans or after any interaction between them that resolves the conflict.
French Jerks are often believed not to bathe
Like any stereotype, bears some relationship to reality (namely, what Americans think the French think of Americans) while being mostly wrong (actual
French thoughts on Americans are more along the lines of "constantly-grinning workaholics
who are chronically stiffed on vacation; how and why do they put up with that?"). One possible root in reality is because French etiquette
is more formal and polite than American manners, which are more laidback, and as a result, French people might sometimes be perceived by Americans as arrogant and uptight. French humor does tend to be dark, but France itself (and fellow French) comes in for just as much ribbing as any other target.
Language might be another source of Values Dissonance
here. After all, the French language contains many excessively nasal "ew", "uh", and "eur" sounds, which to the English-speaking ear tend to suggest disgust or snobbishness. The fact that most Americans have historically hailed from the eastern part of North America, where those sounds (inasmuch as they occur in English) tend to be pronounced "oo", "ah", and "euh", respectively, hasn't helped matters.
Additionally, prior to World War One
, the history of English-French relations (and to a slightly
lesser degree, but lasting up to World War II
, French-German relations) can be summed up as a thousand years of trying to conquer each other, either through royal marriage or warfare, and this coloured a lot of English language fiction long before Hollywood
(note that there's a fair number of British examples on this page as well). And the U.S.A. has a curious relationship with France as well — after all, both countries have fought democratic revolutions in roughly the same time, but went different roads afterwards.
It certainly doesn't help that due to Paris's
worldwide prominence and the fact that French cities are so incredibly small in comparison — so much that Paris is literally the only
city with more than one million people — France is often seen as a Land of One City
whose inhabitants happen to be hurried and businesslike, in a similar way to New York, for the simple reason of being in one of the capital cities of the world. Actually, the Parisians are often disliked by the other French who think of them as the quintessential French Jerk, just as certain Americans hate New Yorkers or other big city dwellers.
There's also a very negative view of French tourists in any service industry, who are viewed as overly stingy (especially to service personnel who expect or live on tips- in fact, in France and many other European countries, it isn't customary to tip) and overly cold and uptight.
This is more of a Characterization Trope
, unlike, say, Eagle Land
or Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys
. Compare Stuffy Brit
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Anime and Manga
- France of Axis Powers Hetalia. A Handsome Lech who frequently annoys the other nations with his antics, especially his Sitcom Archnemesis, England (who is somewhat of a Mean Brit himself).
- Patrick Colasour from Mobile Suit Gundam 00. An Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain who always chase the heroes to no avail. In the end, he ends up helping them in the final battle. His name and hair color suggest that he's Irish, though. Regardless, he's the huge Ensemble Dark Horse.
- Perrine H Clostermann from Strike Witches. Mainly, its due to her attitude towards Yoshika born from jealousy of her closeness to Mio. However, she mellows out over the course of the first season.
- Huey Laforet from Baccano!, oh, so much.
- Henri Claytor from Future GPX Cyber Formula is an extreme version of this in ZERO. While he may not be arrogant like other examples, he is a huge jerk, being a Manipulative Bastard, as well as borderline batshit insane, and he also has a deep-seated hatred for the main character. He mellows out somewhat at the end; he's still a jerk, but much less than he used to be.
- Tiger & Bunny's Agnes Joubert is a pretty good example of Everyone Looks Sexier If French. And she's really not very nice. Subverted in the last episode, where she gets her own Big Damn Heroes moment.
- Sophie Montgomery and her mother Jeanne in Lady. Ultimately subverted with Sophie, who shows a more woobie-like side as it's shown that Jeanne manipulates and harrasses her in hopes to get her to inherit her English grandma's fortune, threatening Sophie with abandoning her in France if she fails.
- Marginal Prince gives us Henri-Hugues de Saint Germain, the series' resident stoic Deadpan Snarker. He's relatively silent in general, but when something comes out of his mouth it's often snarkage at others, his favourite target being the American Alfred. Subverted sometimes, when his proverbs and comments veil genuinely valuable lessons/suggestions. He never takes any efford in making them sound nice, though.
- A unique case in Shokugeki No Soma, Shinomiya Kojirou is Japanese but studied and works exclusively in French cuisine. He gets the jerk label early on because he expelled a cooking student because the student had used a citrus based shampoo that he felt might interfere with the presentation of food they hadn't even started preparing yet.
- Most Venusians from Battle Angel Alita. A race of hideous, egg-shaped mutants descended from French space colonists, their dependance on Organic Technology has given them a very callous attitude towards other living things.
- The Cyclone, Pierre Fresson, from Thunderbolts. Vain, egotistical, self-serving, and lecherous to the last.
- You have Georges Batroc, the Leaper, a classic foe of Captain America and a giant dickwad to boot.
- Depending on the Writer. He's a tad egotistical, true, but he's not really a jerk most of the time. He gave up crime after hearing Steve lament the fact none of his enemies ever reformed. In fact, Batroc and Cap have a pretty friendly relationship and he has helped Cap numerous times. Even as a villain, he'll team up with Cap to take on the really vile supervillains.
- Averted in The Boys, in which the Frenchman is probably the nicest, friendliest, most genial guy in the series. He'll crush your skull if you make him mad, but still, by the standards of an Ennis story, stand-up guy.
- Phantasy Star Portable 2 gives us Chelsea, the bubbly "French" robot secretary merc, who, in an aversion, is the nicest character on the space station your character is assigned to.
- Played with in Ratatouille. Collette says at one point, "Sorry to be rude, but we're French", which makes no sense since they are in France. There are some examples of French chauvinism, like the opening narration stating that "although other nations might dispute this fact... the best food in the world is made in France", and Skinner dismissively calling corn dogs "cheap sausages dipped in batter and fried; you know, American."
- Collette's line is "Sorry to be rude, but we're French and it's dinnertime." She was talking to reporters, so it may have been a joke, but she also had a kitchen to get running and Linguini's interview had them running late, so it may not.
- Chef Louie from The Little Mermaid has shades of this - including the obnoxious, nasal "french laugh": Hee hee hee, haw haw haw! He also sings about cutting up and serving fish for dinner, which seems almost sadistic from the point of view of Sebastian.
- LeFrog in Flushed Away. "I find everyone's pain funny but my own. I am French!"
- Meowrice in Gay Purr-ee.
Films - Live-Action
- In Rush Hour 3, the two heroes try to take a taxi from the airport after they land in France. The driver refuses, saying that he does not drive Americans, and begins to list the numerous ways America is second rate to France. After a wild car chase, the taxi driver completely changes his outlook on America, chasing his newfound dream of becoming an American spy, like in the movies in America always show.
- The Rude French Knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- The Merovingian from The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions (although he's a program, and his hat is "decadence" so he chose to sound French, because swearing in it is apparently like "wiping your ass with silk").
- Raiders of the Lost Ark: Belloq, a French archaeologist working for the Nazis. He deserved having his head asplode.
- Despite providing the page quote, Inspector Tarconi from The Transporter series is an aversion, being quite helpful to Frank and rather friendly. When placed into police custody in the sequel, he quickly makes friends with the entire precinct by impressing them with his cooking.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 once riffed a movie called 12 To The Moon, which played this trope deadly straight: the obnoxious French engineer was willing to let the moon aliens freeze North America in ice because it would knock America out of global competition. At which point the scientist from the Soviet Union gave him an Even Evil Has Standards speech (considering this movie was made in the mid 1950s, that's pretty serious). Of course, the character was such an over-the-top French Jerk that Mike and the 'bots didn't have to go far to spoof the trope:
"In France we have better moons than you people!"
- Pascal Sauvage from the film Johnny English lives this trope, especially when he burns someone alive with a flamethrower trap in an elevator.
- In Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm these are plentiful, the film taking place in French-occupied Germany. (Now there's a thought to chew on.)
- The French aren't afraid of satirizing their own jerks, either. In Mr. Hulot's Holiday, most of the tourists and staff staying at the seaside hotel are uptight and disdainful. By the end of the film, they've taken such a dislike to Mr. Hulot (mainly because of him being The Jinx) that they won't even make the effort to say goodbye to him.
- Comedically subverted in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby in the character of Jean Girard - Ricky Bobby reacts to him as if he were a stereotypical French Jerk, but Girard is actually a pretty nice guy in an apparently well-adjusted, loving relationship. It's at the film's climax, in which Ricky Bobby consummates Girard's status as a Worthy Opponent with a very, very, VERY long kiss.
- Tomas in Black Swan gropes, taunts, and generally over exerts Nina to get the best performance he can from her. Considering she's batshit crazy, this has a less than awesome outcome.
- In National Lampoons European Vacation, the waiter the Griswolds run into in Paris is exceptionally rude, telling them he'd serve them dishwater instead of what they ordered (since they "wouldn't know the difference"), and eventually telling them to go fuck themselves.
- In Latter Days, Aaron uses the French reputation for being jerks to defuse an increasingly tense conversation about Mormon beliefs:
Ryder: God hates homos.
Christian: You're gonna come into my house and tell me God hates homosexuals?
Aaron: And the French.
Ryder: God hates the French?
Aaron: Everybody hates the French.
- Twelve To The Moon (1960). Out of the twelve man Multinational Team (including a Russian, and a German whose father was a Nazi war criminal) it's the Frenchman who suggests they let America be frozen by evil Moon aliens so Europe can dominate the world. The German is shocked by this and fights him until the evil Frenchie is knocked out by a red-blooded American.
- The French have been bad guys in every Matthew Reilly book they've been in. In an interview, he notes that he's never been published in France.
- He lampshades this in Hover Car Racer when after having trouble with a famous French racer who is despised by every person outside of France and another less famous French racer the main character asks "is every French person in this sport evil?"
- Harry Potter: Fleur Delacour has a little of this trope when she's first introduced, but the other characters gradually warm up to her.
- Detective Giraud in the Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Links. He gets throughoutly humiliated in the end by
fellow Frenchman Belgian Hercule Poirot. The point here is that Giraud and Poirot use very different investigation methods. Giraud searches the crime scene and its vicinity for any kind of physical evidence, no matter how insignificant. Footprints, cigarette butts, etc. Poirot compares his rival to a police hound. Meanwhile, Poirot calmly contemplates the psychology of the crime and of the various people involved— getting a clearer picture of what is going on and the context of the various evidence.
- An episode of My Name Is Earl had a French character that Earl bullied in grade school. He held a grudge against Earl, and upon seeing him again, knocked Earl out with a headbutt. Near the end of the episode it's revealed that the Frenchman came to America in grade school to flirt with the women, his accent having a much more sexier effect in America than in France, where it's commonplace. After Earl fulfills the Frenchman's purpose for coming, by taking him out to meet the girls he knew from grade school (including one of the teachers) and having sexnote with them, the Frenchman's view of Earl and America as a whole change.
- But then the Frenchman lets it slip that he is in fact married, and now has cheated on his wife with several women. Kinda of Jerk Ass thing to do.
- In The West Wing, the President's youngest daughter took on a French Jerk boyfriend - much to the chagrin of most of the rest of the cast. For most of his run he was just a little bit of a jackass, derided by the gang because he's French but mainly because he knocked Charlie out of the picture. At the end of the fourth season, however, he gives
ecstasy GHB to the daughter, making her kidnapping easier for the perpetrators. Just to pile on the jerkiness, he is written as demanding immunity from prosecution before he'll help US authorities locate her.
- Henri on Cheers, who made no attempt to hide the fact that he was going to steal Woody's girlfriend.
- Sam endured the taunts of that very same self-aggrandizing Frenchman until said Frenchman insulted America. Sam then challenged the Frenchman to see who could collect the most phone numbers from women in the bar. When, out of guilt, Sam opted not to get the phone numbers of the two nice women who would have put his total over the top and thereby lost the contest, the Frenchman cheered, "I win! I win! France wins!!".
- "There's somethin' you never hear!"
- An early episode of 7th Heaven had a rather rude French exchange student who smoked and ruined everyone's illusion regarding romantic French people.
- One episode of The Inbetweeners featured Simon's French exchange partner, Patrice. He was surly and uncommunicative to everyone except Will's love interest Charlotte, whom he slept with instead.
- Michel Gerard of Gilmore Girls is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Marvin Suggs of The Muppet Show is a demented, egocentric jerk who enjoys abusing his Muppaphones for the sake of entertainment.
Guest: Are you going to hurt these adorable living creatures?
Marvin Suggs: Of course-ah! You cannot get mu-sic from dead creatures!
- In an episode of Coupling, one of Susan's clients is a woman named Giselle, who is referred to as "The French Bitch" so much it might as well be her last name. We only see her for a split second at the end of the episode, so whether or not she was an actual bitch is up to the imagination.
- Show up quite frequently on Good Eats, typically representative of "conventional" ways of culinary thinking and/or the restaurant industry.
- The Chameleon in Season 3 of NCIS: Los Angeles is revealed to be a French national in the season finale, although he goes far beyond merely being a jerk.
- Enter, The Dragon of Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters. It's not known whether he is really French or is even human, but he seems to consider himself French and is fluent in the language, with frequent use of Gratuitous French.
- In one episode of The Thin Blue Line, everyone at the police station is forced to attend diversity training, but when they're instructed to arrest an illegal immigrant, they get the wrong guy - causing a major incident because he is actually the European Commissioner for Human Rights (and black.) The man turns out to be a French Jerk and instantly starts complaining about everything in Britain: "You British. No wonder we all hate you. Your chocolate isn't chocolatey enough. Your bananas are too long and bendy. And you insist on eating prawn cocktail crisps despite the fact that we have told you not to!"
- JAG: The ICC prosecutor in "People v. Sec Nav" qualifies.
- The Capitol Steps' song parody "Euro Pest" is about having Euro Disney staffed entirely by French Jerks.
- "The Frog Princess" by The Divine Comedy.
- Eddie Izzard, on the French in his stand-up show "Dress To Kill":
...and France hated them all ‘cause Southern France was collaborating with the Germans, embarrassing! So since then, they've been kind of spiky and kind of, er, French... I'm very positive on the French, my family way back was French, so I go with it, but they are kind of, well, fucking French at times...
"All of Europe, you must do this!"
"Well… we're not gonna! We're gonna have a sandwich."
We play bad guys in Hollywood movies because of the Revolutionary War.
Yes, there’s no two ways about it. And the French, who were on your side in the Revolutionary war, they play more esoteric characters. They have characters who turn up and go,
"My name is Pierre! I come from Paris. I’ve come to have sex with your family."
"Help yourself... because of the debt of honor to General Lafayette."
You know your own history, right? You don't know who he is, do you?! What was it? The Spanish-American War? The French Banana War? What? The Revolutionary War! Hung out with Washington. Lafayette. Street named after him in New York. Forget it!
- French comedian Marcel Lucont uses this as part of his stand-up persona.
- The French Ambassador in Of Thee I Sing.
- Doctor Caius of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.
- Pretty much every (male) French character in Shakespeare, for that matter, though the trope is averted in Alls Well That Ends Well and Loves Labours Lost where nearly all the characters are at least nominally French, and possibly subverted in King Lear, in which the King of France is impressed by Cordelia's honesty and marries her despite her recent disinheritance.
- Played especially straight in Henry V, with the French noblemen being complete and utter jerks. The only exception is Mountjoy the herald (who is not, of course, a noble).
- Not jerks, necessarily. The king is beleaguered and Catherine is completely innocent. Plus, when you consider the pile of BS that is Henry's claim to the throne of France, the nobles' antipathy towards the English invaders is understandable...the Dauphin was always rather contemptuous, though, and not just of the English.
- Lampshaded as a one-shot joke in the second version of Avenue Q's musical number Everyone's A Little Bit Racist:
Princeton: Well, sure, Gary, but lots of people tell black jokes. But I bet you tell jokes about French people, right?
Gary: Yeah, sure I do! Those French people are such assholes.
Princeton: Now don't you think that's a little racist?
- Jean-Paul "JP" Arsenault from the SSX video game series. Self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-serving, and arrogant, JP has a gigantic but fragile ego and is easily unnerved by any hint of disrespect towards himself; Basically, he puts on a Jerkass Façade to hide his severe insecurity. But that doesn't mean he isn't still a jerk; His SSX Blur profile still lists his "trait" as "Arrogant.
- The Spy of Team Fortress 2 fame can be quite unpleasant to everyone else.
- We should point out apart from his domination lines, the Spy is very polite to his teammates, and sometimes (sarcastically) his enemies.
- The Marquis de Singe from Tales of Monkey Island. And is not actually French.
- Captain René Rottingham from Curse seems to be French.
- Cooking Mama for the Wii has pictures of children that represent all the different countries the food originates from. France is the only child that is frowning, it also wears a beret and holds a glass of wine.
- Remy, from the Street Fighter III series. Though, his Jerk attitude might stem from him being a nihilist, not necessarily French. Abel from Street Fighter IV avert this, however.
- George Stobbart's condescending, some-time love rival Andre in the Broken Sword series is arguably this.
- In the Neverwinter Nights mod The Bastard Of Kosigan, the French are the bad guys and most Frenchmen you meet are less than pleasant.
- The King of Fighters gives us Ash Crimson. Snide, condescending, manipulative, and ambushes people when they're at their weakest. However by XIII;, it's revealed he's a subversion.
- Jean Pierre from Fighters History isn't as bad as other examples, but he's still very arrogant and vain.
- The Orlesian Empire from Dragon Age are often depicted in this light, where its seen as being filled with arrogant, complaining nobles who regularly partake in murder, intrigue, and the eating of stinky cheeses.
- Leliana, on the other hand, is one of the sweetest characters in the game (though she does have an unsavory past).
- Subverted with Genetic Memory of Napoleon Bonaparte, who seems like this, but he is really trying to give his wimpy descendant Training from Hell, and seems genuinely pleased when he loses. His soldier pieces on the game board play the trope straight though.
- There is a very smug French croupier at the Pair o'Dice Casino in Leisure Suit Larry 7.
- Mocked in one issue of Penny Arcade, with a one-off appearance by Raven, who is also an arrogant Mac user.
- Pierre, the illegal immigrant to the U.S.A. in C'est la Vie. Just very occassionally his sister Mona, who hs been in the U.S.A. longer and is legally resident.
- Chloe De Sade in Rival Angels is from France, and she is a heel in a world where Pro Wrestling Is Real.
- Alice Boucher of Survival of the Fittest is an example of this trope: one of her biggest regrets about being in America is that she doesn't know any insults in English. Due to Character Development after being put on the island (as well as a change in writer), she grows out of this very quickly though.
- The contributors of That Guy with the Glasses occasionally play up Benzaie as one of these.
- Sad Panda's persona marinades itself in this.
- The character of Pierre Montrois in C'est la Vie. To a lesser extent his sister Mona. both are Parisian exiles in Los Angeles.
- Mr. Rude in The Mr. Men Show. In fact, every dub of him (US, UK, Australia) has him French!
- Explained on The Simpsons. When Mr. Burns steals a Trillion Dollar Bill that was intended to re-build France after WW 2, the DeGaulle knockoff declares: "We will be rude and snooty to [the Americans] forever!"
- Victor of 'Victor and Hugo - Bungler sin Crime.'
- Le Quack, the antagonistic French duck from Courage the Cowardly Dog. "Stupeed Amereecans!"
- And the Napoleon Bonaparte look-alike, who spouts the same catchphrase.
- Antoine the Coyote from Sonic Sat AM who was quite rude to Sonic. He gets Character Development in the Archie comics but never quite got there in the show before it was cancelled.
- ReBoot has Cecil, who was rude to everyone but Dot, his employer.
- Lampshaded on Futurama, with the one-off joke about the "Republic of French Stereotypes." Nobody likes them.
- On Dilbert the title character goes to the dry cleaners only to be abused by the French-sounding owners. When he mentions that he is not there to complain, they say that they're not French, only rude, and it just sounds better with a French accent.
- Jean "Crook" Duprey from Spiral Zone.
- Nanette Manoir from Angela Anaconda is Franco-Canadian rather than French, but otherwise fits this trope perfectly. Although, as the titular character points out quite often to the viewers, Nanette really isn't French at all; she's just faking it because she thinks it makes her sound cultured. Indeed, the Bilingual Bonus is that anyone listening who actually knows French can tell Nanette is often either flat out mistaken or making it up when she uses "French" words, and the plot of one story is an actual French girl (who is far nicer than Nanette is) joins the class and nearly reveals she can't speak a word of French.
- Averted in The Octonauts where the French-accented remipedes initially seem like they're going to be a nuisance to Shellington being wary of him in their cave, but prove to be wholly helpful and actually nice after he passes the literal smell test by leading the team out by smell, upside down at that. Being that it's an education show, real remipedes are actually blind and swim upside down.
- Although in most retellings, Robin Hood is an English Saxon fighting the tyranny of French-descended Normans, in Shrek he inexplicably has a French accent. And is a jerk to boot.