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"Our foes, the French, it is said, are better lovers than they are fighters. This is true, lads; ask any goat, pig or other farmyard animal."
English General, Medieval II: Total War

The Anglophone stereotype that France sucks at war and surrenders at the drop of a hat... and needs the Anglophone countries to save them!

It is unknown when exactly this stereotype first arose to prominence. France historically was England's, and later the United Kingdom's, oldest and most frequent enemy, which on its own would have certainly already contributed to a negative view of the French in general in the Anglosphere from the Middle Ages onwards. The term itself was coined by writer Ken Keeler on an episode of The Simpsons in 1995. This trope is also so widespread because it jibes with that other major negative stereotype Anglophones have about the French — that they're effeminate.

Generally speaking, the concept that contributes to the perception of this trope was how swiftly France was overrun by German forces in World War II, and from the 1940s to the 1970s were subject to several disasters in their military campaigns, losing large colonial wars in Indochina (to a much weaker force than the Americans faced years later) and Algeria, as well as being strong-armed into withdrawing from Egypt. Of course, the truth is always more complicated. Historically, France has been the prominent battleground of just about every major European war, and they lost more men in combat during World War I than any other nation except Russia and Germany, while being the strongest Allied army for most of it. And then, of course, there's the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period — from the 1790s to 1815, France became a military powerhouse, culminating in the French Empire, under a certain Napoléon Bonaparte, controlling a large swathe of Western Europe and turning Germany, Italy, and Spain into client states, requiring everyone else in Europe to team up to have a chance of beating them. The idea of France always surrendering might even be Newer Than They Think, perhaps only beginning with how quick they surrendered to Nazi Germany during World War II.

It shot back to prominence particularly in the US in 2003 when France refused to support the invasion of Iraq. While many other major nations also voted against it, France for whatever reason came in for a particularly acidic response from American conservatives.

Contrast Gauls with Grenades and Legion of Lost Souls. See also La Résistance.


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  • At some locations for Jimmy John's, a sandwich chain in the United States, one of the signs inside reads, "Bread So French It Must Be Liberated!"
  • A 1998 commercial for Miller High Lifenote  has the narrator open by saying "It's hard to respect a country that had to be bailed out of two big ones in one century"; though he does give France a backhanded compliment on inventing mayonnaise.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The original Code Geass: Akito the Exiled followed this trope (along with promoting stereotypical French snobbishness) with the entire European cast (outside W-0). Then the dub, by applying actual French accents to said characters, made it that much worse.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers: Sort of a Zig-Zagging Trope for France, depending on the time period. England even refers to him by the trope name in the dub.
  • In the dub of Lupin III: Part II, Zenigata makes this reference.
    Zenigata: A glass of cheap fermented grapes, bread you can break your teeth on, and they call this "eating". No wonder they can't win a war! {laughs}
  • Isabelle Of Paris averts this, being set during the Franco-Prussian war post-Battle of Sedan. While the French initially lost the battle to Prussia, Victor and Andréa are skilled military commanders who are willing to fight until their last breath, and Jules and the rest of the Parisians swear to take the Prussians on their own. The main character, Isabelle, works as a spy to help aid France and liberate Paris. Even Geneviève, who's pregnant, vows to defend their country, wanting the children of Paris to have a bright future.
  • In Voltes V, The Boazanian Empirenote  is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to France and the most advanced planet in the entire universe, being aeons ahead of humans in terms of sciences, warfare, technology and education. They are also ruthless in war, colonizing many planets so that they can turn their local populations into slaves, and their Crown Prince is a Blood Knight in mink who subjugates humans to extreme cruelty. In spite of their frilly dresses and Guyliner, the Boazanians are NOT a joke.

    Comic Books 
  • Alt★Hero: Invoked and defied by Jean-Michel Durand. When Captain Europa's appearance causes some of the Paris protesters to lose heart, Durand tells them it's time the French fought back instead of fleeing all the time. Despite being physically outmatched, he faces and beats the Captain, inspiring the nationalists to rout their Antifa opposition.
  • From the pages of Batman Annual, when Bruce Wayne tells the head of the Police Nationale that he wants to set up a Batman in Paris, he responds thus:
    Police Chief: An American billionaire wishes to set up a private franchise of masked vigilantes in the country of...What was the term? "Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys"?
  • Parodied and mocked in Garth Ennis' The Boys. One of the gang, Frenchie (who also averts the French Jerk trope) is accosted in a bar by an American boozehound who mocks Frenchie for France's surrender in World War II and how he should be grateful to the Americans for rescuing him. Frenchie turns around and asks him if that guy even knows the divisions and generals who actually fought in the Battle of France and did the actual liberating, making fun of Americans for living in reflected glory without knowing the names of the real heroes.
  • Crécy; It is pointed out that the French army at the time was considered badass, whereas nobody took the English army seriously. Then the English archers give France one of the most one-sided defeats in History.
    William of Stonham: But these French, the ones running the country and riding after us, are not the cheese-eating surrender monkeys you know. These are the real French, vicious bastards with an inbred sense of entitlement to whatever they see. They've been a frightening, dangerous presence in Europe for hundreds of years. I mean, there's a reason why so many English towns have French names.
  • In Fables, the Big Bad Wolf talks smack about the French:
    Cinderella: Not overly fond of the French, are we?
    Bigby Wolf: I'm not fond of anyone who makes ingratitude a point of national pride. Then again, they're not so much a nation as an unwashed rabble, glued together by an overabundance of cheeses.
  • Justice League of America: Invoked by Guy Gardner's response to a French General's request for help in "Wonder Woman and Justice League America".
    Guy: It sounds like you want us to do your job for you. It figures, you being French and all.
  • In one Punisher storyline that involved, among other things, an illegal black-ops operation selling arms including nukes and the return of the Russian who has breasts now thanks to the hormonal treatments that were part of the process that revived him after Frank decapitated him, there is one French air force colonel who is treated like crap throughout the storyline. Nearly everyone he meets on Grand Nixon Island says that they "hate the French" though they don't give any concrete reasons; they just hate them. To be fair, everyone who says this is a bad guy. Also, the French officer is the only other major character to survive other than Frank, and Frank even lets him leave with the credit for bringing down the operation, i.e., dropping a French nuke on Grand Nixon Island and killing all the aforementioned French-hating bad guys, including their boss General Kreigkopf. He ends up becoming known as a hero and gets promoted to general.
  • In one Simpsons comic, Hank Scorpio was able to conquer France with nothing more than a cheese-melting laser. Note that the Laser was really only able to melt cheese and nothing else.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Antoine D'Coolette. In the first four years of the Archie Comics Sonic series, he was the very epitome of this trope. Until he fell in love with Bunnie Rabbot and took several levels in badass. It got to the point where his old ways were just something he can look back and laugh at himself over. After the Cosmic Retcon, these traits were actually retconned as well, to the point where becomes more of a Cowardly Lion, willing to put his personal fears aside to protect everything and everyone he loves.
    • In some kind of unexpected subversion, Sonic himself seems to be French or of French descent, since his family all have French forenames: Bernadette (Mother), Jules (Father) and Charles (Uncle). That and his middle name is Maurice.
  • The Teen Titans villain Warp gets a lot of mockery over his nationality:
    • In Joker's Last Laugh:
      Joker: That'll do with the strong-arm stuff, Frenchie. After two world wars, everybody knows that you guys are all talk and no action.
    • And again in the Infinite Crisis: Villains United special:
      Dr. Psycho: Now, you're certain you can do this, yes? We're talking about Earth's molten core here, not out to the bistro for croissant and a quick surrender.
  • Ultimate Captain America's "SURRENDER??!! You think this letter on my head stands for France?" This is probably the single most well-known anything that ever occurred in the Ultimate universe.
    • Averted by the Captain America of main continuity during the Winter Soldier arc. While in Paris, he reminisces on fighting alongside the French Resistance, and expresses his deep respect for the French people; while their government surrendered, they never stopped fighting back. (Possible a Take That! to the Ultimate example above.)
    • Also inverted by one of Captain America's main recurring foes, Batroc the Leaper — though he's (generally) evil, and often treated comically, he's consistently brave to the point of recklessness, and considered one of the few normal humans on the planet who can keep Cap at bay.
    • Ultimate Cap later ended up in a French SHIELD base, with two soldiers who take issue with his prejudices. A few seconds later, he slips his cuffs, disarms the soldiers, subdues a third, and one of the tough-talking soldiers tries to surrender. This was supposed to be hypocritical and ironic, but this version of Cap eats heavily-armed platoons for breakfast, much less three normal guys. Surrendering is a perfectly sensible choice.
  • Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's run on X-Force had the title team's former manager try and create a new superhero group based around various absurd Captain Ethnics including a French member who appeared to be an actual monkey whose mutant power was knowing exactly the right moment to surrender (and whose codename was actually Surrender Monkey). The team's backers actually call the manager out on what ridiculous stereotypes all the superheroes are. The French monkey showed up in a later story line and was revealed to be an American agent with the job of creating anti-French sentiment but he went native because of his love of cheese and wine.

    Comic Strips 
  • An Arlo And Janis comic discussing the origins of Cinco de Mayo ended with a shot at the French. The next day, Jimmy Johnson apologized for it on his blog.
    Janis: The French army?
    Arlo: I said it's a minor holiday.
  • The whole "Freedom Fries" debate is spoofed in a FoxTrot strip where Andy asks Paige how her French homework is coming along. Paige responds by just saying "Excuse me??" Andy repeats the question, and gets the same response again. Then she facepalms herself as she realizes what Paige meant:
    Andy: Don't tell me you 've bought into this nonsense also...
    Paige: My Freedom homework is coming along just fine!
  • Bucky of Get Fuzzy is known to give rants to this effect.
    • Other characters get their shots in too:
      Rob: Off he ran, faster than a French border guard with new track shoes and a coupon for cigarettes.

    Fan Works 
  • In author A.A. Pessimal's Discworld series, allusions are made to Discworld history and the sheer number of times "Quirm" has had to, er, arrive at understandings and accomodations with its larger and more martially expansive neighbours in "Überwald" and its allies. these have necessarily involved a certain collaborative component. Just to make the analogy clearer, the action of the Discworld, both in canon and in Pessimal's fanfiction, covers the years 1990-2010. The last time Quirm had to arrive at a mutual understanding with Uberwald was in the Discworld time period 1940-44....
  • Erika the Radical zig-zags this trope in the second 'season'. The French-themed schools of BC Freedom-Maginot issues a joint challenge to the German-themed Kuromorimine, which prompts relentless jokes about this trope from the the latter's team members and engineers. A small, but significant number of French Alliance troops even defect to Kuromorimine to settle personal scores, essentially recreating the Vichy-Free French split. During the match however, Kuromorimine proceeds to eat their words when the French Alliance puts up a very stiff resistance during the match, with sudden circumstances forcing Erika to order a retreat, the first in recent Kuromorimine history.
  • Hagrid and the Skoolgurlz calls the trope out by name when the band goes to Paris.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Abridged: Parodied. Polenareff is intent on defying this trope, but Kakyoin is a lot less concerned with living up to National Stereotypes and more concerned with the two assassins coming after them.
    Polnareff: Non! I am French! We NEVER surrender!
    Kakyoin: Yes, and I'm Japanese, so I've never flown over Pearl Harbor— WE GOTTA GET THE F(bleep) OUTTA HERE!
  • Mass Effect: Human Revolution, being written by a French Canadian, lampoons this several times:
    • Alluded to and promptly subverted in chapter 28.
      Samara had been told this particular breed of human — a Frenchman — tended to cave in under threat of violence,so she attempted to threaten him into letting her through. What Samara didn't know was that Robert St-Germain, before getting involved in the restaurant business, was a member of the Foreign Legion, having served in the Algerian Wastes and Huffman island, and was neither impressed with her threats nor her tasteless cleavage (facts that he was more than happy to inform her about).
    • Also mentioned in chapter 34 from Taggart, a Scot.
      But bloody hell if Taggart was going to surrender to an overgrown frog. It'd be worse then surrendering to the French, he thought.
    • Also mentioned during the space battle over Noveria. Everyone in orbit, save the Normandy, joins in to fight the geth attack. Emphasis is given to the fact that the French are up there fighting as well while the Alliance's Normandy is stuck following the AIA's blackout protocols.
  • Origin Story: After a diplomatic incident involving the illegal arrest of a French ambassador (namely, a Ben Grimm that absolutely refused to be part of the Civil War (2006) and moved to France, and upon his return to the U.S. had his diplomatic immunity disregarded by SHIELD and thus was put in jail for being an unregistered super), President George W. Bush specifically points out that while they might joke about how the French are weak sisters, everyone knows that the truth is that a war between France and the United States would most likely end up in a Pyrrhic Victory for the US. It's also noted that, for all the snideness, French martial prowess is so widely respected that most of the words in the English language relating to warfare and military matters are in fact borrowed from French.
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls: Claudia Moncharmin is incapable of combat and prefers not to get her hands dirty, not that Caius actually minds early on, and is quite frankly all talk and no action. Like a lot of things, this is Played for Drama.

    Film — Animation 
  • In Flushed Away, LeFrog calls his henchfrogs to action. They throw their arms up and yell, "We surrender!", to LeFrog's dismay.
    Le Frog: OK, men! To action!
    Henchfrogs: WE SURRENDER!
    Le Frog: [facepalms] No, not that one, you idiots! The kung fu thing!
  • Valiant: The mice of La Résistance are under-funded, ill-equipped and in some cases stark raving mad, but their skill and courage are never questioned. Also, one would expect that cheese-eating jokes would be easy enough to shoe-horn in, given that the characters are mice, but no, not a one is made.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Battle of Algiers averts it for most part and justifies it when it happens. The leaders of the FLN know that they can't defeat the French by playing nice. In turn, Colonel Philippe Mathieu recognises that the rebels' brutality serves a strategic purpose and responds with brutal tactics of his own. Although the French do give up on Algiers, it is not until after the rebellion in the cities has been defeated and a terrible cost in blood has been extracted.
  • Shown in Casablanca, as the city of Casablanca is part of Vichy France and cooperating with the Nazis. Averted at the end when Captain Louis Renault decides he will be Neutral No Longer, symbolically throws a bottle of Vichy water into the trash and suggests to Rick that they leave Casablanca and join the Free French at Brazzaville.
    • The French also show their Heroic Resolve by defiantly singing "La Marseillaise" and drowning out the Germans in the bar.
  • Catch Me If You Can: Inverted. The French police actually seem very gung-ho about shooting Abagnale on sight. In fact, the French in general have a sense of national pride at least as intense as the American one. As such, they're pretty incensed that an American Con Man like Frank thinks nothing of stealing their money and embarrassing them.
  • Dunkirk features both aversions and a subversion. The French soldiers aren't given much screen time, but they're shown holding the line in the prologue as Tommy escapes to the beach and Commander Bolton mentions several times that the soldiers and tanks are keeping the Germans from getting into the city. The subversion comes when "Gibson" is revealed to be a French soldier impersonating a Brit. Save for Tommy, the British soldiers who got inside the trawler consider him as a coward for taking the clothes and identity of a dead soldier, but the truth is, he's just as desperate to leave the beach as they are, and British soldiers are embarked in priority over French ones. "Gibson" also saved the group's life the night before when the ship they embarked on was sunken by a torpedo, opening them the door as they were trapped inside and drowning.
  • In G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the President of the United States really Zartan in disguise forces the major world powers to abandon nuclear weaponry. When he triggers their missiles simultaneously, France's representative is first to disarm their warheads albeit only doing it after they attempted to leave first in disgust until the President threatened to launch. He's also the last to launch them. In this case, we can argue he's just the less willing to have a nuclear disaster.
  • Johnny English contains a fair amount of French bashing, because the main villain of the movie is French. At one point a British radio host asks his listeners to call him and say what they like about the French. He doesn't receive a single phone call.
    "In my opinion, the only thing the French should be allowed to host is an invasion."
  • In Mars Attacks!, the French President joyfully calls the American President to announce that he has signed a peace treaty to end the war. The American President is forced to listen to his dying screams.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Inverted, where the English knights depend heavily on the strategy "RUN AWAY!"
  • Ocean's Eleven: "They got enough armed personnel to occupy Paris!... OK, bad example."
  • The Patriot (2000): Technically inverted with Major Jean Villeneuve (a composite character representing, among others, the Marquis de La Fayette) fighting alongside the Americans (interestingly he shares a last name with the French admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, who lost the Battle of Trafalgar, although this may not have been intentional). That being said, the revolutionaries bemoan the lack of French assistance throughout the film, though French forces show up with the very end of the film and help them win the Battle of Yorktown.
  • From Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
    Pintel: Parley? Damn to the depths whatever muttonhead thought up parley!
    Captain Jack: That would be the French.
  • The Sorrow and the Pity: The Trope Maker is discussed. It is noted that France was the only one of the several countries that Hitler conquered to make a formal peace with Nazi Germany. While all of the other countries in Hitler's Europe had governments-in-exile in London, France did not. This left de Gaulle and the Free French in an awkward position and undercut their ability to contribute to the the anti-Nazi war effort.
  • From We Were Soldiers:
    General in Hallway: We wouldn't be there if they hadn't already beaten the French Army.
    Maj. General Henry Kinnard: French Army? What's that?
    • The film opens with a French unit during the Indochina War ambushed by Vietminh troops, though it's overwhelmed through surprise and sheer numbers rather than any lack of courage. The Vietminh commander orders his soldiers not to take prisoners so no more French will be sent.

Keep in mind that this section just archives jokes related to this trope as other people tell them, and should NOT be used for arguing about how right or wrong they are.
  • The British often refer to the French army as "the finest army in the world in time of peace".
  • Sort of inverted (or maybe a double one?) by this one.
  • An old joke: "Why are there trees along the Champs-Elysees?" "Because the Nazis like walking in the shade."
  • Another joke:
    Q: How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?
    A: We don't know, they've never tried.
  • Old joke: An ad for a French rifle in the paper. Never fired, once dropped.
  • Another joke: If you're British, raise your hand. If you're French, raise two hands.
  • Similarly: If the French had a Statue of Liberty, it would have both hands up.note 
  • The three rules for French victory: 1) be led by a non-Frenchman, 2) be led by a woman, 3) fight yourself.
  • Why won't the French do "The Wave" at soccer games? It's a tactic reserved only for times of war.
  • Why does every army need a French flag? In case they want to surrender.
  • France's response to German Reunification? They built speed bumps to slow down the panzers.
  • How do you confuse a French soldier? Give him a rifle and ask him to shoot it.
  • Why does France have a Foreign Legion? They could not find any Frenchmen to fight.
  • A British officer and a French officer are talking after one of their 18th century wars. The Frenchman asks "So, why do you British wear those ridiculous red coats? We can see you coming from a mile away in those things". The Briton replies "Well, it's for morale, you see. Whenever our men get shot, the people around them can't see the blood, because it blends into the fabric". The Frenchman stops, thinks for a second, and says "Brilliant! From now on, the French Army's uniform will include brown pants!"
  • French battle tanks have four gears: reverse, reverse, reverse, and forward in case they get attacked from behind.
  • Why do the French install mirrors in their tanks? So that they can watch the battle when they run away.
  • Disneyland Paris had to be shut down recently. Why? Because when the fireworks went off, all the French ran out in the streets and surrendered.
  • An elderly British gentleman visits France on holiday and is immediately asked to turn over his passport. He admits that he doesn't have it with him. Bemused, the French man behind the counter asks him: "Monsieur, have you been to France before?" "Yes," the old Brit replies. A smirk develops on the Frenchman's face. "And you did not bring your passport then?" He shakes his head "There was nobody around to give it to." "Impossible! The British have always had to show their passports when entering France!" The old man takes a long, hard look at the Frenchman before quietly telling him, "Well, the last time I was here, I came ashore on Gold Beach in June 1944, and I couldn't find any fucking Frenchmen to show it to."
  • Cosmic radiation has bleached the US flag that was implanted on the moon's surface. Since it's just a White Flag now it suggests that the first on the moon were the French
  • A boy was upstairs playing on his computer when his granddad came into the room and sat down on the bed. "What are you doing?" asked the granddad. "You're 18 years old and wasting your life! When I was 18 I went to Paris, I went to the Moulin Rouge, drank all night, had my way with the dancers, pissed on the barman and left without paying! Now that is how to have a good time!" A week later, the grandfather comes to visit again. He finds the boy still in his room, but with a broken arm in plaster, 2 black eyes and missing all his front teeth. "What happened?", he asked. "Oh granddad!", replied the boy. "I did what you did! I went to Paris, went to the Moulin Rouge, drank all night, had my way with the dancers, pissed all over the barman, and he beat the crap out of me!" "Oh dear!", replied the granddad. "Who did you go with?" "Just some friends, why? Who did you go with?" "Oh!" replied the granddad. "The Third Panzer Division."
  • Blackpool is targeting French tourists. The Elysee Palace has issued an unconditional surrender.
  • Parkour-the French art of running away.
  • Now that the French have started committing troops to Iraq, they can get on with the business of introducing their new flag. It's a white cross on a white background (this references the Merchant Flag of the Kingdom of France, a white cross on a blue field).note 
  • A song sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques"note  by British military cadets invoking much older defeats than most of these:
  • If history is Written by the Winners, why is there French history?

  • One of Dave Barry's books mentioned that his then-toddler son had somehow amassed enough toy guns to conquer a toy nation the size of France. "Come to think of it, he probably could have conquered the real France."
    • He stings both France and Italy in the WWII section of Dave Barry Slept Here, describing France's defeat at the end of an epic 35-minute battle, during which the Italian army "penetrated nearly two hundred feet into southern France before their truck broke down."
  • Played straight in one sense, but simultaneously Inverted in the Larry Bond book Cauldron, where the French along with the Germans are the bad guys in a militant Franco-Germanic economic pact out to take over Europe. There are hardly French characters who get any sympathy, with the majority either mustache-twirling evil or just staggeringly incompetent, with the entire French military command (that is, anyone from a Lieutenant on-up) playing The Neidermeyer who fail almost every military action they're involved in, especially after America and England get involved. This is in sharp contrast to the Germans, who are portrayed much more sympathetically and are generally depicted as excellent and effective soldiers saddled with making up for the incompetence of their French partners, meaning it's the Americans and English beating them to a pulp and the Germans who have to come and attempt to save them.
    Two things were disastrously clear, though. First, the damned French were beaten and were retreating fast. And second, Montagne and his underlings expected the 19th Panzergrenadier to save their bacon—again.
  • This stereotype is often cited by sarcastic Harry Potter fans who note the discrepancy between Fleur Delacour's reputation and credentials and her actual on-screen performance. Cleolinda Jones lampshades hers in the Movies in Fifteen Minutes summary of Goblet of Fire.
    Obligatory French joke: And the French champion has surrendered her egg right out from under the Welsh Green!
  • Discordia: Averted. When one of the aliens convinces the French people to reenact the French Revolution and bring back the guillotine, the surviving public officials flee to Germany. The French then threaten Germany to hand over the officials, pointing out that, unlike Germany, France is a nuclear power.
  • Downplayed in Horatio Hornblower. The French are often portrayed as less competent than British (which they were; too many of the officers of the old Bourbon navy were decapitated) but not as less brave.
  • Invoked explicitly in Tucker Max's book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
    "You fucking cheese-eating surrender monkey. I thought someone stunk around here. So if I start speaking German can I push you around and take all your stuff? Those hairy fucking stink-bags would be speaking Kraut right now if it wasn’t for us, and they aren’t the least bit appreciative. I hope they all fucking die, and your frog-sympathizing ass with them.”
  • Played with in the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn. While the French intelligence service often is mentioned as a valuable ally to the main characters several times throughout the series, in Consent to Kill, a character (albeit a German villain) laments the decline of France and attributes this to the nation's supposedly withering martial abilities.
  • The Onion's book "Our Dumb Century" discusses the French in its World War II articles: They surrender after a "Valiant Ten-Minute Struggle," then after Pearl Harbor, then again after Nagasaki.
    • In fact, pretty much every war that's mentioned in the book includes a headline somewhere on the page reading "France Surrenders." Even if France isn't involved.
  • To quote Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc:
    "When have French soldiers won a victory? Scotch soldiers, under the French flag, have won a barren fight or two a few years back, but I am speaking of French ones. Since eight thousand English-men nearly annihilated sixty thousand Frenchmen a dozen years ago at Agincourt, French courage has been paralysed. And so it is a common saying today, that if you confront fifty French soldiers with five English ones, the French will run."
  • In John Ringo works mentioning the French, at times he has kind words to say about their soldiers (like the ones that kicked ass in the expeditionary forces of the Legacy of the Aldenata), but never about their political leadership.
  • This trope is explicitly defied by the French in World War Z, with disastrous results. The French felt that, after nearly a century of military humiliations (World War II, Indochina, Algeria), they needed to win a triumphant victory against the zombies in order to restore the nation's honor, and sent waves of soldiers into the Parisian catacombs to kill the quarter-million zombies down there. The reclamation of Paris was one of the bloodiest battles of the Zombie War.
    • The other common target of this trope, the Italians, get less page-time, but they apparently managed to hold most of northern Italy and kept enough of their infrastructure to be able to export food and weapons (the air rifles the French use are explicitly of Italian make).
  • World Without End: Subverted with an English character who goes off to France to fight in the Hundred Year's War. When he comes back after a successful campaign, his family gleefully engages in some trash talk about French courage and martial valor. But he immediately cuts that off and points out that the French he fought were every bit as brave as the English and fought ferociously — he attributes the success of the English to superior weapons and tactics.
  • Complaints about the French were so common during the time United States troops were stationed there in World War II that this pamphlet was written.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 'Allo 'Allo!, the legendary sitcom, is all about the French resistance and how cowardly Rene, the main "hero", is, and mentions the French surrendering approximately once per two episodes. A majority of the French cast, however, don't fit the trope.
  • The Black Adder series makes a few off-hand reference to this, but none quite as prominent as in Blackadder: Back & Forth when the titular character travels through time to the Battle of Waterloo and has Napoleon portrayed as being strategically-inept, with another French soldier essentially stating that all of England's stereotypes of the French are quite true. Though apparently without The Duke of Wellington leading the Brits, the French would have won, at least according to this series.
  • The Borgias subverts this to its fullest extent by presenting the French army as a pack of bloodthirsty, highly skilled warriors who've recently invented some extremely grisly war machines. The warfare among Italian cities, based largely on condottieri mercenaries, had an element of playacting as mercenary soldiers did their best to not suffer casualties so that they could collect their pay and go home to spend it. The French forces under Charles VIII that intervened in Italy at the end of 15th century, on the other hand, were a tough, warlike, and hard-fighting army supported by revolutionary artillery equipment and tactics.
  • Inverted in Deadliest Warrior. French warriors are always described and depicted as extremely badass, especially the French Musketeers who are described as crazy, fancy Chick Magnet medieval special forces, and back up their description by destroying their Ming Warrior opponents by 670-230 in the simulation. Not to mention Joan of Arc and Napoleon Bonaparte, who, respectively, defeats William the Conqueror, and loses against George Washington by a margin so close that any sane man would call it a tie. The French Foreign Legion are also shown as awesome, even though the Gurkhas kick their asses. It also doesn't count as the French Foreign Legion is an Army of Thieves and Whores made of men from all over the world; one of the experts brought in who was a former Legionnaire is an Australian.
  • When the actor Ed O'Neill later starred in the 2003 update of Dragnet, he was investigating a murder, and interviewing a latina maid. Her boss (who was having an affair with her) said, "You wouldn't be interviewing her if she was French!". Sgt. Friday replied, "Well, I have a thing about the French."
  • Subverted in Father Ted. Father Jack, who is undoubtedly not a coward, always stands for La Marseillaise and demands everyone else do so as well.
  • Al Bundy liked to make jokes like these on Married... with Children, for instance noting how another character ran away "like a Frenchman from a cap gun."
  • Hilariously parodied by QI, in which a panelist calls Americans 'Burger eating invasion monkeys'. Naturally, given the nature of QI, the show pointed out the rather impressive military history France actually has contrary to the stereotype.
  • In 1990, Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" followed up the news that Germany was reunifying with the line, "Believe me, a lot of countries are very nervous about this. France, for example, offered to surrender."
  • Mike of Spaced once attempted a one-man invasion of Paris with a stolen Chieftain tank. He only failed because he decided to stop off at Euro Disney on the way.
  • One episode of Spin City focused on the Mayor trying to get Paris to be New York's sister city.
    Paul: Sir, do you really think you can take Paris?
    Mayor: Why not? It's only been done by everyone who's ever tried.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Captain Picard, despite Not Even Bothering with the Accent, tells Troi "Signal the following in all languages and on all frequencies: 'We surrender.'" In the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint", no less. In fairness, this was his first encounter with Q. Picard is depicted as quite unwilling to surrender in virtually any reasonable circumstance.
    • Aggressively averted in Yesterday's Enterprise, where an alternate timeline version of Picard leaps over a railing in the middle of a losing battle to personally take control of the tactical station. Then he delivers one of the most badass lines in all of Star Trek:
      Klingon Commander: Federation ship, surrender and prepare to be boarded.
      Picard: (darkly) That'll be the day.
    • Inverted in Star Trek: First Contact, where Captain Picard is the only member of Enterprise's crew who doesn't want to destroy his ship to prevent a Borg victory. He gives another of the most badass—if slightly delusional—lines in Trek:
      Picard: ...The line must be drawn here! This far and no further! And I will make them pay for what they've done.
      • Then, when he gets called on it by Lily, he comes down from his delusion, activates the self-destruct timer... and then stays on board while everyone else leaves so he can rescue Data.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Picard again. Early on in season 2, when a Borg queen transports aboard the Stargazer and begins to assimilate the entire fleet (which has been enhanced with Borg tech), Picard uses his reinstated admiral credentials to activate self-destruct. He only survives because Q intervenes and transports him and his associates to an alternate universe.
  • In one episode from the final season of That '70s Show, Red and Kitty, having decided to move to Florida, are showing the house to a bunch of different families. Kitty mentions that a family with the last name Dubois is coming to view the house. Red, in his typical fashion, complains about it.
    Red: Dubois? Kitty, I don't want Germans moving in here!
    Kitty: I think they're French.
    Red: Yes, and if they buy this house, they'll give it to the first German who knocks on the door!
  • Jeremy Clarkson, one of the presenters of Top Gear is given to using the phrase "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys" when he refers to the French. He'll also modify the phrase when appropriate; e.g., during the Val Thorens ice race the other drivers were "cheese-eating sideways monkeys."
  • Unhappily Ever After: Mr. Floppy lists all the countries he'd like to nuke. Jack asks, "Can we kaboom France?" Floppy: "We don't have to — France will surrender with a phone call."
  • Completely inverted in The Walking Dead. According to Dr. Jenner, the guy in the CDC bunker in the first season finale, France was not only the last country to fall to the zombies, but the French scientists kept working on a cure for The Virus until the end while the American CDC scientists abandoned their work and ran for the hills.
  • The West Wing
    • In "Commencement", the penultimate episode of Season 4, Wes, a member of the Secret Service detail, is being transferred to France, and everyone teases him about how cushy the job will be; Admiral Fitzwallace even tells him to watch out for all of the dangerous mimes.
    • There are other references throughout the series, such as when the White House negotiates with the French government for the return of a painting to its rightful owner and a British character notes that France "promptly surrendered". Another time, President Bartlet is about to go to war in Africa and is denied access to French airspace, so he tells Leo to "tell those poncy hairdressers I'm going to shove a loaf of bread up their ass!"
  • An honourable mention should go to the BBC documentary The World At War from 1973. 23 episodes covered the entire span of World War II, and episode three was titled France Falls. This trope might as well be the title of that episode, because the narrative does little to hide the lousy French planning, the lack of unity before the war, or anything else. One scene shows archive footage of the many thousand French soldiers plainly walking away from the trenches, effectively surrendering. Because this series was a British production, the trope came in with force.

    New Media 

  • Bleak Expectations: France is portrayed as a country of jerks, whose surprisingly well-dressed anti-British lynch mobs can be driven off by one man firing a musket into the air, if only temporarily.
    The Scarlet Pimple: French people startle easily, but they'll soon be back.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's Halloween Special, Minding the Monsters, this is invoked by Peanut, who is dressed as a Batman-type superhero for Halloween and who, at one point, mentions several other superheroes he either likes or dislikes:
    Peanut: Sometimes he [Captain America] teams up with the fearsome fighter from France!
    Jeff: What does he do?
    Peanut: Just bitch, waits for help, then surrenders.
  • Dylan Moran referenced the trope by name while discussing the stereotypes people have of various countries during his show Monster.
    Moran: "They (Americans) were very, very anti-French. They built up on this image of the weak... Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys was the phrase... which is kinda good, you know."


    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Armed and Dangerous: One cutscene has Rexus using his Jedi Mind Trick powers to cause two mooks to surrender by convincing them they were French.
  • Call Of Duty 3: Corporal Keith remarks that the French are only good at "kissin' and surrenderin'" and Major Ingram calls the French Resistance an "oxymoron". The game itself completely averts this trope. The British SAS fight alongside French resistance members who are very capable and courageous themselves and save the lives of the British soldiers several times.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2:
    • Inverted in the Soviet Campaign; the French leadership are first among the Europeans to rally with the Americans against the Soviets. The Soviets are able to wreck Paris with a small force but that occurs because their armies were defending their borders. The Allied campaign also inverts it — while the European Council stays out of the initial fighting, this is because the Soviets are threatening to use their nukes on their countries, and it is the French representative that is the first to assure the US President they are not indifferent to the plight of the US, and offers to take command of the operation to neutralize the primary nuclear arsenal on the Soviet border. Given that in this universe Hitler became Ret-Gone thanks to Einstein and World War 2 was butterflied away, the more hawkish attitude of the French is justified enough in a game rather on the silly end of the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness.
    • Multiplayer lampshades this trope. If a player hits the function keys F1-F10 while playing, a country-specific voiceover will ask allies for help or will taunt the enemy. F6 sends a taunt calling on the opposing player(s) to surrender. If playing as France, the voice-over says "Surrender! No, I don't mean I surrender, I mean you surrender!"
  • Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories: Tink has a French accent (at least in the US dub). He is also a womanizing Dirty Coward... and a frog.note 
  • Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords: You will be called this trope by name if you don't refuse another empire's attempts to extort money from you.
  • Hearts of Iron:
    • Hearts of Iron II covers World War 2, where, as noted in the trope description, France surrendered to the Germans early in the war. Consequently, France is typically steamrolled by Germany in short order.
    • Hearts of Iron III: France is usually defeated by Germany within a few weeks, as they lack the industrial capacity, leadership, and manpower to stand up to Germany without a skilled player taking the reigns. In the 1940 start, they don't even have medium armor divisions.
    • Hearts of Iron IV: France starts the game off with a spirit called "Disjointed Government", which among other debuffsnote , halves the surrender threshold of Francenote , meaning that if any other country takes Paris and a few other cities, France will surrender - which is easier than you might think, since the game has Paratroopers, and they only require a few seconds of air superiority to take off. On historical the French AI will avoid removing this spiritnote , but if the French AI goes down a path that has France change ideologies or France is controlled by a player, France can avert this trope.
  • Odium: Thiery Trantigne is a coward, to the point where he screams in panic how they're all going to die even when facing the most pathetic of monsters. He also once expresses disgust at the thought of risking his life for a teammate.
  • Pain is about launching a ragdoll into various urban and natural landscapes and watching him and his surroundings pay the price for your sadism. Firing your ragdoll at or even near the mime in the default city area prompts him to run away, arms raised, while screaming "I surrender! I surrender!"
  • Pokémon Black and White: Serperior is based off a snake and a French king. Its offensive stats are average, but it has high Speed and Defensive stats. In its normal form, it performs an adequate job providing support for the team and annoying the opponent. When it comes from the Dream World, however, it becomes amazing, turning into a nearly unstoppable Lightning Bruiser because its Special Attack doubles from using a 140-base power STAB move. Overall, Serperior is a subversion of this trope.
  • Punch-Out!!: Glass Joe both plays this trope straight and inverts it. Played straight because he has a record of one win and 99 losses. Inverted in that despite his record, he refuses to surrender (retire), and he'll gladly go through a fight until his inevitable defeat. This also applies to his student, Gabby Jay, who has the exact same record as him. His only victory was against Glass Joe.
  • Runaway 2: The Dream of the Turtle: Inverted. When the protagonist, who is disguised as a Frenchman, meets an army colonel, the colonel starts lecturing him on how many great generals France had: Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar, Don Quixote...
  • The Simpsons Game has a level where Bart and Homer have to collect white flags in a French village during World War II. The villagers, of course, do nothing but run away from them, and a PA says things like "Make sure your flag is white, not off-white or eggshell or creme" and "By surrendering now, we will encourage our allies to fight even harder". The game is also the Trope Namer.
  • The Sims 3: One of the books you can buy in the French holiday town is "The White Flag of Victory".
  • Team Fortress 2: Zig-zagged. The Spy class is stereotypically French with an outrageous accent, and his "Meet The" video portrays the RED Spy as a Magnificent Bastard who seduced the BLU Scout's mother and single-handedly eliminated just about every member of the BLU team. Most of the other classes' domination and revenge taunts insult him for being a sneaky coward whose only skill is Chronic Backstabbing Disorder — which accurately, if insultingly, summarizes how you're supposed to play the Spy. However, only the Soldier invokes the trope directly: some of his lines refer to the Spy as a 'rifle dropping coward' and white flags.
  • Tropico 5: One of the research options is "White Flag". Your advisor specifically mentions that you stole it from the French, as it was their only military invention of any importance. The French version is an inversion: the flavour text got changed to this. note 
  • World of Tanks: Expect a lot of jokes about this if French tanks are on the field in the beginning of the battle, that is before the actual battle happens. After this it's subverted to some degree: the later French tanks are some of the fastest on field and thus the first to engage enemies, often soon enough those didn't expect fire and are nowhere near cover, not to mention they can dish out a lot of damage in short time, killing you before you can even say cheese, but lacking armor for their speed and firepower, they will surrender fast if you so much as point your gun at them.

  • In Casey and Andy, Casey's secret persona of Dr. X is bent on conquering the world. None of his plans work and he sits dejected in his war room and sighs, then inspiration strikes, he calls up France and declares war on them, they immediately surrender.
    • Later, France pesters Dr. X on every little detail of how the country should be run. He tells them to do what they would have done normally. The next day's newspaper has the headline "France surrenders to Germany", much to the surprise of the Germans.
  • Irregular Webcomic! has this with French battle plan number one. Do note that DMM has inverted this trope before.
  • Ozy and Millie: This strip.
  • Scandinavia and the World: Denmark, viewing the moon through a telescope, sees the the sun-bleached American flag on the surface and, thinking it's a white 'surrender' flag, asks Sweden when France visited the moon. Link.
  • Frog from Sluggy Freelance: "We surrender! There! How's that? Does that take care of your hunger to disparage others for some 'larfs?'"
  • This exchange in Waterworks:
    Slick: God damn, you seriously need to learn how to use that thing.
    Slick: At this rate you'd be better off surrendering.
    Slick: Hell, on a first impression that would seem like the only thing you're good at.
    * beat*
    José: I'M NOT FRENCH!
    * Beat*
    Slick: What?
    José: Nothing.

    Web Original 
  • The website Albino Blacksheep has the Complete Military History of France.
  • Alerts to Terror Threats in 2011 Europe, attributed to John Cleese, contains the following paragraph:
    The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.
  • Alternate History Hub discusses this trope in the video "What if France didn't Surrender in World War II?" Cody explains that France had not recovered from World War I even by the time Nazi Germany invaded. If they didn't surrender when they did (as in, almost immediately), it likely would have resulted in retribution from Germany. This could've taken the form of a massively retaliatory sacking of Paris which would've likely incurred untold losses of architecture and art, not to mention the resulting human toll. Cody based this on what Nazi Germany ended up doing to Warsaw after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, which saw almost the entire city destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of civilians executed in reprisal. The swift surrender also permitted the preservation of La Résistance.
  • Cracked: The article 22 Shocking Statistics that change how you see the world attacks the real-world basis for this trope, and shows that in the last 2000 years, France has won more than twice as many major wars as they have lost, and they don't consume as much cheese as Greece. However, this runs into Artistic License – History as it includes military victories from before France came into existence as a nation-state. Italy's military history looks alot more impressive if you count the ancient Romans.
  • In the fanfiction Egg Belly, our favourite couple — Konoka and Setsuna — go out for dinner at Mahora Town's French restaurant. Ku Fei sneaks in to get a picture, steals the waiter's uniform and moustache, gets discovered, and — in the words of the author — "'Uh... time for me to be French again... I surrender!'" wailed Ku Fei, turning about in the finest tradition of the French military and dashing for an alternate escape route- i.e. the window."
  • According to Benzaie, this is true. The Nostalgia Critic actually calls him a "surrender monkey" during the brawl.
  • The Polandball series of comics, being full of National Stereotypes, has this as a Running Gag, though its level of historical accuracy means the trope is also often subverted.
  • Skippy's List has examples:
    20. Must not taunt the French any more.
  • From episode 7 of Super Mario Bros The Parody Series:
    French Submarine Captain: I have to use my country's military tactic. I surrender!
  • From Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG:
    1555. No matter how well I roll on my intimidate check, France won't surrender.
  • Tiberium ecstasy is a C&C Tiberian Dawn parody. Nod takes over France. Counts of the stereotypes:
    • Guess what, they surrendered again (next mission location was France, and it was not under GDI territory)
    • The part where it shows videos of things, it shows an APC driver surrendering, and one of the GDI (suspected) soldiers saw that the apc had guns. They ran away after the APC driver surrendered.
    • The main team that was supposed to get money went to a town, and wanted to get money from a church building. The french person was lying about money, after one of them suggested to burn the french person, the final words for the unfortunate person was, "I SURRENDER."
    • Another french person went and shot the Nod soldiers, and ran after the flame trooper found out the person was shooting.
  • Brought up in Unskippable for the opening cutscene of Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, where modern day Paris gets attacked by some kind of overwhelming invading monster force, killing hundreds. Played with when the boys say something along the lines of
    "I'd make a France surrendering joke here, but I'm not sure anyone else would do any better."
  • World War II: Deconstructed as the Real Life situation of the War was much more complex than the "only dropped once" stereotypes and parodies. The Beleaguered Bureaucrat nature of the overlapping Allied command structure contrasted with the German dictatorship is only one among many of the details the show tackles to illustrate the reasons for the Fall of France and combat post-war misconceptions about the effectiveness of the Maginot Line and French response to the invasion.

    Web Video 
  • Brought up by Steve Irwin against Jacques Cousteau in their titular episode of Epic Rap Battles of History.
    Steve Irwin: Now embrace your french nature and quietly surrender.
  • Forgotten Weapons: Ian, who is an avowed Francophile, has gone to great pains to disabuse people of the notion, including buying a Chauchat for the the sole purpose of proving that it is nowhere near as wretched a weapon as most people think.
  • JonTron gets a dig in at France for this, along with a dig at Germany for starting wars, during his play of Valiant Hearts:
    Narration: The German empire declares war on Russia.
    Jontron: Hah! So what else is new?
    Narration: France is preparing for conflict.
    Jontron: Okay, now that's new.

    Western Animation 
  • The Critic: When a food fight breaks out at the United Nations School, a stray food projectile accidentally hits the French table, and the french kids immediately surrender, despite not even taking part in the fight.
  • In an episode of Earthworm Jim, Bob the Goldfish builds a De-evolution Ray, and decides to test it first on the Planet of Easily-Frightened People:
    Easily-frightened people: We surrender! Please don't hurt us!
    Bob the Goldfish: You people give up quicker than the French!
  • The Fairly OddParents! had a loving couple from France being hit by a water balloon due to Timmy's terrible aim. Their response? "We surrender!"
  • The Simpsons:
    • The Trope Namer is Groundskeeper Willie in 1995 with the episode Round Springfield. Having been forced to sub as a French teacher, the brief snippet of his "lesson" plays out as follows:
      "Bonjourrrrrrrrr, ya cheese-eating surrender monkeys!"
    • After the 9/11 attacks it was particularly popular among American conservatives and conservative media outlets.
    • Even though this trope is mainly about American and English attitudes towards the French, the phrase was originally uttered by a character from Scotland, a country with a c.1100-1603 tradition of allying with the French against the English (before they decided to form a country with them), and addressed to a class consisting of Americans.
    • In his appearance in the cartoon, Scorpio asks Homer whether he should use his massive Death Ray to wipe out France or Italy, and when Homer makes his decision, Scorpio quips, "Nobody ever says Italy."
    • In the story of Joan of Arc, Homer remarks "Victory? We're French! We don't even have a word for it!!" note 
    • Subverted in "Treehouse of Horror VIII": when Mayor Quimby insults the French they declare war on Springfield, and destroy it with a Neutron Bomb. Along with everything else.
      Quimby: *seconds before the bomb hits* I bet I'll get blamed for this
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) animation series did not last long enough for Antoine to develop out of this trope. Years later, as part of a review of both Sonic cartoon shows, The Nostalgia Critic viciously lampshaded this for all it was worth:
    Antoine: I am hating to be... oh, how you say... such a worry-worm, but this place, it's not good for our health. We go home, yes?
    Critic: (mocking French accent) In fact, why don't we just surrender? 'Cause that's all we French know how to do, right? Surrender, make love, and be unbelievably snooty. Now, where's my French beret, accordion, twirly mustache and striped shirt? (Beat) Jerry Lewis.
  • South Park:
    • The episode "Fatbeard": "They're French, so they surrendered immediately." The fact that they surrendered to a nine-year-old with a plastic lightsabre is damning even by the standards of this trope.
    • It was an "Un Lightsabre Terrible!"


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey


I'm Running of Power!

Held up by armed soldiers, Rexus tries to sway them away with magic, but struggles to come up with any suggestions.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / JediMindTrick

Media sources: