A few years back, during the truly dark days of stupidity in this country -- I'm speaking of course of the Lead-Up-To-Iraq/"Freedom Fries" era -- I remember stopping to notice a car whose bumper proudly proclaimed "Boycott France!" At the time, it was a pretty popular sentiment, and one which jingoistic jerks like Bill O'Reilly were happily perpetuating.
Here's the thing though: this particular bumper belonged to a 1991 Ford Taurus that was in, shall we say, less than pristine condition.
Now sure, it's possible that the owner of the car -- realizing that he personally couldn't possibly have a dog in this fight -- was encouraging the more well-to-do folks who might find themselves on the road behind him (those that weren't dodging his muffler anyway) to pick up the mantle that he could not. Win one for the Gipper so to speak.
Or it could be that the car's owner was in fact David Cross, or someone with an equal appreciation for the hilarious nature of irony.
But no, in the end, all I could come back to was the thought that the driver of the '91 Taurus truly believed that he could, in fact, help to bring an entire country of culturally-elite snobs to their weak little knees by... well... not eating french fries.
"Oh yeah Cletus, the fucking French are just shaking in their boots that you've cancelled your order for the case of Chateau D'Yquem '76 and decided NOT to take the family on that vacation in Cannes."
Welcome to America -- land of completely ineffectual gestures that require no real effort aside from spending a dollar on a bumper sticker.
Now as it turns out, Bill O'Reilly and his ilk have something in common with -- of all people -- Jay-Z. Both have called for a boycott of French products. Jay's ire is slightly more focused though; he's got a problem (one of his 99?) with Cristal champagne. The rap mogul says that the erstwhile official beverage of hip-hop's elite will not be served in his club, nor at any of his parties. This after Louis Roederer's managing director basically dissed Jay better than Nas ever did. Roederer is the parent company which owns Cristal, and when asked about the champagne's popularity with those who lyrically tout their allegiance to all things bling, Frederic Rouzaud said, "We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."
Time to bring it down to basics...
Ok, so it's easy to knock the French. They're elitist assholes; but they're not dumb -- they know full well that pissing off a couple of rappers isn't going to hurt their worldwide take... not one bit. In fact, while Jay is busy shouting from the rooftops that Rouzaud's comments are racist in and of themselves, he's probably missing the larger and in fact more insulting aspect of what the Frenchman is saying. If you gave him the benefit of the doubt, you could argue that he has no problem with black people -- just semi-illiterate neanderthals who, when they're not talking about killing people, are pretending that class is something you can buy. There's merit to this. Rappers never talk about a good scotch, even though that would carry equal if not more heft in the refinement department. That's because it's not about refinement; it's about show. It's about proving that you're no longer the kid from the projects and goddamnit, you're gonna be respected. The most obtuse way to command that kind of respect: champagne and jewelry -- the more obvious, the better. What Rouzaud's implying though, is a complete attack on that way of thinking. He's saying that no matter how much money they make, rappers will never "arrive." They'll never be part of the ruling class.
Chris Rock once said that the reason for this is "rims" -- and he's absolutely right; the worship of expensive champagne proves it.
Meanwhile, for the French, champagne IS about refinement, and not about excess. Hence why Rouzaud's comments are so condescending. He knows rappers just don't get it. There's a Zen-like quality to true class; if you have to talk about it, you don't have it.
I like Jay; as rappers go he's got talent -- which unfortunately means that he can do slightly more than make two fucking words rhyme. Still, his stand against Cristal is about as worthless as a Vanilla Ice beat. The unfortunate fact is that he holds sway (no pun intended) over far too small a group to make a real statement, and much of that group can't afford the stuff anyway. That's not a "dis" -- simply a fact. The Cristal people know this.
If it makes him feel better though, Jay should know that I for one won't be drinking any Cristal in the near future.