Every 20 years, the United States and France have a presidential election that falls on the same year. I was fortunate enough to be in France during the campaign and the election.
First I should explain the basic information of the campaign. Essentially everyone knew it was between Nicholas Sarkozy, the incumbent, and François Hollande. (There are 10 political parties in France, but that’s a whole other story.) Sarkozy is part of the Union pour un Movement Populaire, most similar to the Republicans, and Hollande, as a member of the Partie Socialiste, is more similar to the Democrats. Many of the French were tired of Sarkozy, his supermodel wife and his flashy watches and cars. Hollande is the exact opposite; a frumpy, middle-aged, balding white man. I attended one of his rallies two weeks before the elections, and he was as captivating as my description makes him appear. The space was not filled and people were talking and making fun of him while he was speaking.
The problem with Hollande, who is now the President of France, was that he did not have any big plan to lift France out of economic turmoil. He was preferred simply because he was not Sarkozy.
With that being said, I was shocked when he released this campaign ad. My jaw nearly hit the floor.
A little more background info – He shot this ad in the banlieu, the suburbs, of Paris. The banlieu is nothing like the United States’ image of a suburb, with white picket fences and neighborhood parks. Think of the banlieu more as Harlem, North Philadelphia, or Southie in Boston. The banlieu are mostly black and Muslim immigrants from various parts of Africa, a group the very traditional French do not welcome with opened arms.
I could not believe he used the song Ni**as in Paris in a Presidential campaign ad that was mostly of black people living just outside of Paris. I showed the video to my host family. They did not see a problem with it. The only person who shared my surprise was my Spanish host brother who studied politics in Texas. I tried to explain the origin of the slur, and the Spanish student chimed in by likening it to Hitler. I told them I felt uncomfortable using the word at the dinner table, even if they did not understand it. Still, they did not see an issue with the song or the ad. My family, avid supporters of Hollande, loved it.
CNN published this article about how the ad could be offensive ethnic marketing, which is how I originally viewed the ad. After speaking with my host family, I realized that the French have a completely different view on political correctness.
What do you think? Is this a good, creative ad? Or is it offensive ethnic marketing in which a wealthy white man tries too hard to relate to the impoverished minority? Does being American, as opposed to French, have an impact on our opinions of what we believe to be ethically correct?