That Shit Cray


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.

Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, former President and President of France, respectively.

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?

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7 responses to “That Shit Cray

  1. First, this video is shockingly funny. Based on your description of him vs. Sarkozy, I pictured him as a more-boring George Bush and definitely not a rap fan. I was intrigued by your post title and read your post to figure out how that line could be relevant to anything about politics. The ad was creative and the people in it seemed real and candid rather than the people in American ads who are posed in a chair, talking like they’re in a formal interview. As Americans, I think we’re conditioned to react to anything that directly points out race, especially when its by someone not of that race. We constantly want to be “color blind” but all the pains we take to do so have just the opposite effect. Here it looks like Hollande got straight to the point in appealing to this group of voters and it would be hypocritical of us to judge him for the musical selection when Kanye is the one who wrote it and made the title.

  2. I too am so surprised by this ad! I am not surprised, however, that the French don’t think this is shocking in any way. I don’t know that much about French culture, but I know that they are much more relaxed and liberal, in general. However, from my American perspective, I think that this ad could have been more tasteful with different song. I like that Hollande is trying to connect with the people in the suburbs of Paris, which is obviously not the direction Sarkozy takes. I think it’s funny that Hollande is trying to be cool more than anything but he should have understood some of the lyrics, maybe, of this song…

  3. I cannot even begin to imagine the backlash that a video like that would receive if it had been made in the United States. This is certainly unlike any political advertisements we are exposed to. Like Nicola, I know little about French culture but would assume that it is more relaxed than American culture and our stress on always being politically correct in the language we use. That aside, I would think that using such a derogatory word would have been deemed inappropriate in France as well. While a different song would have been more appropriate, I think that the video was a great idea. It showed Hollande in an entirely new light, and made him seem more relatable to a segment of the population that he may have otherwise had difficulty connecting with.

  4. You can only be offended if the action has impacted you, your personal history or your family history. France does not have the same history as America. If you say that the area this was filmed in is populated with mostly African and Muslim immigrants then they have no relation to the “N” word. The “N” word is used in west Africa by the young people like it is part of their language and most if not all of them do not know its origins. I see a huge problem with this ad because I am an African American but if I were a Black French, I don’t think I would even know the difference..

  5. Your title definitely grabbed my attention and fits perfectly for the ad you chose. If a candidate in the US used this song in one of their ads, the public reaction would be “cray.” The reaction of your host family was probably a good example of how France in general felt about the ad. Like you said, “the French have a completely different view on political correctness.” Not just the N word, but all of the other cursing in the song surprised me in the ad. You will never find a presidential ad with a curse word in it. The ad proves that reactions received in one country differs from the reactions received of another country.

  6. I saw the title of your blog post and had to read on because I recognized that song phrase and was intrigued by how that could relate to politics. I, too, was incredibly surprised by the song choice and found it interesting that this advertisement is considered successful and funny in France. While I understand that culture there is extraordinarily different, I was still so surprised. I also never expected a frumpy, middle aged white man to pick a Kanye West song for his political campaign, but that is an entirely different story…

  7. Having been with you in France, I definitely shared a lot of the same experiences when it came to the politics that were taking place. I was also fortunate (or unfortunate however you’d like to view it) enough to go to a Hollande rally (not sure if it was the same one). The mood you described is exactly the same mood and engagement I experienced at the political rally. My question is, does Hollande know this about himself? Does he know that he’s boring and gives off an air of a middle aged white man who may or may not be having a midlife crisis?

    Could he have possibly been trying to use this ad to prove to the younger crowd that this isn’t the case? It had that effect on me at first. I thought to myself, “Does this guy really know this song? That’s pretty awesome if he does. It’s also really bold of him to use it in an add campaign.” At first, I was impressed and thought that more presidents should have a bit more fun with their campaigns and politics. After taking time to think about it though, I agree that it could have been interpreted as offensive ethnic marketing.

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