Stereotypes exist for a reason: They help us form opinions about people without all the hassle of getting to know them. Why waste time talking to, say, a Frenchman, when everybody knows they are a bunch of baguette-gobbling, beret-wearing cowards? Russians? Furious, bear-fighting drunkards. Dutch? A nation of burn-out potheads. Canadians? Like Americans, but polite. There! We just saved you years of pointless interaction with foreigners.
...or did we?
5The French are Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys
Where We've Seen It:
The image of the "cowardly Frenchman" has appeared in virtually every media possible, from movies to children's shows and video games, right down to the personal sentiments of Captain America (and he wouldn't lie to you; dishonesty makes Captain America vomit in rage).
Why it's All Bullshit:
Ask Rudyard Kipling, who once famously said about the French: "Their business is war, and they do their business." And boy howdy, a quick glance at France's history shows business is booming:
Since 387 BC, France has fought 168 major wars against such badasses as the Roman Empire, the British Army and the Turkish forces. Their track record isn't too shabby, either: They've won 109, lost 49 and drawn (or as close as you can "draw" a war) 10 times. Professional boxers have been crowned world champions on shittier records than that.
And while it is true that France surrendered to Germany relatively early in WWII, that was only because they hadn't picked themselves up after WWI yet. And WWI (despite being an entire "I" lower) wasn't exactly an anemic playground chickenfight--the French suffered about 5.7 million casualties (the war killed or wounded an incredible 37 million people worldwide).
So yes, the next time around they let the Germans take over officially, but they never actually stopped fighting: the French resistance was one of the most enduring symbols of Nazi opposition in Europe. The resistance was the originator of the archetypal trench coat wearing merchants of bloody death you see in countless action movies and video games today. They blew up bridges, staged daring night raids, slit German throats while generally looking fantastic (if a little ennui-stricken) while doing it.
And not a damn thing's changed since then: France is the most underestimated military force in the world, with the third highest military spending on the planet and an estimated 300 nuclear warheads at their disposal. So basically... we might want to knock off the "coward" talk now, lest we find the impeccably-styled death squads smoking their thin cigarettes on our doorstep.