Just a kid at the Sorbonne...English Class, Tea and Krumpitz

I learn more and more about American culture as the days go forward here in France.  For example, this week the English professor corrected a student’s pronunciation in American English class.  When the student discussed David Bowie, he pronounced the name with a long “o” like “Boe-ee.”  I did not balk, but continued to listen attentively.

“It’s ‘BOW-ee,” the professor chimed in.  As in famed American rapper Lil Bow Wow.

Meet the face of krump...
Now, I know David Bowie is English, but neither in Britain nor in America is he David Bow-ee.  But I guess 25 years speaking English in an English-speaking country have clouded my judgment.  What do I know?

As if class couldn’t get any more enlightening, my classmates presented their exposé on apparently renowned filmmaker David Lachapelle (pronounced the same in French and English) and his iconic 2005 film, Rize.  Heard of it?  Yea, me neither.

The film is about a subculture in L.A. whose participants dance something called krump.  It’s a sort of pop and lock hip hop dance that originated, according the presentation, when clowns would dance the moves at children’s birthday parties.  The film documents “krumpers” during their struggles and rise to fame, which culminates in a spot in Madonna’s “Hung Up” video.  David Lachapelle is good at what he does, I suppose, from an artistic point of view, but I’d never put his films up there as representative of American culture.

I was confused.  Sorely.  In previous weeks we had studied Audrey Hepburn, Signin’ in the Rain, Woody Allen.  The classics.  Now, we were krumpin’.  Far be it from me to critique an American subculture – by all means, that’s part of the American Dream.  But that these students would choose such a small slice of American culture to taste, well, it fascinates me.

It didn’t help that every time my classmate pronounced one of the character’s names, I giggled.  His name was “Baby Tight Eyez” who was some sort of novice krumper.  But in an adorable French accent, each time the student said “eyes” it came out like, well, “ass,” giving a whole new image to Baby Tight Eyez.

Once I got over my giggle fits, I realized that it was in fact kind of admirable that these students tackled such a weird and obscure piece of American culture.  Though I’m not sure how admirable it was when the only question that students asked after the exposé was, “Why was that dancing clown crying?”  Inspired as I may have been, I’m not sure if I’ll be signing up for krump classes in Paris any time soon, but I sure am excited to continue my American education here at the Sorbonne…