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Simply, when one is outraged beyond all other words, when there is nothing left to do but put on your Frenchest of accents, point your pointiest finger and cry, J'accuse!.
It means "I accuse" in French.
This is a half storied work of public journalism, half Memetic Mutation. It goes like this: Once upon a time in France, a renowned writer named Emile Zola penned a scandalous open letter (published in the newspaper L'Aurore on January 13, 1898 — that's it to the right) that accused the French government of anti-Semitism and corruption in its handling of the Dreyfus Affair of 1894 — in which an innocent French Army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, who just happened to be Jewish, was used as a scapegoat in an espionage case, when it was quite clear to everyone that he was guilty of nothing more than being Jewish. The letter pointed out the weakness of the evidence and several clear occurrences of judicial error and prejudice during Dreyfus's trial; Zola was rapidly charged with and convicted for libel and had to flee to England for a year, until the bureaucrats then in power were removed. Dreyfus had been sentenced to life in prison on Devil's Island; he appealed his case multiple times, but it was not until 1906 that his conviction was actually annulled. And all this to cover the French government's collective ass because of the existence of a spy that the government couldn't afford to catch, out of embarassment.
- The first Odd Thomas book contains a gag about how, while Odd is towing a dead body out of an apartment, he's trying to be quiet, except that he has to dump it over the railing. As he comes down the stairs, he guesses that no one heard him because no one runs at him yelling J'accuse!
- In Going Postal the hero Moist von Lipwig uses a technically complicated plot to replace a message used in a bet with his enemy Reacher Gilt to do a wonderful reveal of Reacher's entire plot and bring him and his minions down using this trope.
- J'Accuse:A French zombie movie released in the 1920s filled with as much political weight as can be. The Zombie Apocalypse is the sudden uprising of the French dead of WWI, coming back to condemn the guilty living who sent them to die. The whole film is an anti-war polemic, which the director convinced the army was going to be a propaganda flick, so they gave him real soldiers for actors - 80% of which died once they went back to the front.
- 'Allo 'Allo: — In an unusual subversion of the shows trope of using Just a Stupid Accent as a Translation Convention for whatever language is actually being spoken, Rene at one point cries out his first real French: "J'accuse!" "J'accuse!". Double Subversion: "Who's this 'Jack Hughes'?"
- Rene doesn't actually say this, Lt. Gruber is relating a dream he had of Rene saying it . At the end of the episode Rene gets stuck on a giant aerial rising out of a grave (they'd hidden a transmitter Rene's crypt since it was empty) and Gruber sees this figure of Rene rising out of the grave (looking sheepish) and faints. Helga then says "Well at least he didn't mention this "Jack Hughes". Roll credits. Allo Allo doesn't do simple and straightforward.
- On 30 Rock, Liz Lemon utters this phrase when some of Frank's cigarettes go missing, implying that he hasn't quit smoking. Turns out she ate them in her sleep.
- Dick once said it on 3rd Rock from the Sun.
- The cat in Sabrina the Teenage Witch
- On Doctor Who, Lady Cassandra does this when the Ninth Doctor seemingly discovers the culprit that was attempting to kill them all - because she's hoping he won't realize that she's the real culprit. He does.
- The West Wing: President Bartlet attempted to use this on his wife Abbey once. It didn't work out so well, though:
Jed: J'accuse! J'accuse, mon petit fromage!
- Robert says this to Raymond in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. Marie, who's taking French classes, says "Ooh! Ray! He's accusing you!"
- Sonic Youth released "J'accuse, Ted Hughes". It's not just for pun, that's a controversial English poet who developed a Hatedom after Sylvia Plath (whom Hughes had just recently divorced) killed herself.
- Doonesbury once had a drug sniffing dog point at Zonker and say "J'accuse!".
- Guybrush lets out the line at one point in the fourth chapter of Tales of Monkey Island.
- The Simpsons Hit and Run
Homer Simpson: "C. Montgomery Burns! I know you're guilty! J'accused! Sir."
- Shadow Raiders: An episode title. The episode deals with the trial of a military officer that threatens society itself no less.
- Futurama: Zoidberg says this once, the joke being not that he's French but that he's Ambiguously Jewish.
- On one episode of The Simpsons, Lisa complained about her French teacher not actually speaking French. "J'accuse!" "...What the hell is this broad talkin about?"
- Okay, it is like this. Gruber thinks he has killed Rene with a firing squad and the Rene currently in the show is Rene posing as his own twin brother also called Rene