For those used to hearing about cultural protectionism from more than a few Francophone Canadians in Quebec, it may or may not surprise you that this attitude can be found in even more zealous portions in France.
Reuters has reported that French nationals are far from pleased with billboards popping up across the country featuring Asterix and his Gallic comrades enjoying a celebratory feast at McDonalds. The fact that the first Asterix story was published in 1959, well into the era of ubiquitously commercialized fiction and more than a decade after McDonalds restaurants had become established as a franchise, the character is still valued as an historical symbol of cultural purity. This is evidenced by the resulting online backlash:
“My childhood hero sacrificed like a wild boar! What next? Tintin eating at Subway?” said one horrified blogger called sirchmallow.
“How ironic, the indomitable Gauls making an advert for the invaders,” was another outraged comment on Twitter.
France has a strong tradition of viciously defending their culture, insisting that their heritage is somehow more at risk of being eroded by globalization and American influence than that of any other European nation. In fact, they are one of the few western countries outside of Canada that enforces quotas for nationally produced content on television. McDonalds has been a popular target for the protectionist movement in recent years, most notably in 2001 when José Bové, an activist who has been noted for his uncanny resemblance to Asterix, bulldozed a McDonalds restaurant in protest.
What makes French culture so much more susceptible to globalization than the likes of Germany or Spain remains a mystery.
The need to preserve Francophone language and culture in Quebec is considerably more justifiable, given that they are surrounded by an entire continent of Anglophone influence. At the same time, one can’t help but feel that radical attitudes of Quebec protectionism are at least a little discredited by these overbearing cultural roots.