Asterix Does McDonalds Ad on the Side; Enrages French

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.

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3 responses to “Asterix Does McDonalds Ad on the Side; Enrages French

  1. Stéphane Dumas

    A little trivia, around the late 1980s-early 1990s, Obelix did some cameo appearances in various Diet-Coke ads who was broadcasted in Quebec http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF6tmSsLGVA

  2. I was going to mention the Obelix Diet Coke ads, but someone beat me to it. (Didn’t remember that the singer was Céline Dion, though.)

    The busiest McDonald’s I have ever been to in my life were in Paris (2 storeys, hardly any seating room left) and the patrons weren’t all tourists.

  3. One theory I’ve heard bandied about is that Asterix represents French culture, and the Romans represent America. So the fact that Asterix is supporting a U.S. francise explains much of the outrage.

    It could also explain why Asterix isn’t that popular in America even though it’s popular everywhere else.