Asterix, an inspiring character in the French culture
Asterix is a fictional French character who is famous to protect his village from all invasions. Can we make a parallel with the French of nowadays who are fighting hard to protect their social benefits?
In 2023, the French demonstrate or go on strike frequently because of pension reform. Asterix is a fictional character who is famous to be an “irreducible Gaul”. His village in Western France and its population have always resisted all invasions.
You may not have heard of Asterix but all the French, young and old, have known him since their childhood and they feel a certain tenderness for this Gaul who tends to become more and more a symbol of the French. Tiffany Amrein, student in political sciences at Strasbourg University, says that Asterix is one of the reasons to be “proud of being French because like in the Asterix comic books, the French are portrayed as smarter. They are always the exception. They are always different and they have that French touch that makes them funnier”.
The popularity of the character has been proven once more on February 1, 2023, when French director Guillaume Canet’s latest movie: Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom, was released in France. The opening of the movie was the most successful for a French-speaking movie in French movie theaters in 10 years.
Asterix is a famous character created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo in 1959. Since then, the popularity of that character has become very important in the French culture, in French-speaking countries and in many other countries all over the world. Nowadays, Asterix comic albums are translated into 116 languages and regional dialects.
In 2023, Netflix will release an Asterix TV show, made of 5 episodes, produced by Alain Chabat.
The “irreducible Gaul” is the main character of 39 comic books. Conrad and FabCaro are working on the 40th one. The first one was called Asterix the Gaul; it was released in 1961.
Asterix also became the main character of animated movies. The first, was an adaptation of the first comic book. It was released in 1967. A little bit more than 30 years later, in 1989, he became the main theme of an amusement park near Paris: Le Parc Astérix, a competitor of Disneyland Paris. 10 years later, in 1999, the first live-action movie was released. Christian Clavier and Gérard Depardieu were the main actors of this first cinematographic adaptation of the comic book. Other live-action movies were released later and two of them became blockbuster movies.
Parc Asterix is a success. Sebastien Finet, radio speaker for RFM Rhône Alpes remembers the date of the opening of the park very well. It was on April 30, 1989. It was one of the first theme parks in France. He remembers having been amazed by the world of Asterix: “I was immediately hooked on this universe … To see the world of Asterix in the comics and to see it in real life with the village and the different countries found in the albums.”
Asterix has become more and more popular over the years. He is even mentioned in rap songs! Booba and Jul, two rap artists, have mentioned Asterix and his magical potion to become even stronger to fight against enemies.
Since the 1970’s, some French Presidents have referred to Asterix by quoting some expressions said in the comic strips.
In August 2018, during a speech delivered in Denmark, President Macron compared the French population to “Gaulois réfractaires aux changements”, that is to say “Gauls who are resistant to change”. This definition created a scandal among the French population. Some French people thought that it was condescending. The President had to justify his words in another speech the same week.
In 2023, the French are against the new age of retirement: 64 years old. They are fighting for their social benefits because they don’t want to be taken for fools.
At the beginning of the country, France was populated by Gauls but the comparison with “nos ancêtres, les Gaulois” (our ancestors, the Gauls) or Asterix has limits for the French. The Gauls that the French know the most are the Gauls from the Asterix stories, while the real Gauls had different characteristics.
The fictional Gauls are strong, funny and love enjoying life by eating a lot and partying. On the other hand, they are stubborn, disorganized, not subtle, not graceful and not always very smart.
Brett Lipshutz, an American Francophile and psychotherapist in training thinks that “he’s a symbol of the old France”. Asterix is “typically French in the stereotypical sense of French”.
The Gauls of the comic strip have their qualities and flaws but they remain in the heart of the French.
During the demonstrations against pension reform, some people acknowledged the comparison with the “irreducible Gaul” by being dressed up in Asterix but they clearly understand the difference between fiction and reality. Pension reform will directly impact their future. Fighting for their social benefits is second nature for the French and going on strike has been a constitutional right since 1946.