Asterix, an inspiring character in French culture

Asterix is a fictional French character who is famous for protecting his village from all invasions. It’s difficult not to think of the current situation in France where the French are fighting hard to protect their social benefits.  Can we make a parallel between Asterix called the “irreducible Gaul” and the French who have been going on strike and demonstrating since the end of January 2023? 

You may not have heard of Asterix but French people, young and old, have known him since childhood and feel a certain tenderness for this Gaul who tends to become more and more a symbol of the French. 

Asterix is a skinny blond-haired Gaul, who wears a helmet with wings. He is smart, brave and can be very strong physically when he takes the magic potion prepared by Panoramix, the druid of the village. His best friend is Obelix. The latter is tall, fat and has red braided hair. Obelix does not need to take the magic potion to be strong, he fell into it when he was little, consequently, he is always physically strong. He is friendly, funny and sweet with his little dog: Idefix. Asterix and Obelix both have a mustache. 

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”.

In 2023, many  French people are angry about  the increased age of retirement: 64 years old, from 62. During the demonstrations against pension reform, some people acknowledged the comparison with the “irreducible Gaul” by being dressed up as Asterix but they clearly understand the difference between fiction and reality. Pension reform will directly impact their future and finances. Fighting for their social benefits is second nature for the French and going on strike has been a constitutional right since 1946.

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 was the most successful for a French-speaking movie in French movie theaters in 10 years: 466,703 people saw the movie the first day it was released, according to Le Monde.  Yann Tholoniat, Professor of literature at Université de Lorraine in Metz and demonstrator, says “the directors who make Asterix movies know that the French-speaking audience is captivated by this character.”

Asterix was created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo in 1959. Since then, the popularity of this character has become very important in French culture, in French-speaking countries and in many other countries all over the world. Nowadays, Asterix comic albums have been translated into 116 languages and regional dialects.

In 2023, Netflix will release a five-episode Asterix TV show, produced by Alain Chabat, the same producer as Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, released in 2002. At that time, it was a major box office success: $128 million. 

The “irreducible Gaul” is the main character of 39 comic books. Conrad and FabCaro, the current illustrators of Asterix, who are continuing the work of René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, 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 more than 20 years later, in 1989, he became the main theme of an amusement park near Paris: Le Parc Astérix, a competitor of Disneyland Paris. Ten  years later, in 1999, the first live-action movie was released. Christian Clavier and Gérard Depardieu were the main actors in  this first cinematographic adaptation of the comic book. Other live-action movies were released later:  Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (2002) and Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom (2023), for instance.

Parc Asterix had 2.6 M visitors in 2022, a record for the park. 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 of expressions that appear 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. President Macron had to justify his words in another speech the same week: “It’s necessary to take a little distance from the social platforms. I love France and the French, whether you want to hear it or not, and I love it in all its components. I love them, those Gallic tribes. I love what we are”.  

Many in France are frequently demonstrating or going on strike because of pension reform. Asterix is a fictional character who is famous to be an “irreducible Gaul”. But according to Yann Tholoniat, “one could say that to a certain extent, of course, demonstrators are irreducible Gauls as they are described in the albums by Uderzo and Goscinny. Afterwards, one must think of the term “irreducible”, that is to say that they can’t be stopped. It happens that, in any case, Macron’s government uses everything it can to stop them”.

In the beginning, France was populated by Gauls but the comparison with “nos ancêtres, les Gaulois” (our ancestors, the Gauls) and Asterix has limits for the French. The Gauls that the French people know today are the Gauls from the Asterix stories, while the ancient Gauls who populated what is now France had different characteristics. According to the Franco-American Centre, which promotes French language, culture and heritage through educational programs, cultural activities and social events, the ancient Gauls were often farmers and knew the craft of metal-working.

The fictional Gauls are strong, funny and love enjoying life by eating a lot and partying, but they are also stubborn, disorganized, not subtle, not graceful and not always very smart.

Brett Lipshutz, an American Francophile and psychotherapist-in-training thinks that Asterix and his gang are “ a symbol of the old France”. Asterix is “typically French in the stereotypical sense of French”. Asterix may mean so much for the French because the France of the past is disappearing and they do not want that. Everybody speaks about Asterix with nostalgia, exactly like they speak about “the good old times”. 

The French are seeing their privileges disappear, they do not know what is in store for them in the future. Some demonstrators are attached to the past because they fear the future. The current context: inflation, war in Ukraine tends to make them even more worried and angrier.  

On March 16, 2023, Elisabeth Borne, the Prime Minister used Article 49.3 of the Constitution to impose the pension reform without having a National Assembly vote. 

Since January 19, 2023, there have been 11 days of demonstrations and strikes which have paralyzed the country. The next day of demonstrations will take place on April 13. The number of demonstrators is going down but the ones who are still demonstrating are not ready to give up and President Macron is becoming less and less popular. According to a BVA survey, his popularity rate has decreased since the use of Article 49.3, and only 28% of the French population still has a positive opinion of the President. The lowest percentage for Macron was 23% in December 2018 during the crisis of the yellow vests. We can wonder if the French will continue to resist and will be as victorious as Asterix in this battle against the government.


Testimonies about the significance of Asterix in the life of 3 people, two French and an American. Different ages.


In this video, you will see the interview of Yann Tholoniat, professor of literature at Université de Lorraine, in France. He’s also a demonstrator. He gives his opinion about the possible connection between Asterix and the demonstrators against pension reform in France.

Sources: and


There have been 11 days of demonstrations in 2023, the next demonstration day is planned on April 13.

Source: Ministry of domestic affairs

Emmanuelle Franks

Behind the French strikes

A few days before the holidays, French transportation companies such as Air France, Corsaire, SNCF (the French railway company) and local city transportation companies have announced that they are going to be on strike during the holiday. 

Did you know that strikes have a specific meaning for the French and are deeply rooted in their culture? 

At this period of the year, strikes are recurrent and do not surprise the French anymore. Indeed, they are part of their everyday life! 

If you want to know more about current or future French strikes, and plan ahead not to be in a bad situation, there is even a specific website about where and when there are strikes in the country :

France is the country where there was the highest number of unworked days in the European Union in 2020 and 2021, according to ETUI (the European Trade Union Institute). 

The reason why strikes are so popular is because the right to be on strike has been in the French Constitution since October 27,1946. 

This is the French strike ritual: demonstrations, negotiations and an agreement which can be found in a few hours or in a few months.

Strikes are a tool to pressure the employers or the government to react in favor of their employees. 

Salaries and working conditions are the most frequent reasons to be on strike in France. 

For instance, the demands of the employees of SNCF are an increase of the salaries, more hiring to be able to work correctly. SNCF has difficulties to hire, the national railway company does not make the French dream anymore because of the low salaries. The inflation due to the war in Ukraine is bringing more and more strikes. 

Despite the fact that strikes are recurrent, some French are tired of them especially when they depend on public transportation. Travelers are hostages in the middle of negotiations in which they are not even involved.

French employees have the right to be on strike, whether they work for the public sector or the private sector. A strike is legal as long as it is collective, planned and has professional demands. There is no legal duration for a strike, it can last for a few hours or a few months. An employee does not need to be part of any union to be on strike. It must be announced at least 5 week-days before its start in the private sector. 

Some industries must provide a minimum service: airline companies, hospitals, and when a teacher from the public sector is on strike, the city must provide day care for the children. 

However, some employees do not have the right to be on strike: employees from the national police, the militaries, the CRS employees (the French riot police), the prison guards and the civil servants who work for the penitentiary system, the transmission employees who work for the domestic affair minister and the magistrates. 

During the strike, the contract of each employee is suspended. In the private sector, the employee is not paid during the time they are on strike. In the public sector, the way of being paid or not paid depends on each industry. 

An employer does not have the right to hire a temporary employee to replace an employee who is on strike but an employer can decide to give a long-term contract to a new employee during the strike. 

Strikes are a sensitive topic in France. The close future strikes will certainly prevent many travelers from having a smooth journey to their holiday destination. The more annoying the strike is, the more impactful it is,  but It is a French fundamental right that cannot be denied.