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Thuggish Cartoon Gauls Rampage In Internet's Bunghole
2002-05-21 09:08:57


Liberty
 
A woman drove me to drink and I didn't even have the decency to thank her.
-- W.C. Fields

 

I only wish there was some new angle to this kind of story, I really do. Because it's the repeated story of the Internet, it's the story that we tell over and over again: superstrong midget barbarian and Gerard Depardieu attack German laptop Linux Web site. OK, well, kinda different, I guess.

So, for those of you not living in the Francophone world (honh honh honh!), who haven't been inundated with ads for the last few months, I will tell you this: there is a new live-action movie coming out, in Fraaanch of course, about the plucky little Gaul Asterix of comic-book fame and his big dumb sidekick, Obelix. Called "Asterix et Obelix: Mission Cleopatre", the movie is a sequel to the seriously big blockbuster smash-up, "Asterix et Obelix vs. Caesar", which, by the way, should be pronounced "Say-ZARRRRRRRRRRR" in correct French.

The A & O comic series is the story of a tribe of Gaulish barbarians, i.e. primitive and dirty Frenchmen, who spend most of their time making life hard for Roman soldiers occupying their territory. Asterix is a little tiny guy, with a big-ass mustache and wings on his helmet, who's got amazing strong powers derived from pure pluck. His buddy Obelix is a red-braided 7-foot-tall simpleton who pulls his pants up to his armpits. They have lots of good Gaulish buddies who all have names that end with "-ix", ha ha, and also friends from around the Mediterranean who speak in funny fonts, because they are foreigners. Ha ha, again.

The implied message of Asterix and Obelix is one that strikes right to the heart of depressed French culture: the strong and plucky and resourceful French, overrun by just about everyone in the 20th Century, are really pretty sassy and ass-kicking dudes. French people like to hear that. Oh, also, there's the message that it's OK to be short, which most French people also like to hear. Asterix and Obelix are crazy popular, even more popular than boring Tin Tin or Lucky Luke or shit.

And after like 50 years of languishing on cheaply-printed paper in the back closets of French-speaking geeks around the world, Asterix and Obelix and their little band of Friends from Ancient Times are making a big bust-out in French media land. There's like a big amusement park, Parc Asterix, that's just cranking away, beating the unholy crap out of Eurodisney, as well as all kinds of cross-marketed gewgaws and clothes and, as mentioned before, the movies. Asterix is big biz, or, as the French say, le bigue beez.

Did I mention that Gerard Depardieu plays the big dopey Obelix in the movies? I should probably mention that. Asterix movies have big star power. Most of the newspapers here in Montreal (yeah, I live in Montreal. Beaujolais for me) are pretty sure that the new movie is going to thwack the living shit out of the new Star Track, as far as box-office receipts are concerned.

So, herein comes the problem, and my point, because when there's BIG MONEY around, and most of that money is made from pictures of a little blond man with a funny hat, the big money guys get really defensive about that kind of picture. Or words, or images, or things that have anything to do with your franchise. Because when your entire money-making regime depends on like 50 bytes of data, repeated over and over again, people get nervous. They want to protect that data to the utmost, and they'll do ugly, thuggish things to achieve that goal. Hell, you can read about this at Chilling Effects, which is all about big jerk companies overreacting to perceived threats on their golden 50 bytes.

And the Asterix company, they're no different. Last June, they sent a cease-and-desist letter to the very useful and practical Web site for mobile Linux and *BSD users, Mobilix. Apparently, because they've been using this really bad "-ix = -ics or -isk" pun for 50 years, they feel that anyone else using it is mucking with their franchise. Which, like, how high are they? Really, now.

But unlike most such attacks that are initially rebuffed, this one has stuck around. The owner of mobilix.org has already spent $150K to defend himself and his site, arguing quite rightly that "-ix" is too common a suffix (hey, look at that) to be trademarked by one dumb French money factory. And, anyways, it's not like Mobilix is about to start publishing a cartoon with a spirited young IBM Thinkpad running Linux and a dumb but good-humored Handspring Visor running NetBSD who roam pre-Christian Europe looking for action and adventure. They just host goddamn HOWTOs, for Jeebus' sake.

What's my point here? I'm not sure I do have a point. My main point is that franchise companies act like ass because their empire is built on nothing. That's the main point. The next point is that anyone who lives in France or Quebec (honh honh) should definitely skip the new Asterix movie, despite the fact that it has luscious Egyptian semi-nudity in it, and encourage others to do so. This is an opportunity once again to illustrate that freedom of expression on the Internet is constantly under attack by ravaging Gallic hordes.

I think my final point is that Gerard Depardieu has a big fat nose. Oh, and that "-ix" isn't particularly funny. And that even plucky little underdogs can be fascist fucks. All right, that's enough points for now.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

hapsburg@pigdog.org


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