March 27: Over 40 years ago, Belgian artist Alberto Uderzo and French scriptwriter Rene Goscinny, created a new comic series. It was all about the ‘mis’adventures of a diminutive warrior Asterix, his giant of a friend Obelisk, and their dog, Dogmatix as they battle the invading armies of the Romans in Gaul, as ancient France was known.
Uderzo and Goscinny set the story in the year 50 BC, over 2000 years ago. The series became a runaway hit with millions of fans eagerly awaiting new issues of Asterix.
In the latest book, Asterix has new comrades to help him in his fight against his sworn enemy, the Romans. His new comrades are legionnaires or armies of women. Their entry is all set to take Asterix’s village in Gaul (as ancient France was called then), by storm, says a report in The Asian Age.
What has caused this drastic change in the Asterix storyline? One can perhaps make a guess.
Among the most important developments in the last 100 years, have been the worldwide movements for the rights of women in different societies.
The protests and struggles on the streets were supported by feminist intellectuals who wrote about the nature of their struggle and pointed out how the use of language makes women invisible. For instance, mankind always referred to women as well and gave way to humankind. And many governments across the world laid down laws that forbid discriminatory behaviour on the basis of women’s gender.
Feminists from different fields have tried to explore the position of women in societies by studying the literature of earlier times. So there has been a thorough re-examination of old classics, fairy and folk tales and even comics about the roles of women and stereotypes – like the stepmother always being wicked, the girl always being helpless and waiting for a prince to rescue her and so on..
Maybe the people behind Asterix felt the need to change with the times. So Asterix and Latraviata, shows the women of the village experiencing a new kind of freedom.
But sometimes, people and governments just make noises about righting earlier wrongs and supporting women’s rights because it is the thing to do. They know that it is the “politically correct” statement to make even though their unthinking statements sound ridiculous.
And so there are writers like James Garner who have made fun of this politically correct attitude. In his Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, 12 fairy tales have been reworked as spoofs.
So, cruel witches become witches with “kindness-impairment” and instead of wearing a gown made of silk, Cinderella wears a gown “woven of silk stolen from unsuspecting silkworms.”
But, what do fans of Asterix have to say about the new developments? It is not known yet.