samedi 10 octobre 2009


So, apparently France is in world-wide news over a McDonalds going into the food court at the Louvre. This makes me reflect on my own relationship with McDonalds in France (cue harp music and wavy-effect on screen as we go into a flashback). . .

It's the first week of January in 2004, and it's my first time in France (visiting Josh, incidentally, who was studying abroad there at the time and also had no plans to become my husband, which he would at a later date). Josh has sent me off on my own to accomplish something or other while he meets up with me later. I have to find the bathroom while in a shopping mall, and I seize upon a shop girl who speaks English to give me directions. Which are completely comprehensible, except the store she's telling me is next to the bathrooms: MAGdunnelle (emphasis on first syllable). I think she's telling me that the bathrooms are diagonal to something (that's the closest word I can think of to the sounds she's making). When I realized she was talking about my old friend Mickey-D's, where I attended many a birthday party before the age of 5, I experienced one of those "eureka" moments where you can almost see the lightbulb above your own head. This classic piece of Americanism didn't belong to me, an American. It is not an American consulate; it's a business, and by setting up shop in France, McD's now belongs just as much to the French as it does to me. And the French are free to come up with their own weird pronunciations and nicknames for it. The forces of globalization don't just mean my culture is imposed on someone else. They also mean that my culture is taken from me and altered in ways I can't control.

Incidentally, that very same shopping mall was the place where I stepped into the pudding aisle of a grocery store and began my still-passionate love affair with creamy French desserts. (I think coup de foudre--lightning bolt--is how you say "love at first sight" in French.)

But back to the McDonalds at the Louvre controversy. I recommend reading the article if you are interested in France and/or globalization. The article's main point was that the French aren't upset about the Louvre being "desecrated," it's the rest of the world that doesn't see how Ronald and French culture are compatible. Here in France, McD's has done their insidious marketing well. Even the food critic who inspired the "bad guy" in Ratatouille refused to be upset about McD's new home in the Louvre's food court. I can picture him being interviewed about it, smoking, wearing a scarf, and giving the classic French shrug of apathy . . . "Bof. Magdunnelle eez no worse zan ze 'orribul fast food already zere." And, you know, McDonalds does do a pretty good job of coming up with French-appropriate recipes. Alpine-style cheeseburger? Chestnut crumble ice cream sundae? Sounds good to me. If the French want Grimace and the Hamburgler and that red-headed clown, should the rest of us be upset about it? And if we are, will we have to give back fondue? Will the Belgians want their waffles back?

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