In France, the youths that support President Macron have just launched their online store. Between mugs and T-shirts, items are sold that take advantage of popular jokes about the candidate. For example, some woolen socks with the word “left” embroidered on one foot, “right” on the other and “at the same time” on the inside, the star expression of the president who is criticized so much for imposing equidistance. Part of the strategy before next year’s election is to make him a pop icon and reach out to those who don’t like politics. In the Elíseo store, T-shirts are sold with very famous phrases of the president such as “Poudre by perlimpinpin”, Something like the Balsam of Fierabrás, a supposed remedy that is useless.
Since 2009 there has been a decree in France that makes it possible to make the so-called intangible heritage profitable. It is something that encompasses much more than cooking or good taste: putting a price on shooting a movie in Paris, the world’s first tourist destination, or using the name of the Louvre for a museum in another country. The Elíseo has been joined with shops by the Gendarmería, equivalent to the Spanish Civil Guard, or the National Navy, which sells the famous Cherbourg umbrellas. They have signed agreements with different private companies to manufacture the items and the profits are invested in maintaining the historic buildings and in social assistance.
The issue is whether the president can be considered part of the intangible heritage. Ideologically Macron does not represent all French people, although he does represent a certain way of doing things. Irony has always been used in politics. “Wherever he goes, the Frenchman wants to be taken seriously, even though he’s not really a serious guy. And in a way that is his great quality ”, writes Canadian journalist Louis-Bernard Robitaille, author of the essay Ces impossible Français, 2010.
The country that best manages this merchandising around the president is the United States. Since Reagan in 1988, they have been ordering M & Ms, colored sugar-coated peanuts, for Air Force One. With Obama, the charm offensive became even more intense. Before the 2008 elections, T-shirts with his face reached every corner of Beijing. The Chinese were fascinated by this overexposure because since Mao they had not seen the image of their leaders used. With Xi Jinping, personalism has returned, but censorship has become stronger. The Party only wants to convey seriousness and firmness, and it is a shame because, as in France, China’s heritage is also its fine sense of humor. @anafuentesf