I took my car in for a revision. Since I had the choice of looking at naked women or what a male-oriented industry offers 51% of its clientele while you wait: a big fat blimp wrapped in bandages, I chose the blimp. And then my thoughts migrated to this man, one of the most recognizable figures on earth, second only to George Clooney (and probably a lot more reliable).
For a company making its name in tires - and therefore - road safety, they used Bibendum as their role model. I just discovered while editing a book in French, that our dear friend Bibendum is the personification of the Latin phrase,
"Nunc est bibendum! (Now is the time to drink!)"
No wonder he needs all those tires around him - when he crashes from drunk driving into the reinforced pilons of the highway overpass.
[The fact they used a drinking slogan, also lends credence to my second theorum governing 'figli di papà' -- their only real talent is knowing how to open Champagne.]
Their incredible leap in logic, of course, was that Michelin would swallow up the obstacles (like cases of beer). I'd truly like to know how many beer-drinking Frenchmen know Latin expressions. But, decades on, and hugely successful as he's been, maybe this is a mute point.
And finally, there's the 'man' himself. Although I've seen him depicted with a dashing scarf around his neck, there can't be anyone further from the emaciated Frenchmen (Gerard Depardieux excepted) we've come to know and love (but not be totally over the top for, either -- I reference: Sarkozy, Vincent Cassel - heck, their most famous personality is The Little Prince).
Here's a guy who probably should have been conceived in the USA, where in fact, most people (especially those driving big vehicles) look like this guy. And, they probably down more than their fair share of beer. No wonder Bibendum lasted so long - once America built all their roads, who better than a humanoid blimp to represent them.
Talk about oneupmanship. Considering the rivalry between the two countries, you'd think the French would have disowned Bibendum the moment the Pillsbury Doughboy was formed.
Anyway, as for me, perhaps we should come up with some other images in the mechanics' garages, or in the very least, they could offer up the female equivalent: a rather large woman in a burkha. Or, George Clooney.