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Countryballs

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The character of Poland, represented as a ball coloured like an upside-down Polish flag.

Countryballs, also known as Polandball,[a] is an art style and internet meme used in online comic strips in which countries are typically personified as imperfect spherical characters (there are some exceptions, such as Nepal, Israel, Singapore etc.) decorated with their country's flag. The characters often interact in broken English, and the dialog typically uses regional and/or national variations, depending on the region the character represents (e.g., France's broken English is interspersed with French words). The comics poke fun at national stereotypes, international relations and historical conflicts.

Background

A group of Countryballs characters.

Countryballs have their roots on drawball.com, a website that allowed Internet users to draw whatever they want on a circular canvas called a "drawball." In August 2008, thousands of Polish netizens took over the entire drawball with an illustration of the Polish flag. The circular canvas constrained the flag in such a way that it became a literal "Poland ball."[1][2]

The beginning of the Countryballs format proper is credited to Falco, a British user on the German imageboard Krautchan.net who used Microsoft Paint to create a meme of Wojak – a Polish Internet troll on the same board who contributed in broken English. After this, creating Countryballs cartoons became popular among other users on the board, particularly Russians.[1][3][4]

Popularity

The style soon grew in popularity on the internet as a whole as a meme, having dedicated communities on platforms such as Reddit[4][5][6] and Facebook.[7][8][9] The popularity of the style has been attributed to the ability of the drawings to tell short stories of nations in a easily understandable fashion, often with a large amount of jokes and comical undertones, with the characterization of a group lending itself towards a short comic format.[10][11]

Themes

Poland

A Countryballs comic, which is an extension of the "Poland cannot into space" [sic] catchphrase. The comic references Poland joining the European Space Agency in 2012.

The premise of Countryballs is that they represent the country and its history, foreign relations and stereotypes,[3][12] focusing on megalomania and national complexes.[2][13] With the exception of Anglophone countries, the dialogue of Countryballs tends to be written in broken English and Internet slang, reminiscent of the lolcat meme, and by the end of a cartoon, Poland is typically seen weeping.[1][2]

Polandball's depiction of Poland portrays a number of stereotypes. These include bad English use by Poles, blaming others for its failures in particular given the backdrop of repeated invasions by its neighbours (such as the 18th-century partitions and World War II), Polish propensity for telling tales of the glorious past, and the perception of Poles as "dull-witted" and "psycho-Catholic".[14]

Some Polandball comics arise from the premise that some countries can fly into space, whilst Poland cannot.[15][16] One of the earliest Polandball comics begins with the premise that Earth is going to be struck by a giant meteor, leading to all countries with space technology leaving Earth and going into orbit around the planet. At the end of the cartoon, Poland, still on earth, is crying, and in broken English pronounces the canonical Polandball catchphrase "Poland cannot into space".[3][17] In this humorous way, other Countryballs put a halt to all discussion with Poles on which country is superior.[1][3][12]

Other countries

Countryballs can also include comics on other countries: these comics are sometimes still referred to as Polandball comics,[1] although they are more commonly also referred to as Countryballs.[4] States, provinces, and other such divisions can also be used, along with multinational organisations such as the European Union, NATO and the United Nations, as well as countries and empires which formerly existed such as the Roman Empire.[18]

There are various other established conventions. For example, the United Kingdom most frequently wears a monocle and a top hat, often holds a cup of tea, and often talks about when it was a superpower.[19][20] The United States is frequently depicted wearing big black sunglasses, and having an egocentric personality.[20] Coats of arms in the upper hoist side are most often eyepatches, which often depict Austria-Hungary, which had two coats of arms on its flag, blind or otherwise wearing tinted glasses. Montenegro is frequently depicted as very sleepy and lazy, referring to real-world "Lazy Olympics".[21]

Countryballs graffiti art depicting the European Union–Ukraine Association Agreement during Euromaidan in Kyiv, 2013

The simplicity of Countryballs, together with its recognition of world history and a focus on current affairs, makes the meme suited to commenting on international events.[18] Amongst events which have been covered by Countryballs and have been noted in the media, are the Senkaku Islands dispute,[22] the 2013 papal conclave which saw Jorge Mario Bergoglio being elected as the new Pope,[23] the Revolution of Dignity,[18][17][24] the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation[5] and issues relating to Filipino workers in Taiwan.[25] In the prelude to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and after the invasion, Ukraine and Russia saw an increase in comic appearances.

Assessment

A Countryballs comic which satirises Sweden–Finland

A report on the Russian radio station Vesti FM noted a post on Livejournal which asked readers to list five images that come to mind when thinking of Poland or Poles. The five pages of responses, illustrating the complex and often difficult historical ties between Russia and Poland, recalled subjects including False Dmitriy I, Tomek in the Land of the Kangaroos by Polish author Alfred Szklarski, Czterej pancerni i pies ("Four tank-men and a dog"), Russophobia and Polandball.[26][unreliable source?]

Wojciech Oleksiak, writing on culture.pl, a project of the Polish government-funded Adam Mickiewicz Institute which has the aim of promoting Polish language and culture abroad, noted that due to anyone being able to create a Polandball comic, the existence of the meme has created new opportunities for people to express their personal views on race, religion and history. In describing Polandball as the Internet meme par excellence, he further stated that comic plots can be "rude, impolite, racist, abusive, or just plain dumb", whilst also noting that the politically incorrect nature of the comics add to the attractiveness of the meme.[27]

At the same time, Oleksiak notes that Polandball comics often employ exaggerated Polish stereotypes, such as Poles not being as proficient in English as other nationalities, and Poland itself being a country full of dull-witted hyper-Catholics. On the other hand, he admits that some stereotypes employed in Polandball comics, such as Poles telling stories about the nation's glorious history and dwelling on a deep rooted martyrdom, are mostly true; whilst the stereotype that Poles hold many national complexes and blame external forces for their own failures, is true, but somewhat justified.[27]

Oleksiak further notes that from Polandball, Poles can learn to have "a sense of humour about our long-time grudges".[27]

In popular culture

A game called Polandball: Can into Space was released in 2016 on PC and on 18 June 2020 for the Nintendo Switch.[28] An online multiplayer third-person shooter called Countryballs: Modern Ballfare released on Steam in June 2021 for Microsoft Windows.[29] A 3D RPG game called Bang-On Balls: Chronicles [ru] was released on March 3, 2021 for PC.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The style may be referred to both as Polandball by convention, even in cases where Poland is not present, or countryball (or, collectively, countryballs.)

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Orliński, Wojciech (16 January 2010). "Wyniosłe lol zaborców, czyli Polandball". Komentarze (in Polish). gazeta. Archived from the original on 1 January 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Zapałowski, Radosław (15 February 2010). "Znowu lecą z nami w... kulki" (in Polish). Cooltura. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Kapiszewski, Kuba (5 April 2010). "Fenomem — Polska nie umieć kosmos" (in Polish). Przegląd. Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Plomlompom, Nils Dagsson Moskopp Erlehmann & Christian Heller (2013). "MS-Paint-Comics". Internet-Meme : kurz & geek (in German) (1 ed.). O'Reilly Verlag. pp. 86–88. ISBN 978-3-86899-806-1. Archived from the original on 28 August 2021. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b Ryan, Emmet (4 March 2014). "Polandball is Reddit's answer to Crimea crisis". The Sunday Business Post. Archived from the original on 6 December 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  6. ^ "r/polandball". Reddit. n.d. Archived from the original on 21 June 2019. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 April 2021. Retrieved 17 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Polandball 2.0". www.facebook.com. Archived from the original on 6 March 2022. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  9. ^ "POLANDBALL". www.facebook.com. Archived from the original on 6 September 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 August 2021. Retrieved 17 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Polandball is of Reddit: How r/polandball Transcends Memes through Carefully Curated Geopolitical Satire « INC Longform". Archived from the original on 28 September 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  12. ^ a b Cegielski, Tomek (12 April 2011). "MEMY. Legendy Internetu" (in Polish). Hiro.pl. Archived from the original on 15 April 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  13. ^ Kralka, Jakub (11 May 2012). "Polski internet to potęga, po co te kompleksy?" (in Polish). Spider's Web. Archived from the original on 1 November 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Polandball – A Case Study". Culture.pl. Archived from the original on 28 September 2019. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  15. ^ "Mirosław Hermaszewski – pierwszy Polak w kosmosie". PolskieRadio.pl. Archived from the original on 6 March 2022. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  16. ^ Chiaro, Delia (23 November 2017). The Language of Jokes in the Digital Age: Viral Humour. Routledge. ISBN 9781351379953. Archived from the original on 28 August 2021. Retrieved 28 August 2021 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ a b Камышин «может в кантриболз». Infokam (in Russian). 7 August 2014. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  18. ^ a b c Fisher, Max (25 July 2014). "Everything you need to know about the Ukraine crisis". Vox Media. Archived from the original on 22 January 2022. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  19. ^ Hoffman, Steven (2 May 2015). "How Polandball can of taking over internets". Krakow Post. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  20. ^ a b Chiaro, Delia (5 December 2017). The Language of Jokes in the Digital Age: #Like #share #lol. London: Routledge. p. 150. doi:10.4324/9781315146348. ISBN 978-1-315-14634-8.
  21. ^ Beswick, Emma; Burnett, Stephanie (22 August 2018). "Sleepy Montenegrins win 'Lazy Olympics'". Euronews. Archived from the original on 6 December 2021. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  22. ^ "Japon, Chine, vers une nouvelle guerre froide". France Culture (in French). 9 March 2013. Archived from the original on 9 December 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  23. ^ "Wybór Franciszka okiem internautów" (in Polish). Onet.pl. 14 March 2013. Archived from the original on 17 September 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014. Alt URL Archived 18 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Аниматор из Камышина нарисовал мультфильм о «заболевшей» Украине. Argumenty i Fakty (in Russian). Volgograd. 6 August 2014. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  25. ^ "台灣最美麗的風景是人 真的嗎? (Taiwan is one of the most beautiful landscapes, really?)" (in Chinese). Apple Daily (Taiwanese edition). 31 July 2014. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  26. ^ Klava, P. (25 August 2013). Польша у россиян ассоциируется с Лжедмитрием и Польшаром. Vesti FM (in Russian). Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  27. ^ a b c Oleksiak, Wojciech (9 June 2014). "Polandball — A Case Study". Culture.pl. Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  28. ^ "Polandball: Can Into Space for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Game Details". Nintendo. Archived from the original on 21 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  29. ^ "Countryballs: Modern Ballfare Review". GamesMojo. 25 November 2021. Archived from the original on 25 November 2021. Retrieved 25 November 2021.

External links