Saturday, March 08, 2008

Taking It to Belgium

And let's face it; they have it coming.

My European friends tell me that in Europe, they tell "Belgian" jokes much as we used to tell Polish jokes. This, of course, has generally fallen out of favor because 1) We've maturely moved on to apply the same jokes to other ethnic groups, and 2) They aren't so damn funny to begin with, unless you're still stuck in a fourth-grade mentality, which is why these jokes are very popular in the White House.

Passing those by, there's not a lot to work with here. There are simply not enough clever lines to plague the Belgians with based on what they're known for: Waffles, chocolate, Brussels sprouts, banking, and postage stamps. What kind of material is that? Antwerp jokes? There are about two. No, clearly this must be a dull country if that's the best that they can come up with.

I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention Hercule Poirot, who is a fictional invention of Agatha Christie, but Belgian nonetheless. What a simpering, prissy, fussy and condescending fellow he is. What with all the time he spends meticulously grooming his famous moustache and eating like he's got 12 gourmets hiding inside of him, it's a wonder that he had time to solve anything. Think of Monk on steroids and sporting a high-cholesterol addiction. There. I just saved you the trouble of reading a lot of books. You can thank me later. Cash is the preferred form of thanks.

Belgium is also known as hospitable, to the point of surrendering even faster than France in World War II. "You need a way around the Maginot Line? Sure, come on into the Low Countries! There's more to see than you think!" Some countries shouldn't be allowed to have tourist bureaus.

However, now I have them where I want them, and this time, I'm striking at a source of considerable national pride. Something so important, that they'll be celebrating the whole year over it, this being the 50 year anniversary of its humble beginnings. Will there be parades and statues erected? I don't know, I suppose they will. Anything for a bank holiday. They have exported this product, this phenomenon, all over the world and boast of its genius and yea do they gloat because no one else can lay claim to them.

What could possibly be so important, so incredible, and so pervasive that you've been distracted by them so thoroughly that it escaped your attention entirely that they came from Belgium? What has Belgium chosen to be their symbolic presence in the world? Well, I'll tell you:


That's right: Smurfs. It was just over 50 years ago that Pierre Culliford first committed these little abominations of nature onto paper. If he weren't already dead, he'd deserve to be for foisting these blasted, uber-annoying twerps (oh, I guess that's three) things on an unsuspecting world. What I really want to know is this: What the hell was the matter with that guy, and what is the deal with these things? More to the point: Why are they popular??

I could theorize for years about the latter and still not come up with a reasonable answer. The only observation I care to throw in that direction is a quote from Lazarus Long: "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity." Well, that, and the fact that the US electorate voted for four more years of George Bush in 2004, which is only proof of the first axiom.

But I digress.

Doesn't the "social structure" of the blue things bother you? There's one old guy, one chick, and seemingly thousands of guys. Right there, you have problems. Now, I don't generally have a problem with Papa Smurf, except that he's the only one who seems to be a parent, and the Smurfette is way too young for him. I don't care if there are some May-December relationships that work (shut up, Michael Douglas, you lucky bastard), it just isn't that way in cartoons. Ask Disney. Disney keeps it age-equivalent, even if there are too many Caucasian couples involved. No, from the dialogue I overheard from the countless times my younger sisters had this drek on the TV on Saturday mornings, Papa Smurf seems to be Smurfette's papa, too. If there's only one Papa, then all the male Smurfs must be his, too, so to reproduce, there's going to be incest involved. Is this the sort of thing you want your children to be watching?? Furthermore, you can't help but notice the tight white pants on the Smurf guys; clearly, there ain't no "package" going on there. So, if the Smurfette doesn't seem interested in any of them, you can understand why. And, if they can't get Smurfette to put out, no wonder the damn things are all blue. Apparently, it must spread.

Then there's the way they talk. One adjective in their whole vocabulary: "Smurfy". What is that all about? There is some logic attached to that, though: Yes, they really are that stupid. What else? Adverb = "Smurfily". Sounds like a venereal disease. Profanity: "Go Smurf yourself!" Considering how idiotic the whole Smurf thing is, that's actually a pretty harsh thing to say. What's the pluperfect subjunctive version of the verb "Smurf"? I don't even want to know.

The thing is, most cartoonists are observational in some way, directly or indirectly. Where did Culliford get his inspiration for Smurfs and their little society? Well, I think that we can say for certain that they don't resemble and human culture that we know of, nor anything in nature. Nature abhors a vacuum, and Smurfs are nothing but vacuous. That's human culture that we know of. Now, my question to you is: What do you really know about Belgian society? I'm betting the answer is bupkus. Nothing. They don't teach it in school, there's nothing in the papers about Belgium, nothing in everyday life that reminds you of Belgium.... except the Smurfs.

Logically, then, we can only conclude that life in Belgium and its people are represented by the Smurfs. Sure, I'm reasonable, and I'll bet that they don't all wear the same outfit, especially since it does get cold there, and I'll bet that there's at least more than one old Belgian. Outside of that, I'm not sure. It explains a few things: How did the Germans march straight through Belgium to invade France in WWII? Simple: How much resistance are a bunch of six-inch-high androgynous twerps going to put up? What's the deal with the waffles with the really big squares? Easy: The squares are for the Smurfs to curl up and sleep in. The famed chocolate? I'm afraid the only source that they have must be Smurf poo. Personally, I'm allergic to chocolate and can't say if Belgian chocolate tastes substantially like some brand of poo, but look at the stuff some of their neighbors eat. The French eat snails. Snails are gross. How do I know? I tried them once, and trust me, they're no kind of aphrodisiac. More like an emetic. The Norwegians eat lutefisk, which is fish cured in lye. You know, lye. The stuff that's the main ingredient in Drano. Case closed.

The only further proof I need to convince you that all of this is true is to use the deft logical reasoning of our friend, Hercule Poirot. He'd stick by me and my contentions, and we can trust his brain exercises much more than anything truly Belgian because he's a fictional character made up by a British writer. How was anyone to know that his existence was impossible, and that Belgians are all actually some mutant version of Smurfs? Because apparently nobody goes there. They don't have to. Banking is all electronic now, we have the waffle recipe, and the little boxes of poo, er- chocolate keep arriving.

No, I think you can have Belgium. I don't want to go there, I've read enough Agatha Christie, I can live without fattening food like waffles, and I am not touching the chocolate. I used to wonder how Belgium even got into the European Union, and then I found out that it came down to a very close vote. It was all tied up, with one faction wanting to dissociate themselves from the lowland blue demons, and the other side thinking how tacky it would be to leave a hole that big on the map. It came down to the Swiss delegation, and they're so persnickety about being neutral that they can't make up their minds about anything, so Belgium got in by default. That makes about as much sense as Guam having a delegate to the major parties' conventions. Why is Guam a possession of the US, considering where and how small it is? And who cares what the people on Guam think, in the larger picture? No offense, Guammarians, but you're not a Super Tuesday state. I'm sure you're all very nice people, and interesting to meet.

Plus, you're not little blue Belgians. Thank God for that.