The first mention of Belgium is in “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” (S11E3). After an attempted murder of Homer Simpson by restaurant owners, Chief Wigum, Springfield’s police officer, offers his two fellow police officers to eat a “Belgian waffle” at the food festival. This, however, only occurs in the original English-speaking version and in the Spanish-speaking Latin-American one. In the French version, the waffle is replaced by a “crèpe” (a pancake). This suggests that Belgium is famous for its waffles in America (both English and Spanish speaking) but not in France. Why is that? Maybe France is too proud of its cuisine to appreciate Belgium’s one. Or maybe it is simply that ...view middle of the document...
Bart Simpsons thus seems to dislike Belgium, but his mother Marge Simpson quickly tells him that if he does not like Belgium, she will take away from him his Tintin albums. The threat is efficient, he promises to be good while holding –almost hugging- The Crab with the Golden Claws. This scene depicts the fact that many people make fun of Belgium and criticize it, but in the end, they love its comics! This nonetheless seems to make Belgium proud. In March 2009, the Flemish newspaper De Standaard published an article about this scene.
Belgium is also present in “Lisa the Dram Queen” (S20E9). Lisa Simpson’s school organizes a Model United Nations conference in which each student represents a nation. One of the stupidest students, Martin, represents Belgium. He calls Lisa Simpson’s mother because Lisa is not here, and he tells her, when she says that her daughter is missing, “yes, to the extent that you can trust the word of a Belgian”. Belgium being represented by a stupid and slightly fat student is not a surprise to me anymore: Belgium is often mocked and mistrusted. For instance when Frenchmen tell a “blague belge” (“Belgian joke”), it is not Belgian; it is just a story about what stupid thing a Belgian did.
People do indeed make fun of Belgium, but they also fear it in a way. In “Donnie Fatso” (S22E9), the local mafia is concluding a deal to buy “Belgian guns”, “fusils belges”, “armas belgas”. It looks like Belgium is famous all over the globe for its weapons!
Belgium is thus mentioned through its food (except in France), its comic strips and its guns and is at the same time ridiculized. There seems to be a paradoxical feeling about this country: one appreciates its food and comics but makes fun of it.
What idea of the Low Countries do The Simpsons offer? Kirk Van Houten clearly is not a good ambassador of the Low Countries… Alcoholic, unemployed, incompetent, desperate, speaking a funny accent in the French version, he is looked down on and mocked in most of the episodes. Apart from him, some great achievements of the Low Countries are mentioned: the Dutch windmills and the Belgian comics and waffles for example. Even the European construction, which is, I think, the best contribution of the Low Countries to try to achieve a better world, is mentioned.
The aim is mainly to make the audience laugh and for many around the world the Low Countries are funny in themselves. It is true that smoking weed is tolerated in The Netherlands and that Belgium’s State organization is ridiculously funny, but...