This is a particular type
of Anthropomorphic Personification
that depicts a country (or some other sociopolitical or geographical unit) as one person, using that person's actions and foibles to make a comment on the country's politics and history. Sometimes this "person" is an animal or landmark (like the Statue of Liberty
). While it is Older Than Dirt
with precedents going as far back as The Middle Ages
if not Ancient Greece
(the myth of Europa and Asia), this technique has been closely associated with newspaper political cartoons for the past few hundred years, and nowadays can be found in webcomics as well. As such, it may be considered a genre of comic, though it's been known to appear in other media (such as the anime of Axis Powers Hetalia
) once in a blue moon.
Classic Characters of this Type
- Britannia - Britain
- John Bull - Britain (or occasionally England, with his sister Lil representing Scotland and his brother or cousin Jonathan representing the USA)
- Johnny Canuck - Canada
- Rodina or Rodina Mat' or Mother Russia - Russia
- Uncle Sam - USA (representing the American government)
- Columbia- USA (representing the American state and nation)
- Marianne - France (Which eventually replaced the Gallic rooster as the symbolic embodiment of the country)
- Michel - Germany (see German Peculiarities)
- Germania - Germany (counterpart to Britannia, not normally seen nowadays)
- Bharat Mata ("Mother India") - India (this one's politicized even within India, so handle with care)
- Helvetia - Switzerland
- Hunnia - Hungary
- Cossack Marnay - Ukraine
- Srulik - State of Israel
- Mother Svea - Sweden
Works That Use This Trope:
Anime and Manga
- Axis Powers Hetalia, as stated above, uses anthropomorphic personifications of various nations across the world as the main characters, using typical stereotypes to create the exaggerated personalities. It's considered by many to be the Trope Codifier.
- And by extension, the fanworks the State-tan Project and I Am Matthewian, which expand on APH with personifications for the US states and Canadian provices, respectively.
- Afganisu-tan personifies nations as well, though more in a Moe style with a focus on Central-Asia.
- Uncle Sam is an actual comic book superhero from the 40's (currently owned by DC Comics, and best known for being the leader of the Freedom Fighters superteam.) He is the literal embodiment of the Spirit of America, created by the Founding Fathers using a magical talisman.
- One of the scariest and most disturbing uses of this trope can be found in the 1991 Soviet\Russian film House Under the Starry Skies. Valentin Komposterov, the antagonist, is heavily implied to be the anthropomorphic representation of the accumulated 70 years of Soviet history and ideology. Unsurprisingly, he shrugs off rifle rounds and procures fantastic weaponry out of Hammer Space, all while alternating between gloating in front of his victims and spewing communist ideology.
- Punch`s political cartoons helped popularise some of the classic personifications.
- Private Eye sometimes uses them.
- Not quite nations, but in the Australian sketch comedy show News Free Zone, the "88 Australia Street" segment was about a share house occupied by anthropomorphic embodiments of the Australian states.
- This art book (Link is NSFW due to advertisements and thumbnails in the sidebar) depicts 74 countries as teenage girls, including North Korea.