In the video above called International Relations: When Countries are Personified (BYU Comedy), many of the characters personify the modern empires as people with defining characteristics typical of their respective countries.
This is very similar to the anime, manga, and light novel series Hetalia: The Axis Powers. The characters that are seen also have specific relationships with each other and defining characteristics during the time of World War I and II.
Both International Relations and Hetalia express stereotypes about specific countries. Stereotypes have different examples but they just don’t stop at countries. Stereotypes extend to all groups, races, ethnicities, and religion. Though stereotypes are typically negative, some have provided positive effects.
The International Relations characters consist of America, Canada, Britain, France, Switzerland, and North Korea. The Hetalia Axis Powers characters consist mainly of Italy, Germany, Japan, America, Canada, Britain, France, Russia, and China. I will bring up the characteristics of the International Relations characters and their respective Hetalia Axis Powers counterparts.
The very first characters introduced in the International Relations is America and Canada. Both characters are female and are wheeling around a shopping cart. Each cart has what their respective country would stereotypically have. America has guns, chips, soda, and an expensive designer brand purse. Canada has mostly hockey gear and maple syrup. They act friendly towards each other talking about some of America’s state stereotypes like Hawaii, Alaska, and Texas. One of the other stereotypes expressed is the preference of sport. America favors baseball while Canada favors hockey. The American stereotype shown in the shopping cart is how America is seen as a gun-totting obese nation. The Canadian stereotype has them portrayed as hockey obsessive and maple syrup loving people.
The next character introduced, though not in person, is China. America gets a phone call and the audience learns that America has a huge debt to China and also how China loves money which is linked to a stereotype that China believes that money can buy anything. One stereotype expressed in the exchange is that China makes everything. Britain is introduced with the addition of France for a few seconds. France is seen with a basket of grapes, baguettes, wine, and sausages. France walks off before uttering a few words in French. This portrays the common stereotypes of the French people. The French are seen as food snobs, elitist that will not speak any English, and will wear berets while holding a bag of baguettes.
North Korea is introduced later with who appears to be Kim Jong-un. North Korea’s shopping cart is a nuclear weapon covered in a black cloth. Both America and Britain look away as North Korea attempts to get attention by flaunting the nuke. He walks off angry saying, “Just pay me some attention!” Much of the world sees North Korea as irrational with Kim Jong-un trying to be a bigger man than he really is when he threatens the world with nuclear weapons.
Once North Korea leaves the stage, America and Britain continue arguing. America points out how Britain made a pass at every country it saw. America attempts to get Switzerland to agree with her statement to which he responds, “I’m staying out of this.” and takes a bite out of chocolate. This is not so much a stereotype as something that Switzerland is known for.
After Switzerland leaves, America and Britain get into a stereotype argument in which America says, “I celebrate leaving you with fireworks. I blow things up.” This is also the stereotypical image of Americans as gun happy and eager to blow things up. Britain responds with, “I don’t need you or your bad credit.” which reinforces the debt idea shown with China and America. America shoots back with Britain playing the wrong football to only for Britain to respond with, “Good luck with the obesity epidemic.” The very last time stated before the two leave is from America saying, “Get a dental plan.”
Hetalia Axis Powers
America is brothers with Canada and his catchphrase is “I’m the Hero!”. He is the self-proclaimed leader of the Allied Forces and he is usually oblivious to the opinions of others. He is portrayed as loud, obnoxious, egotistical, immature, and childlike. He will usually interfere with other characters’ businesses with little regard for whom his actions affect which usually has Canada taking the blame. Despite all the negative traits that attach to his character, he is shown to be a kind-hearted person who cares deeply for his friends. He is a brave adventurer and natural explorer. America always wants to try things no one has ever done before. He spends his free time either trying new foods, being around friends or making movies. America has a fascination with superheroes which he aspires to be himself with his catchphrase. America is frequently seen clutching a hamburger or eating while speaking, yet he is self-conscious of his unhealthy habits and tries several yet ineffective diets to stay healthy. He also has uncanny superhuman strength, being able to lift objects several times his size.
Canada is the passive brother of America and loves maple syrup. In contrast to his brother, Canada is calm, shy, sensitive, and hates fighting. Despite this, he is often mistaken for his brother and has found himself in trouble for incidents that America has caused. When he is not being mistaken for his brother, other nations tend to forget that he exists. One such example was when the Allied Forces had a meeting, the other Allies do not realize that Canada was there as well.
China is the oldest nation in the Allies, being depicted as immortal as well as being over four or five thousand years old. During the fight between the Axis and Allies, he fights Germany and Japan with a wok and ladle, which became his weapon of choice which also serves as a stereotype that China serves good food. He is a big fan of Hello Kitty and tends to end his sentences with the suffix -aru, a Japanese racist stereotype of how Chinese people speak.
France is an overly-romantic, carefree man. In the series, he is shown to have a long-held rivalry with England and makes sexual passes at many characters. France explains away his long history of military defeats as a joke from God, but he believes he is gifted with his “charms” and his supreme cooking skills. He regards himself as the eldest brother among the European nations and is referred to as such by some of them, though he calls Spain his elder brother in turn. Most of the time he does not bother remembering to speak English as he would prefer to use French because it is the “Language of Love”.
Britain, more commonly known as England, is depicted as an irritable man with big, bushy eyebrows. Once a zealous privateer, Britain is now a cynical and sharp-tongued gentleman. Some of his notable character traits include his terrible cooking skills, inability to hold his liquor and foul mouth. Britain is most antagonistic towards France, with whom he shares a long rivalry, and has strong mixed feelings towards America, his former charge.
North Korea does not exist due to the Korean Government requesting to have the characters removed.
Switzerland is a xenophobic man in the Alps, usually depicted in a green military uniform and a white beret. He is permanently neutral in all matters and is always threatening other nations to get off his land via gunpoint.
The American stereotype differences are in how the west sees America as the gun-totting cowboy with bad debt while the east sees America as the self-proclaimed leader and hero. Another aspect that both sides talk about is America’s obesity epidemic. The Western perspective pokes fun at this while the Eastern side shows that their idea of America is trying to fix its problem. The East also as a superman-like view of America as seen with how their personification of America has super strength. The Eastern perspective is much more positive than the Western one.
Canada is seen as the younger brother of America that is easily forgotten by the East. The West sees Canada in almost the same light as the East does but not in the brother sense. Both East and West believe that Canada is the smaller and less important of the two. As seen in the characteristics of the Eastern view, Canada is soft spoken and shy. Many of the other nations do not pay attention to him and even forget he exists. The Western view acknowledges Canada exists but is not of great importance with the happy-go-lucky characteristic that she portrays. All that seems to be on her mind is Hockey and maple syrup.
China is held in a negative light by the East while the West see China as an economic superpower. The East shows a specific style that the Chinese speak which reflects a racism only seen in the Japanese culture. It also believes that China makes good food as well.
France is seen by the East as the Romantic Nation that cooks great food. The romance aspect of his nation is furthered as he prefers to only speak French as it is the language of romance. His military prowess is very lacking that reflects the French military stereotype of them always surrendering. The Western perspective has almost the same look on France except it is slightly tweaked. The West implies that France is a food snob but does not directly state that they can cook good food. The West uses the stereotype that the French will refuse to speak any English but not in the same sense that the East does.
Britain different in the Eastern perspective as Britain cannot cook, cannot hold his liquor and has a foul mouth. Britain also has a cynical perspective on life. The Western perspective has them as the romantic due to the history of the imperialization of many other nations when the sun never set on the British empire. The difference is that the Western Britain is more outgoing and definitely less vulgar.
Switzerland is seen as the permanently neutral state by both sides but the East envisions Switzerland as a Xenophobic state which is why it is neutral. Historically, which is the stance that the West takes, Switzerland is more than willing to help other countries but will always be steadfast in maintaining its neutrality in any and all military aspects.
The East views many of the states it portrays to have more of a romanticized but also more has their nations based a bit more in stereotypes. Some outliers exist such as China and Switzerland but the rest of the personifications are romanticized. The Western perspective has more grounding in history but still dabbles in the stereotypes. The romanticization is the major difference between the two.