Polandball: The World's Most Sophisticated Subreddit

What is Polandball, exactly? No, it's not a Calvinball variant — it's a type of webcomic that has been steadily gaining attention on Reddit. These comics, created by Redditors from all over the world, feature anthropomorphized balls that represent countries. These stripped-down versions of the countries are depicted getting into all sorts of mayhem with each other, oftentimes making commentary on contemporary politics.

The country-balls are minimally sketched according to shared guidelines, usually featuring little more than the country’s flag and a pair of cartoon eyes. Although the style of artwork is strictly enforced by moderators and therefore fairly uniform among the many contributors, the content and humor styles are wide-ranging. Some jokes rely on overdone national stereotypes or even toilet humor, while others are quite sophisticated, occasionally based on obscure events and history comprehensible only to those well-versed in international relations. Polandballs also generally speak mangled English (“Engrish”) of a type supposedly common in whatever countries are being portrayed.

Here is one good recent example of a Polandball comic that features contemporary international politics. Other comics challenge us to learn our flags and include plenty of inside humor and side-jokes. As with all of our modern meme-type humor, it takes a little getting used to. The Engrish, the strange quality of some of the jokes (why the fixation on Poland, anyway?), and the challenge of learning to tell the difference between the countries' flags can be off-putting at first, but once you overcome the initial difficulties, the payoff is grand. 

Polandball presents a nice medium ground between single-panel political cartoons and longer-form political satire (which is usually something like The Onion or The Daily Show), where meaningful and thought-provoking commentary sits comfortably side-by-side with some of the stupidest jokes you've ever heard. Even when veering into being a little offensive, this medium of artistic expression is a great addition to the political discussion, as it allows a unique outlet for some of the absolutely ridiculous stuff that goes on in the international sphere.

What keeps the quality of these comics so high? Each and every submission to the Polandball subreddit is reviewed by a very diligent team of moderators who demand only the highest quality. In fact, they have even implemented a mechanism to keep jokes from getting overdone and ruined, the Joke Life Preserve, which limits the ability of submitters to use certain jokes that have become annoying memes. This is part of the genius of the success of Polandball.

An added boon of the Polandball comics is the discussion that occurs in response. Given that a certain level of background knowledge about international politics and history is required to understand the comics to begin with, readers tend to be well-informed and interested in the topics at hand, making for informative and entertaining discussions in the comments.

Even if you don't know about or care for Reddit itself, the Polandball subreddit is worth checking out. Alongside all the serious blogs and sites I read, Polandball is a daily necessity for me.