06 September 2009

Manneken-Pis and the meaning of celebrity

As mentioned previously, Brussels has a famous statue called Manneken-Pis. It's basically the national icon; they're very proud of it.

So what is it, exactly? Why, a statue of a nude toddler urinating in public. Hence the "Pis" part of the name--he's a fountain, you see. As one tourist brochure I saw put it, "a small and absurd symbol for a small and absurd country."

At the City Museum of Brussels, they have a large section on Manneken-Pis, which includes a selection of some of the 700-plus outfits that he's had. That's right: they dress him up. You know, for holidays . . . or just for the hell of it. There's an outfit for pretty much every country in the world--Tunisia, Malaysia, Tahiti: congrats, you're in the club. Also, naturally, an Elvis outfit. And bear in mind that all of these outfits have to be specially-made to fit his proportions and account for the fact that his left arm is forever clutching his, er, Pis-ing unit.

There's also the requisite video, which explains his history and symbolism, none of which I remember right off hand because all of this new knowledge was washed from my mind by the footage that follows, which features a large crowd singing and toasting the wee whizzer. They look so proud of him. It's kind of jaw-dropping.

Lee: Manneken-Pis doesn't interest me. What I do find fascinating is that so many other people find him so interesting.

Doug: He's a celebrity. Famous for being famous.

Lee: Right. The original tabloid star. He achieves notoriety through a scandalous act, and then everyone talks about him. Forever. He's like Paris Hilton, but with less artificial bronzer.

1 comment:

  1. what about the other statue of a little girl that is down the way from Manneken-Pis, she is tucked down a dreary scary lane, in a niche, covered by bars, the fountain no longer"flows" I wonder why she never received the same adoration. she was sweet but relegated to bad cousin status. too bad.
    - A Canadian tourist on the prowl in Brussels.


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