1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Comic strip

July 20, 2011

An important symbol of US popular culture, "The Simpsons" has been a global favorite for more than two decades. Now the satirical cartoon has been adapted to provide a vehicle for political activism in Kosovo.

Computer screen showing comic characters
Not 'The Simpsons' - the PimpsonsImage: DW

Earlier this year political squabbling over who would be the next Kosovan president - a ceremonial, but significant post - threatened to bring down the government for the second time in six months.

That was before US Ambassador Christopher Dell appeared on Kosovan television with top political leaders to announce a solution: a president almost no one had heard of. The moment was to inspire the birth of a new satirical comic strip based on the US television show "The Simpsons."

Dell was involved in the negotiations that saw a highly respected female police commander, Atifete Jahjaga, take over the presidency.

But the scene didn't sit well with Fisnik Ismaili, who is among a proportion of Kosovans who resent the US official's high level of prominence in the country.

Optimism lost

Three years ago, Ismaili was responsible for creating a symbol of optimism for the newly independent Kosovo - a sculpture in the capital city Pristina that spells out "newborn" in giant yellow letters.

But recent events have damaged his optimism, and Ismaili now believes that political power is being traded with little concern for what the people want.

A woman lights up a cigarette using a lighter sporting the "Pimpsons" logo
Pimpsons merchandise has already appearedImage: DW

It was while watching the presidential ceremony that Ismaili found his inspiration for "The Pimpsons." He thought the American ambassador looked uncannily similar to Comic Book Guy, a minor character from "The Simpsons."

"I took that character and some other characters from 'The Simpsons,' put them together, made my first episode, a mockup parody of 'The Simpsons': I called it the Pimpsons because I consider these people to be the pimps of Kosovo."

The Facebook effect

Ismaili, who is active in the nationalist opposition party Self-Determination, posted his digital comic strip on Facebook. More than three months and 75 episodes later, The Pimpsons has become an Internet sensation in Kosovo.

The strip's Facebook page boasts nearly 16,000 fans, one of whom even produced a batch of cigarette lighters emblazoned with The Pimpsons logo.

In the comics, Dell is the "Chief Pimp" and "Monarch" of Kosovo, although Ismaili spares almost no prominent political figure. Along with plenty of profanity and sexual references, The Pimpsons offers a biting satirical look at political events, and tackles issues ranging from highway tenders to the recent talks between Serbia and Kosovo.

"It's a totally new way to express free thoughts about negative phenomenons in Kosovo," said Ismaili.

Fisnik Ismaili
The creator of the Pimpsons is angryImage: DW

"The Pimpsons has helped to keep people informed about the political situation in their country," said Krenar Gashi, who runs the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development.

"He was creating the news, making the news. The US policy in Kosovo was being conducted publicly," said Gashi. "For the first time the public had more insights in the diplomatic interventions into policymaking in Kosovo."

The role of the US

The United States has been revered in Kosovo ever since it led the 1999 NATO intervention here. But now Ismaili says that Dell's high profile could damage the US image.

Petrit Selimi, who owns the comic-themed café Strip Depot in Pristina, is a big Pimpsons fan. But he's also a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo - a prime target for the Pimpsons.

"It's very hilarious, the characters are spot on in terms of visual identity - but it's a little bit off from what actually happens in Kosovo's political landscape."

Selimi also takes issue with the portrayal of Dell as Kosovo's puppet master. He says the ambassador did Kosovo a great service in breaking months of political deadlock. "I have no qualms about the involvement of the US ambassador in Kosovo politics - I think it's all good."

Ismaili clearly doesn't agree and says he has no plans of stopping until Kosovo's political establishment is brought down.

Author: Nate Tabak, Pristina / rc
Editor: Ben Knight