What makes a thing a thing that tourists want to see? What makes a crowd flock to this statue but not to that one? Especially when the one to which they flock is so extraordinarily crap?
I ask this after yesterday’s viewing of Brussels’ Mannekin Pis, the city’s emblem, a little boy having a waz. It was the second time I’d seen it and, even knowing it was crap from the first time, I was still disappointed in how small he was.
My cousin who lives in Brussels said the only reason worth going there is to watch the tourists and see a wave of “is that all it is?” dismay descend upon their faces.
I wasn’t looking out for that though. As I arrived, the little fella was being besuited by an Official Dresser – it said so on his jacket – which was all well and good, but We-Man was sadly topped with a hat several sizes too big that covered his stupid little head.
Still, upon completion, the dresser received a round of applause from the onlookers. They were an easily pleased crowd. Maybe they even thought the statue was worth the several hundred euros it had cost each of them to get there.
But back to the original question: Why this statue and not a proper one? Why Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, another infant-sized blob of pointless rock on an otherwise forgotten bit of dockland? Why the Mona Lisa and not something bigger than a postcard?
Why? The same answer to the question of most of the world’s other ills: marketing. We’re directed to them by arseholes.
Imagine if there were a brand new city. Imagine if Neopolis rose fully formed on the Peloponnesian Plain, a town so perfect that marketing execs were, upon entering, immediately sliced in two. The tourists wouldn’t know what to do. They’d be taking photos of lamp posts, instagramming traffic wardens and snapping selfies with rubbish bins.
It’s the same with everything. Without marketeers telling us to drink expensive Grey Goose vodka – a spirit that’s supposed to be flavourless! – we’d all be making cocktails using Dettol and wondering why the party had suddenly become very quiet. Basically it’s because we’re stupid.
I can’t think of any other explanation as to why I was there – for a second time, remember – watching a statue of an infant pissing into the faces of the hundreds of us gathered around.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the liquid that emanated from the little sod had been collected from the men’s room of the Brussels branch of Saatchi and Saatchi just to hammer home their disdain.
Did I mention I don’t like marketeers?