Behind the Scenes

Not super knowledgeable about politics? Saw a reference to something and would love to learn more? Welcome to P&P Behind the Scenes, where references go to get explained in fun, bite-sized bits of information. Have fun!

Some trivia

What does prejudice and politics mean?
Politics always comes with some kind of prejudice, or bias. Relationships between countries are shaped by history, and some of that history is unpleasant–sometimes there’s bitterness and distrust and pain. This can have a profound influence on international relations.

What are the countries’ personalities based on?
Mainly, how their government behaves toward other governments.

What do the characters (the countries) look like?
Anything you want, baby.

Do you share any political views with the characters?
Assume that I don’t.

Are you a communist?
Nope! I’ve been asked this before so I wanted to clear the air.

References & Notes

Song titles are quoted without permission under fair use. Credit for brilliance goes to the respective artists.

Table of Contents 
Click the links to be taken to the content right away. Convenient!

  1. Mutually Assured Delusion (all parts)
  2. Coffee and closers
  3. Paint it green
  4. Political Debrief no. 4
  5. An open letter to weeaboos
  6. Uncertainty
  7. America’s diary
  8. Word games
  9. Realism
  10. Political Debrief no. 3
  11. Political Debrief no. 2
  12. It’s complicated
  13. The first law of history
  14. Friendly gestures
  15. Buzzed confessions
  16. Lips and teeth
  17. Sucker Punch
  18. Gossip
  19. Load up on guns and bring your friends
  20. The 1770s Were His Rebellious Years

Mutually Assured Delusion

Part 1 – “If it’s not love…”

– Title is a reference to The Smiths’ Ask, from the 2008 album The Sound Of The Smiths. The bomb definitely brings the world powers together here, for better or for worse.

– South Korea is telling America that he sucks at MOBAs, a super popular type of multiplayer online game. They’re a big deal in Korea’s e-sports scene.

– ‘Achieving nuclear proliferation’ here means that North Korea can now make nukes of his own. Nuclear proliferation is a huge topic in int. politics.

Part 2 – “When it rains, it rains really hard”

– The title is not just a butchering of a popular saying, but a reference to Fall Out Boy’s beautiful The Kids Aren’t Alright. Seriously, I love this song and listen to it often when I write.

The Security Council are the hot shots of the United Nations. They get bonus responsibilities, and benefits.

– G7 is a reference to real-life governmental forums like the G8. While the real thing is economic in nature, the term G7 was used in this story to simply give a name to the meeting between the Security Council and Korea and Japan.

– The US, UK, France, China, and Russia all have access to nuclear weapons. In recent years, these world powers have attempted to disarm, or get rid of their weapons and stop the spread of WMDs.

Part 3 – “The day the music died”

– Okay, this is too obvious. Title is a reference to Don McLean’s American Pie.

– Switzerland is pretty sassy for a stoic. He’s referring to Germany’s economic relationship with Greece, which is kind of a roller coaster.

– The rifle incident is a reference to Switzerland’s gun culture. People like carrying around guns in public. It’s a different world over there.

Part 4 – “We need a war”

– Title comes from the Fischerspooner song of the same name.

– ICBMs are missiles that can shoot across countries and continents. It’s been said that North Korea might be able to hit the US with one.

– North Korea sees the United States as, probably, the single greatest threat to its security. If the US has nukes, North Korea wants them too.

Part 5 – “Get yours, get mine”

– Title is loosely based on a line from Imagine Dragon’s incredible track I’m So Sorry.

– Russia is making sure to push all the right buttons. North Korea doesn’t completely buy it, mostly because the USSR was a thirsty superpower that had no problems stepping on smaller countries.

– Russia’s reference to ‘unfortunate external forces’ is an ode to North Korea’s official state narrative, which does not blame Kim for the economic crisis and famine, but blames factors such as natural disasters and foreign oppression. B. R. Myers talks more about this in his book.

– 1948 was the year North Korea officially became a country and starting formal political relations with the USSR. Kim Il-sung’s relationship with Russia existed many years prior, it should however be noted.

– “Bonza” is a totally legitimate Australian slang term. Trust me.

Part 6“A little situation”

– Title is based on The Raconteurs’ song Salute Your Solution, which I decided was not only relevant because it had the word ‘solution’ in the name, but because the chorus is so relatable to a multitude of international relations.

– 7,000 nuclear warheads is a lot, considering that the US has 7,200 and Russia has 7,500. The next highest? France with 300, followed by China with 250. There’s about 9 countries in the world who we know for sure possess nuclear weapons–legally or illegally.

– Hong Kong isn’t a country; it’s a city and special administrative region (SAR). But for the sake of casual dialog, South Africa just referred to the Coalition as a group of countries since the term applies to all but one.

Part 7 – “The Alpha Dog and Megalomaniac”

– The title comes from a Fall Out Boy song of a similar name. This song has always reminded me of the US-Russia power dynamic both past and present, and I think it’s very safe to say that at certain points in history the terms “alpha dog” and “megalomaniac” could apply to either/both.

– Pakistan and India have both made it clear that they want to play with the big boys and join the nuclear club. India decided to chase the WMD dream after China launched a successful nuclear test in 1964. Pakistan’s eventual possession of weapons would be a further motivation. You know how the saying goes: “If the people I don’t like have nukes, I need nukes too.”

– After Korea was freed from Japanese rule at the end of WWII, it was essentially divided, through occupation, by the US and USSR. The Soviets got North Korea, and Americans got South Korea. You can imagine the resentment one might feel after tasting freedom… only to be occupied all over again.

– “Did the voice inside your head tell you that?” Sometimes it’s advantageous (or fun) to do things to make people believe things that aren’t real.

How much does it hurt is a reference to an episode of The Office, in which Michael Scott yells the phrase at his basketball opponents after his team scores.

– Objection! was something of an video game meme set off by the Phoenix Wright series, which are about lawyers and courtroom drama. In law, objection “is a formal protest raised in court during a trial to disallow a witness‘s testimony or other evidence which would be in violation of the rules of evidence or other procedural law.” Thank you, Wikipedia.

– The last time the world was on the brink of nuclear war, Russia and America were the ones holding the triggers. The tables have turned, and now North Korea is up there with them rather than fighting a proxy war. Also, chess analogy.

– ‘Little socialist weasel’ is a reference to a scene from Team America: World Police where a character refers to Michael Moore as a giant socialist weasel. And we all know this is one of America’s favorite movies.

– The Non-Proliferation Treaty has been signed by many countries who swear commitment to stoping the spread of nuclear weapons and technology. Oops.

– France, UK, India, and Pakistan  are already known to posses weapons, so they have no reason to be hesitant in admitting so. South Korea and Japan, on the other hand…


Note: If a story does not contain any significant or unexplained references, it will not appear here.

Coffee and closers

– The first time I heard the phrase “Coffee is for closers” was this nice little Fall Out Boy song of the same name. Apparently, it’s a reference to a movie scene where (a young and nubile) Alec Baldwin acts like a total asshole for the sake of capitalism, or something. To be honest, I prefer the song to the movie.

Paint it green

– The UN Sustainable Development Summit is a real event where world leaders will formally adopt the upcoming development agenda. What is a development agenda? Well, it’s basically a set of goals that the world tries to work toward, like eliminating poverty and reducing plastic in the ocean.

– The “11th hour” is a term used to describe how we’re one step away from killing the planet because of pollution, the destruction of the rainforests, the wearing away of the o-zone layer… you get it. The term was popularized (I guess?) in a 2007 film of the same name. Al Gore “starred” in a similar documentary one year prior called An Inconvenient Truth.

– The Pope visited New York City in September 2015. It was a big deal for a lot of people.

Political Debrief no. 4

-There has been a recent hacking by China on American civilian transportation companies. America might complain that “Commies love hacking me.”

– Sandesh is an Bengali sweet made with milk and sugar. Looks pretty cute.

– Apparently Facebook is getting a dislike button. That’s exactly what we need–more ways people can cry about what they hate.

– France’s Twitter handle is a reference to a historical French phrase plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose which translate to, “the more it changes, the more it is the same thing.”

An open letter to weeaboos

– Weeaboo is a term used to describe people whoa are obsessed with Japanese culture… without actually respecting the culture. They feitishize it, often in really obnoxious and disrespectful ways. There’s a fine line between being interested in a country and being ridiculous. Don’t romanticize someone’s culture. Explore it, respectfully!

– Filthy Frank has a video that explains the problem of cultural fetishism in a detailed albeit very crude way. (Warning: This video contains extremely explicit language and might be offensive to some.)

Mochi ice cream is, well, mochi filled with ice cream. Mochi is rice cake that’s been thoroughly pounded. Ramen is a noodle dish that looks like it would be really good when made authentically but I’ve only ever had the cheap instant ‘pour hot water into a cup’ kind.

– ‘Nyaa’ is a Japanese cat noise that a lot of impressionable young anime fans tend to use because they think it’s ‘cute.’ Which it is, but only when cats do it.

– 日本 (Nihon) is ‘Japan’ in Japanese. Sorry if you can only see blocks. It just means your computer can’t read the Japanese alphabet.


-The P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany. I wonder if Germany ever wishes it was number 6 instead of number +1.

-The communist carousel: In 1994 the US and North Korea came up with the Agreed Framework which many people, like Clinton, thought was going to be a great step forward in nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Psych! Sort of. Because in 2006 North Korea launched its first nuclear weapons test, many people view the Agreed Framework in retrospect as a failure. A lot of journalists have used this bit of history as a reason to be skeptical of the Iran deal.

-The Ricky Martin bobblehead was probably a gift American had given him but then completely forgot about during that intense moment of emotional and psychological distress.

America’d diary

-I want to clarify that America’s liking of explosions is not a reference to anything that has ever happened in recent or not-recent history. He just likes cool action movie tropes.

-Toby Keith’s Courtesy Of The Red, White, And Blue is definitely on America’s top ten list of Best Songs Ever.

Word games

– The Security Council is a permanent body of the United Nations. They have veto power. Cool.

– FMK is a word game where you have to choose who you would marry, who you would kill, and who you would… yeah.

– China’s union with France might seem strange, but the other options made less sense. Politically, the US and China are vastly different and trying to co-exist would be more trouble than its worth. China also has a rocky history with Russia and, in this story, is more content to keep the UK a economic and political partner than a roommate. Doesn’t mean he wouldn’t mind kicking him off the Security Council for issues from the past, though.

– France did try to become one with Britain once. It’s apparently been considered an almost good option on several occasions.


– While Sealand’s status as an official state or not is debatable, the leadership claims this military-base-turned-principality is 100% legitimate. What do you think?

– While Canada is not free from evil (like exporting asbestos), it still stands that the country lacks the same global power ambitions that, say, the US or Russia has. While I don’t doubt that Canada relishes its comfortable place in the global environment, I don’t think it’s got any big plans to be the world’s next superpower either–but just to be safe, don’t quote me on that.

– I would be doing the world a disfavor if I didn’t say that Fall Out Boy’s Rat A Tat makes a great companion song to this story because the theme is so very similar. (Warning: the Courtney Love verses are a tad explicit)

Political Debrief no. 3

– Axis of Evil was a term coined by Geroge W. Bush and used to describe the “rogue states” of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Looks like Iraq ended up the third wheel.

– America’s Twitter handle is based on one of the Tales From The Borderlands protagonists, whose hacking program has a similar name. Denmark’s is based on Norse mythology and the fact that he likes rawk* music. South Korea’s is a made up word based on the Korean word seoli (frost). Japan’s is a reference to popstar Miyavi, who had an interesting way of announcing himself.

*rawk is the hardcore way to spell ‘rock’

– Mexico assured America that the garbage can thing was a joke. Mostly.

Type A people are known to be driven, goal-oriented, and kind of uptight.

Political Debrief no. 2

– The latter bit of the peanut butter fight is a reference to the War of 1812. People still don’t seem to know, for sure, who won even though both sides are usually convinced they did.

– China’s headaches are probably caused by the Koreas, Japan, Russia, Vietnam… okay, almost everyone.

– Sometimes to see someone who builds their walls up so high you need a good vantage point and some help.

It’s complicated

– Is Russia crazy? No, but she does like playing into America’s paranoia and distrust of her. Sometimes, giving someone what they want makes it that much easier to surprise them when you need to.

– America’s jabs are a reference to the USSR during the Cold War. It also means that he’s a bit of a manchild and has self-control issues. Well, we all have our vices, don’t we?

The first law of history 

– The email is referring to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with the United States. I had to guess what North Korea’s reaction might be. My guess was ‘salty.’

– The Agreed Framework (1994) was a treaty between the US and North Korea that froze the latter’s nuclear program. The deal is considered a failure by many because N. Korea eventually got a bomb. Not the bomb, but a bomb nonetheless.

– Self-inflicted loneliness, aka North Korean isolationism.

Friendly gestures

– The Mexican War of Independence lasted 11 years.

– The first US-Mexican conflict refers to the Annexation of Texas, and the second to the Mexican-American War.

Buzzed confessions

– Entire story is basically a reference to America’s paranoia at the expert-level rumors that China poses a serious threat to US hegemony. It’s a different kind of Red Scare.

Lips and teeth

– Title is reference to the commonly quoted saying that North Korea and China used to be “as close and lips and teeth.” In other words, good bros. Have times changed?

– North Korea does not like show and tell. As a result, China denied it entry into the Asia Instructive Invest Bank, apparently.

Sucker punch

– Reference to Fall Out Boy’s amazing song Novocaine. For me, it inspires so much Cold War imagery.

– Dancing, boxing, playing chess. This story is an “artsy” illustration of the violent and calculating nature of the Cold War and the volatile relationship between the US and USSR.


– The first bit has North Korea referring to US military presence on the Korean peninsula.

– South Korea’s reminiscing of 1960 is an ode to a time where, economically and politically, North Korea was rather stable and doing okay for itself.

– China’s ‘cough’ is a reference to the air pollution problems.

– Japan and England are practicing tasseography, or the art of tea reading. This fits in perfectly with their Harry Potter themed book club meeting. The cat Japan sees in her cup symbolizes trickery.

Load up on guns and bring your friends

– Title comes from Nirvana’s classic Smells Like Teen Spirit. I actually prefer the Tori Amos cover, but that one is much more depressing.

– I should clarify: No, I did not give Iraq a drug problem. It’s literally about sugar. Dude likes candy.

The 1770s Were His Rebellious Years

– 1770, the Boston Massacre.