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Sunday, July 31, 2011 

Are the Smurfs a communist metaphor?

Just in time for the movie that's debuted (which as I've noticed has been almost universally panned, and with good reason, to be sure), The Washington Times has written about the questions asked on whether the Smurfs are stand-ins for communists (H/T: Hot Air Headlines). Among the key notes:
Now, consider life in the Smurfs’ village: Residents live in identical mushroom houses. Everyone dresses alike. They sing the same group song, over and over. They have no apparent deity.

More to the point, the Smurfs have no economy. Farmer Smurf doesn’t peddle his crops to Wholesaler Smurf, who then marks them up for lucrative resale to Grocer and Baker Smurf. Nuh-uh. Farmer Smurf just farms, the better for the other Smurfs to eat at a communal table.

Similarly, Painter Smurf only paints. Handy Smurf builds stuff. Within the village, societal roles are clear-cut. No deviation is allowed — in fact, a memorable episode of the cartoon saw the Smurfs switch jobs with bumbling, humbling results.

Pop quiz: Who uttered the famous maxim, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs?”

A) Karl Marx

B) Papa Smurf

C) Both A and B

The correct answer is “C” — which is one of the reasons Australian essayist and teacher J. Marc Schmidt once referred to the Smurf village as a “Marxist utopia.”
Boy, no wonder I grew so increasingly disgusted with the concept in past years. Why did this, of all European comic strips that could make their way across the Atlantic, have to be the one to find its way onto the American continent? I suppose that, because some showbiz skunks resented the election of Reagan so badly, they thought this could be the perfect way to channel their contempt for conservatism.

Thinking back on the comics and cartoon series, they did have quite a few troubling ideas: there was a story published in early 1970s that depicted the Smurfs trying to establish a capitalist structure for their village, but all they could find in it was corruption. In the cartoon, it wasn't just Gargamel who served as a stand-in for capitalists; almost every villain featured seemed to take this role as well. For example, there was one episode where the Smurfette and another Smurf were abducted by a travelling puppet theater owner and his unpleasant bulldog in hopes of making money at their expense. And what about that ogre who lived in theirs and Gargamel's district too named Big-Mouth? Clearly, he was meant to represent a "greedy capitalist pig" and he certainly was portrayed as all brawn and no brains. In 1984, there was a special episode produced where Gargamel tricked Mother Nature into taking a sleeping potion, and then went to visit some warmonger in a scary fortress with blade-laden traps guarding it to ask for extra help in bringing down the Smurfs, and the villain residing inside seemed like an assault on Reagan. He also carried an archaic shotgun at one point that we could assume was meant to slam the 2nd Amendment. There was even an episode where an evil queen tried to usurp the throne from a crown prince, which we could assume was meant as an attack on women.

The cartoon sometimes did seem to have a nasty undercurrent to it as well, as those aforementioned blade-traps could suggest, and, there was also Gargamel's subsequent obsession with eating the Smurfs for food later on; as seen in that picture, which I personally find revolting. This is what makes for great children's entertainment? When such politics are subtly injected into the show, I'd say no.

If the movie tanks, as looks to be the case, I won't shed any tears. As some of the reviews have already told, it's crude enough already as it is, which doesn't help matters.

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I'm surprised the Times didn't mention one of the most obvious things about the Smurfs: that Gargamel is intended to be an anti-Semitic stereotype.

To be fair, animated Gargamel wasn't sure to either eat the Smurfs or use them to create gold (I think the comic version was he wanted them to lead to gold), so.

Having grown up on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, I'm a little bit torn on this, but, yeah, it doesn't look too good. If it helps any, the creator didn't expect them to be popular, either.

And your mileage may vary with this, as well:


I'm just posting it, as I'm not quite sure what to make of it, yet. Make of it as you will.

At least, Movie Papa Smurf is voiced by Jonathan Winters, who voiced Grampa Smurf in the 80's series. Azrael is voiced by Frank Welker, who voiced Hefty and others. So if only for that, I can't totally dump on it, though, it tempts me hard.

Or, yet another reason Hollywood should leave my 80's childhood properties alone. Don't make it any worse.

This should shore up Drizzt's comment:


I also wanted to clarify on comic Gargamel, in that from what I read, recently, he wanted to capture them and use a spell, which they would then lead him to gold. Wanted to clarify on that, but feel free to correct me.

Why is it whenever you find something to enjoy, something sordid comes up to sour the whole deal?

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