Better Dead Than Blue*
Are the Smurfs Closet Communists?
by Kristen M. Sonntag, Esq.
It seems these days that Saturday morning cartoonists are taking too much artistic liberty by creating odd "realities" for children to watch. Children see what happens in cartoons and they model those carefree, imaginary games played at recess after what they see. Early morning television serves up such visual delights as the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and who could forget the irreverent "Biker Mice From Mars?" Do we actually expect children to digest such desensitizing folly? What happened to the days of yore, when the Warner Brothers informed the country that "hunting wabbits" was the chief concern? And what about Hal Roach Studio's presentation of loveable loose women (the one and only Betty Boop, of course) who only sought happiness with the help of her pet dog. However, it must be noted, whether a current 'toon or an old standby, that rarely does a cartoonist attempt to convey any sort of political education or influence. With the exception of an occasional slip of an anti - Hitler or Mussolini message in cartoons from the 1940's, political themes are few and far between. That is, of course, until the late 1970's.
A Belgian cartoonist by the name of Pierre Culliford concocted small blue creatures standing three apples high called Smurfs. The cartoon machine known as Hanna Barbera took it upon themselves to make the Smurfs an American classic, and by the early 1980's, thousands of disillusioned children like myself tuned in every Saturday morning to catch the Smurfy antics. The Smurfs evolved into a phenomenon of sorts. We all sang the catchy "La la la la la la..." theme song, and many of us had Smurf paraphernalia. I myself am guilty of having owned Smurf drinking glasses in kindergarten, which I obtained at Pizza Hut for 99 cents. We all knew their names; Papa Smurf, Handy Smurf, and Painter Smurf were most often seen, and all the girls loved Smurfette. The Smurfs were also a refreshing break from the cartoons of the 1970's. "Fat Albert" and "Speed Racer" were passť, and "Scooby Doo" (another Hanna Barbera creation) had long outlived its usefulness. The Smurfs were the dawn of a new era. The Smurfs were to childhood dreams as the Beatles were to music. The Smurfs presented moral lessons in a way that children could relate. The Smurfs were as American as apple pie. Or were they?
Upon immediate reflection, who could find any imperfections in the colony of a hundred or so blue elves? They were never violent, they never swore, and to the best of my knowledge there was no nudity. Children and parents alike were lulled into the Smurf utopia, only to be blinded by a harsh reality. Smurfs were communists. "Communists?!" you say. It's hard to believe, and trust me, it was hard to accept, as my childhood fantasies were smashed. It was only until recently, when I was engaged in a conversation about how "Scooby Doo" teaches bribery to children (a lesson for another day), that I flashed back to the days when cartoons were my hobby, and I thus thought of the Smurfs. The whole "Commie Smurf" theory as I like to call it, developed on its own, when I started questioning the behaviors of the Smurfs, and I discovered the truth.
Now, it is difficult to define the philosophies of communism and socialism, for they go hand in hand. Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto is an excellent companion to the "Commie Smurf" theory. However, please don't confuse the Smurfs as victims of Stalin, as the proletariat attempting to overthrow the bourgeoisie, and please perish the thought of the sickle and hammer as a Smurf icon. Think of communism as a way of life, a social arrangement, if you will. First, take the word "communist." What word stands out? "Commune." The Smurfs lived together in a small communal village, occasionally retiring to their mushroom huts. No Smurfs ever left, and no new ones ever arrived. The Smurf village was an independent town, devoted solely to preserving the harmony of the community. In the Manifesto, Marx says, "In this sense the theory of the Communists may be summed up in a simple sentence: Abolition of private property." Not only was there only one mass of land for the Smurfs to live on, but they had to share it, too. And there was no way that any Smurf could get away with stashing away a corner of land for himself.
Land wasn't all that they shared. Food and provisions were stored in the mushroom-shaped huts and were distributed in equal amounts to each Smurf throughout the year. Farmer Smurf didn't sell his crops to individual Smurfs. It was understood that whatever he grew was for everyone, not for the profit of a single Smurf. Each Smurf worked for the common good, another principle of Marx's. Baker Smurf was the universal chef, feeding hungry Smurf mouths. Handy Smurf was there for whoever needed a shelf built or a screw tightened.
Individual Smurf occupations are also an important indication that they were communists. Whatever their position in the village, be it Painter or Baker, they were allowed only that position and having multiple functions in society was out of the question. One episode depicted the Smurfs switching jobs. Vanity Smurf tried to paint, Poet Smurf tried to build, etc. The results were absolutely disastrous. The moral of that episode was "Stick to what you do best," or in communist terms, maintain your own position in society. Another episode depicted the arrival of a new Smurf (Out-of-Town Smurf?), but he was promptly ousted for not having anything valuable to contribute to the common good of the village.
Now, with these ideas in mind, remove your Smurf-centric mindset, and ponder Gargamel for a minute. Gargamel, the bitter old sorcerer who lived in the castle overlooking the Smurf village, was their arch-enemy. But who would be the enemy of a village of blue communists? Why a capitalist, of course! Gargamel's main intention for the Smurfs was to capture them and turn them into gold. He sought only personal wealth and prosperity, the main goal of capitalists. He was completely indifferent to the thought of destroying the unity of the village. Gargamel was greedy and ego-centric, a strong juxtaposition to the Smurfs who shared and were concerned with the welfare of all.
Rejection of the intelligentsia is yet another theory of Marx's that is evident in the Smurf community. Brainy Smurf was the square Smurf, always with his blue nose buried in a book, always spouting off some confounding scientific mumbo-jumbo (note a similarity to the Professor on "Gilligan's Island"). Since communism stresses unity, anyone with knowledge of other matters than what is beyond the scope of the village is classified as a dissident, thus disrupting the common good of the entire entity.
Who knew that the Smurfs, the blue creatures we once held so near and dear to our hearts, could be communists? It is a shocking truth, for if the Smurfs are no longer innocent, then what is? We, the children of the future, have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed by Hanna Barbera, innocently sitting back and being taken in by the Smurf theme song. I hate to corrupt something as pure and good as the Smurfs, but it is time that the wool be pulled from our eyes. May the youth who watched the Smurfs adoringly now stand strong, breaking down the barriers that separate the cartoonists from the common man. Let us breathe the air a little deeper now that we have broken the shackles binding us to the false goodness of television. Let us laugh and be free, like the Smurfs we once knew. Be gone, politics and hidden meanings. Let our children, and our children's children learn of our foolish trust in television and allow them to practice political philosophy in some media other than cartoons.
My point (and there is one) is this. Perhaps some day manipulation on behalf of the media will end, and people will be forced to develop their own likes, wishes, political beliefs, and ideals on their own. I'm not saying that the Smurfs turned my generation into communists. What I mean is that the media are a powerful tool, and virtually anything can be subliminally planted into anyone's mind, particularly that of young children. The Smurfs did possess undeniably communistic qualities, and in writing this essay, it is my hope that I may enlighten a few more people by presenting a topic of rare consequence and by furthering the understanding of Smurfs world wide.
*Derived from the anti-Communist outcry, "Better Dead Than Red."