Today’s Opinion: Little blue men under firePOSTED: 05/16/11 12:27 PM
Beware of what you let your children read. If you are ready to give any credibility to an analysis by the French writer Antoine Buéno, you’ll never let your kids read a Smurf comic book again, unless of course you are voting Geert Wilders. On June 1 Buéeno’s book, Le Petit Livre Bleu (The Little Blue Book) will be in book stores. It is a serious sociological study of the little blue men and their country “far from here where there are little mushroom houses.” And Buéeno’s conclusions are harsh: “The Smurfs are living in a society that represents a totalitarian utopia drenched in Stalinism and Nazism.”
It is not the first time that the little blue men (there is just one female smurf in the community) are the target of criticism. The Belgian comic book writer and creator of the series Peyon depicts his characters with white pointed hats that are allegedly based on the outfit of the racist American Ku Klux Klan. Another point of criticism in the past was that the smurfs with they merry behavior, bare upper bodies and tights white shorts from which a small tail emerges are displaying homosexual behavior.
The first Smurf album that appeared in 1960 immediately caused problems in the United States. Not a single American publisher wanted to take the project – The Black Smurfs. In the story, one of the blue smurfs is stung by a bzz-fly. This changes him into an aggressive black smurf. American publishers feared accusations of racism. Only last year, half a century later, publisher Papercutz came up with a trick by replacing the black smurfs with purple ones. The story was published in America as The Purple Smurf.
Buéeno writes in his book that the economy of the smurfs shows strong similarities with the Stalinist and the nazi state. Collective work always focuses on self-sufficiency for food and energy. The smurfs do not have private property; their leader is the Grand Smurf who shows very authoritarian and paternalistic characteristics.
Buéeno also argues that the biggest enemy of the smurfs, the magician Gargamel, seems to have a Jewish background. Gargamel’s image shows strong similarities with the anti-Semitic images of the thirties and forties of last century.
Buéno says that the smurfs are also machos because of the lack of female smurfs. Smurfin is the only female living in the village and her image –with blond hair and refined facial characteristics – strongly resemble the Arian beauty-ideal of the German Nazis.
Not everybody is enthusiast about Buéeno’s analysis. Thierry Culliford, the son of the series creator Peyon, dismisses the criticism.
“I disagree with his interpretation. It is between the grotesque and the not-serious.”
The Smurfs are not the only characters to become the target of criticism in recent years. The same fate befell the characters of Sesame Street and the happy-going characters in Teletubbies.
The question remains: even if these sociological analyses are on the mark, how much of it will be picked up by children below the age of six? As usual, the observations say more about the writer who made the analysis, than they do about the true intentions of smurf-creator Peyon.