The Smurfs are ‘anti-Semitic and racist’
The Smurfs, the cuddly blue comic strip creatures loved by generations of children, are anti-Semitic and racist, treating blacks like moronic primates, a new book claims.
By Henry Samuel, Paris 6:00PM BST 03 Jun 2011
The claims by Antoine Buéno, 33, a lecturer at Paris’ prestigious Sciences Po political sciences school, have been branded a “disgrace” that “soils the legends of our childhood” by an army of Smurf lovers.
Under the guise of a “critical and political analysis of Smurf society”, Mr Buéno’s ‘Little Blue Book’ ruthlessly deconstructs the world of Smurfs (Schtroumpfs in French).
His stark conclusions are that the blue men created in 1958 by Belgian artist Peyo, real name Thierry Culliford, represent an “archetype of totalitarian society imbued with Stalinism and Nazism”.
The author backs up his claims of racism by citing Peyo’s first work – The Black Smurfs in French but translated as The Purple Smurfs in the English version for reasons of political correctness.
In the story, a Smurf gets stung by a black fly that turns his skin jet black, drives him insane and deprives him of speech. Soon the entire village has changed colour.
Mr Buéno said the story was clearly racist, as when the Smurfs turn black, “they are reduced to the state of primitives who get around by jumping and crying: ‘Gnap! Gnap!'”
“They lose all trace of intelligence and become completely moronic,” said Mr Buéno, also a speech writer for François Bayrou, the leader of the centrist Modem party.
“It’s roughly the way Africans were viewed by white colonisers in the 19th century.”
Mr Buéno also contends that The Smurfs’ arch-enemy, the wizard Gargamel, comes across as a classic anti-Semitic caricature of a money-grabbing Jew, the book claims. “Gargamel is ugly, dirty, with a hooked nose (who) is fascinated by gold”.
Papa Smurf, the village’s aged white-bearded leader, meanwhile, is portrayed as a dictatorial gerontocrat wielding absolute power and whose red hat and trousers are a nod to Stalin, while Smurfette, the only blonde female created by Gargamel to wreck havoc among his enemies is a misogynistic take on Aryan woman.
The book has sparked a deluge of fury on the internet from Smurf aficionados.
“What a disgrace to soil the legends of our childhood,” wrote Bibouille on the “Schtroumpfmania” website.
Another, called Anastasia wrote: “It’s not hard to find anti-Semitism in Shakespeare or Balzac.” The author’s arguments spring “from his own obsessions … the hooked nose of a wizard is neither Jewish nor Goy, it’s a traditional for wizards,” she wrote.
Such has been the outrage, the author said he feared for his physical safety and insisted he meant no harm.
“I love the Smurfs,” he wrote on Nouvelobs website. “I just wanted to explain with this book that popular works teach us lot about the society we come from. I am not accusing Peyo of racism himself, otherwise you can well imagine (his heirs) would have attacked me.
“However, I believe his work (like many others) carries and concentrates a certain number of stereotypes particular to a given society and era.”
Others before him had come to similar conclusions, he said, citing an American critic who claimed Smurf was short for “Small Men Under Red Forces”.
He said his work was serious but tongue-in-cheek, adding that his critics appeared to lack “the slightest ounce of humour “.
Thierry Culliford, son of Peyo and current head of Studio Peyo, said the accusations were “between the grotesque and the not serious”.
The row comes at an unfortunate time for Hollywood producers, as the big budget film Smurfs is due for release in the US in August.
The Smurfs are not the only comic strip to come under attack for racism. A Congolese resident of Belgium is seeking to ban the book Tintin in the Congo over claims it is it “racist and xenophobic”. His case reaches court in September.
First Posted: 06/03/11 08:21 AM ET Updated: 08/03/11 06:12 AM ET
Smurf Village or Hitler’s Berlin? Same thing, posits one new book. French sociologist and author Antoine Buéno asserts in “Le Petit Livre Bleu,” or, “The Little Blue Book,” that the seemingly friendly little blue creatures living a mostly idyllic existence are actually packed with racial propaganda and are, “the embodiment of a totalitarian utopia, steeped in Stalinism and Nazism”. The comics, created by Belgian artist Peyo, were first introduced in a Belgian newspaper in 1958; by 1960, they had their own comic strip, and it was off to the races. The animated series, produced by Hanna Barbera, was launched in 1981. As relayed by Todayxsm.com, Buéno says that Papa Smurf, the leader of the village, is an authoritarian figure, and that their lack of private property and collective-style economy is a clear nod to socialism. Meanwhile, their enemy seems Jewish: Gargamel, the monster that haunts the village, matches negative Jewish caricatures and his cat’s name is Azrael, the French author writes, while Smurfette, for a long time the only female in the village, is a vision of aryan perfection. Buéno, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, touched on what he perceives as their blue racism.
“The first comic strip, ‘The Black Smurfs,’ was intimately concerned with what you might classify as a racial threat,” he said. “Because in that album, the smurfs are sick. And when they’re sick, they don’t turn purple or red or anything like that, they become black. And when they become black, they lose all trace of intelligence. THey become completely moronic. And further more, they can no longer speak, they just go ‘nyap nyap nyap.'” The black part is indeed true; US publishers refused to publish the first Smurfs book for that reason, and years later, the sick Smurfs were recolored to purple. Responding to Flemish paper Der Morgen, Thierry Culliford, son of Peyo and current head of Studio Peyo, said (via Forbidden Planet) the accusations were, “between the grotesque and the not serious.”
The Purple Smurfs
Upon waking up to a bright new day, Papa Smurf calls all his littleSmurfs together to start work on the bridge. As work commences, Lazydecides that he will take a little nap until he comes face-to-face with Papa Smurf, who tells him to get back to work now like everyone else. Hefty from the gully of the river below the bridge asks Papa Smurf to hand him a shovel, which he does until he finds out it’s been covered in goo. Greedy comes along to tell Papa Smurf that it’s his shovel, and pulls it away from Papa Smurf’s sticky hands. Smurfette calls Papa Smurf’s attention of her picking out the color for painting the bridge, but Papa Smurf is too busy seeing Brainy not watching where he was swinging his ax to chop wood, and instead he ends up cutting the rope that held the bridge up, sending it crashing down into the gully. With Papa Smurf ready to explode, he walks off into the forest only to trip over Lazy, who found himself a nice place to sleep. Papa Smurf angrily tells Lazy to go into the forest and get lots of logs, “and move it”, which Lazy quickly gets up and does.
As Lazy begins to chop down a tree, he finds himself pestered by a purple fly who annoyingly circles around him, laughing. Lazy chases the purple fly off into the forest until he trips over a tree root, but after he gets up, he doesn’t notice that the purple fly has secretly flown around him and is now behind him, looking at and zooming toward his tail. Lazy yelps in pain and looks to see that his tail is now throbbing, realizing that the purple fly had bit him. Then suddenly Lazy turns purple, and his mind goes blank as he now barks “gnap gnap gnap” and hops off into the forest.
Meanwhile, Papa Smurf is getting annoyed that Lazy is taking his sweet time coming back and sends Brainy to go find him. As Brainy searches the forest for Lazy, he hears a “gnap gnap” nearby and finds himself face to face with Lazy, teeth gritted and skin all purple. Brainy bolts back to tell Papa Smurf about how he found Lazy, who then surmises that Lazy must have been bitten by a purple fly. Smurfette then sees Lazy head off into the village. The Smurfs give chase and eventually capture Lazy, tying him up before Papa Smurf tells them to bring Lazy to his house. Papa Smurf seems to recall that the last case of what he and the other Smurfs had experienced happened when he was a young Smurf barely 100 years old, but now he couldn’t remember what the cure was.
As Papa Smurf and some other Smurfs head to his laboratory in order to find what could cure Lazy, they hear another Smurf cry out in pain. It was Hefty, who was standing outside Lazy’s house keeping watch over him. Lazy had broken his bonds and now turned Hefty purple by biting his tail. Papa Smurf tells his little Smurfs to leave his laboratory so he could find the cure for this disease before it is too late.
Papa Smurf spends the night working in his laboratory on a possible cure, and then by morning he calls for some volunteers that would go into the forest to capture a purple Smurf in order to test it, warning them to be careful. Many Smurfs choose to do so, and soon they are searching the forest for one. Then suddenly Clumsyspots purple Hefty and chases after him with a lasso, but he ends up getting bound by his own lasso, and purple Lazy bites him in the tail. Brainy hears Clumsy’s cry for help, but arrives only to witness Clumsy turning purple and thus uses this moment to his advantage, bringing other Smurfs toward him to compliment him for his “bravery”.
In his laboratory, Papa Smurf tests his formula on the captured Clumsy by spritzing it into his mouth. The purple Clumsy bounces around uncontrollably before passing out, but he still remains purple. Handy carries Clumsy back to his house when Clumsy awakens and bites Handy’s tail, turning him purple. Greedy immediately runs for it, but is also turned purple. Papa Smurf realizes that he must find something else to try curing them.
Another day passes. Papa Smurf again calls for volunteers to capture a purple Smurf for yet another attempt at a cure, but this time his little Smurfs refuse to volunteer. So Papa Smurf now chooses a few Smurfs to go and get him a purple Smurf, which they succeed in doing. This time Papa Smurf pours some kind of formula upon the purple Smurf’s head, but now it does nothing but cause that purple Smurf to break his bonds. Papa Smurf runs for safety as now a dozen or so purple Smurfs emerge from the laboratory.
Yet another day passes. Papa Smurf is now frustrated because nothing he has tried works, and now up to 17 Smurfs have been infected with the “purple disease”. Their next course of action is to capture the purple fly, so that from it they could learn what the cure was. As the Smurfs search the forest for the purple fly, some get bitten by purple Smurfs, while some others accidentally capture hornets. Papa Smurf eventually captures the purple fly and brings it to his laboratory, where he feeds him a tuberose flower before getting some rest. As Papa Smurf watches, the fly sniffs the flower, sneezes, and then turns blue. He realizes at that point what the cure actually was — tuberose pollen. He orders his little Smurfs to get as many tuberose flowers as they can.
While the Smurfs gather up the tuberose and Papa Smurf extracts the pollen from the flowers, purple Hefty sneaks into the village and uses blue paint to disguise himself, waiting outside Papa Smurf’s laboratory and overhearing Papa Smurf telling the little Smurfs to refill when they run out of pollen. Soon Smurfette sees dozens of purple Smurfs hopping toward the village, which leads Papa Smurf and the remaining blue Smurfs out into the open with their pollen-filled bellows to blow out clouds of pollen toward the purple Smurfs. One of them inhales the pollen and turns blue, but before the blue Smurf could react in time, he is bitten by a purple Smurf and turns purple again.
This continues on until Papa Smurf finds himself the only blue Smurf left surrounded by about a hundred purple Smurfs (including Smurfette!), and that he is now out of pollen. He races back to his laboratory to get some more, but in his laboratory he encounters purple Hefty now disguised as a blue Smurf. Purple Hefty accidentally sets fire to the laboratory, which Papa Smurf tries to put out, distracting him long enough for Hefty to bite Papa Smurf in the tail. Papa Smurf realizes at the point that all the Smurfs are now lost before he fully succumbs to the full effects of the “purple disease”.
Fortunately, the fire also causes an explosion in the laboratory, which unleashes a big enough cloud of tuberose pollen to cure him and all his little Smurfs simultaneously. Papa Smurf is so glad to see all his little Smurfs cured, he promises he will never complain about them again. That is, until he hears a “gnap gnap gnap” and finds out that it was Jokey playing a joke on him.
“Lazy’s over there, but he’s all purple, and all he says is ‘gnap’!”
“Lazy’s always talking about a nap!”
“Like this?” (Imitates Lazy as a purple Smurf) “GNAP!”
- – Brainy and Vanity, with Brainy telling Papa Smurf what he saw of Lazy
- This episode is one of three animated adaptations of the original comic book story called “The Black Smurfs”, where the Smurfs were infected by an identical disease that was turning blue Smurfs black; the first adaptation was part of the film Les Aventures des Schtroumpfs which was originally made for Belgian TV in 1965, and the third is a CD-ROM animated feature that was only available in European markets. It is possibly due to racism issues that the color of the diseased Smurfs was changed from black to purple. Also, Smurfette did not appear in the original version of the story. The recent Papercutz adaptation of the original story to English changes the black Smurfs to purple.
- Due to “The Smurfette” taking place before “The Purple Smurfs” in the cartoon show universe, the explanation for Grouchy’s behavior has been changed into simply being his natural behavior.
- It is one episode that does confirm that Smurfette has a tail, since she also became a Purple Smurf through the same mode of transmission.
- While Papa Smurf does say near the end of the story that the Smurfs are no more when he is transformed into a Purple Smurf, the characters of Grandpa Smurf, Wild Smurf, and Nanny Smurf were not yet introduced at that point in the cartoon show.
- The original story that this episode was based on is notable at the TV Tropes website for being “the original Zombie Apocalypse”, with the black Smurfs representing zombies, that took place nine years before George Romero made the trope a standard with his horror film Night Of The Living Dead.
- This is possibly the second Purple Smurf invasion in Smurf history according to the cartoon show. Jokey in the comic books would fake a third Purple Smurf invasion in a recent Papercutz reprint of a one-page gag that originally appeared in “Smurf Soup” and “Romeo And Smurfette” using purple paint that turns out to be indelible. (In the original print version, the paint color was black.)
- Smurfette’s feet are completely covered in her shoes as the Smurfs ready themselves to combat the Purples. However, in the majority of the episode, her shoes are in its normal style.