It’s deja vu all over again to paraphrase a certain Yankees legend. Yes, thanks to a Happy Meal promotional push my sons fell in love with the Smurfs without the benefit of seeing their ’80s series. So by the time I picked up a used DVD of the show the dye was already cast.
Now, the boys quote the series, mimic the characters and recite plot lines with the passion of a Trekker. For me, seeing “The Smurfs” anew is teaching me things I never realized while watching their debut years ago.
- Political Correctness Would Suffocate the Smurfs Today: Where do you begin? A fey Smurf named Vanity who makes Jim J. Bullock look like the Marlboro Man? An entire society with only one woman who speaks in a husky, Bea Arthur-like rasp (Sassette was added to the mix in Season 5)? A land ruled by a dictator-like Papa Smurf whose word trumps all? Had “The Smurfs” been introduced to the public today special interest groups would trip over themselves to vent their outrage. The recent film adaptation (and its low-grossing sequel) apparently got grandfathered in.
- Those Blue Smurfs Act Pretty Red: The Smurfs live in a Utopian society (when Gargamel is out of the picture) that doesn’t require money to sustain itself. It’s like Karl Marx took out a scratch pad and scribbled a cartoon of what his ultimate society might look like. On the surface, their lack of materialism and brotherly love send a potent message to young viewers. Look a bit deeper, and it’s creepy given what we know about attempts at such a society in the real world.
- Even Smurfs Get the Circle of Life: My boys are fascinated by the “Squeaky” episode in which Smurfette is devastated by the loss of a beloved mouse pet. Papa Smurf emerges as the voice of reason (per usual), telling his fellow Smurfs about the circle of life and the role it plays in everyone’s life. It’s an uncharacteristically mature moment in a series known for its one-dimensional characters and archetype storytelling.
- Gargamel Isn’t All Bad: Sure, the bald, bedraggled Gargamel is the bane of the Smurfs’ existence. What struck me about him now is how his determination is unquenchable, his sense of ingenuity unmatched in cartoonville. He never gives up, hatches a new plot each week and doesn’t let regular defeat slow him down. Take away the evil part, and Gargamel is practically a role model.
- La La La La La La … that Theme Song is Catchy: Some tunes get lodge in your head. The theme song to “The Smurfs” sets up camp, spreads out a blanket and claims its turf in unconditional terms.