Society

Are The Smurfs Crypto-Fascists?

A French academic takes a critical look at the classic blue characters, suggesting there may be more than meets the eye when it comes to "Smurfology."

Who really knows what the Smurfs are thinking?
Who really knows what the Smurfs are thinking?
Tristan Berteloot

The stars of an upcoming summer blockbuster, the world-famous Smurfs are once again the talk of the town – though not necessarily for all the right reasons.

Known as Schtroumph in the original French, Puffi in Italian, Pitufos in Spanish, Stroumfakia in Greek, Kumafu in Japanese and Schlümpfe across the Rhine (since "schtroumpf" means "sock" in German), the little blue imps have been going strong for more than half a century, entertaining children the world over in comic books, animated cartoons and feature films.

More recently, however, the Smurfs have also caught the attention of a controversial French academic who says there may be more than meets the eye when it comes to the pint-sized characters. Hidden behind their charming veneer are some pretty dark undertones, argues Antoine Buéno, whose work "Le Petit Livre Bleu" (The Little Blue Book) accuses the Smurfs of being maybe just a bit fascist.

Buéno, who is both a senior lecturer at SciencePo University in Paris and a novelist, never set out to destroy the magical energy that emanates from these blue-colored characters. Nevertheless, he analyzes their society and ideology – Smurfology – through an unforgiving political lens.

"Le Petit Livre Bleu" focuses specifically on the man behind the cryptic cartoons, original Smurf author Pierre Culliford, aka Peyo. Whether he meant it or not, Culliford endowed his magical little creatures with some Stalinist, racist and anti-Semitic leanings, argues Buéno.

Buéno first questioned the Smurfs' biological nature and sexuality: by the way, why is there only one Smurfette? Then, he tried to show that Smurf society is the archetype of a totalitarian utopia marked by Stalinism and Nazism.

Peyo came up with the word "Smurf" while dining in 1958 with his friend André Franquin. Peyo reportedly asked Franquin: "could you pass me the Smurf?" He meant to say "could you pass me the salt?" The rest is cartoon history.

The spirit of an era

Born in 1928 in Brussels, Peyo lived in German-occupied Belgium. As an adult, he did not look back fondly on that time in history. Nonetheless, Buéno thinks that "a piece of work can convey an imagery that the author himself does not support. Thus, the Smurfs seem to reflect more the spirit of an era than Peyo's political leanings."

The Smurfs are self-sufficient. Smurf society is collectivist and interventionist. Its only leader, Papa Smurf, is all-powerful. And, like Stalin, his favorite color is red.

They all eat at the canteen and are all ridiculously puritan. In "The Black Smurfs' album, racism is obvious: blood purity becomes something vital and the dark brown Smurf is referred to as "the ugly one." In another album called "Smurfette," Buéno notes how the Aryan blond is idealized.

The Smurfs are also united against a sworn enemy called Gargamel, a large-nosed, black-haired possibly anti-Semitic caricature, and his cat Azrael.

Smurf lovers have been quick to challenge Buéno's "Little Blue Book," saying his arguments are neither serious nor credible. "Generally speaking I've gotten two types of knee-jerk reactions: people saying that I'm either an idiot, or a crook," says Buéno's.

"But my analysis isn't just coming out of nowhere," he goes on to say. "People from other institutions have been looking at the Smurfs before me. People in the United States at one point suspected Peyo's Smurf albums of being socialist propaganda, going so far as to say the word Smurf was actually an acronym for ‘Small Men Under Red Forces.""

After Peyo died in 1992, his son, Thierry Culliford, continued to draw the Smurfs. Culliford's albums offered a much more educational approach. According to Buéno, that explains why "the Smurfs' village becomes more explicitly a metaphor for reality."

The Smurfs make their next big appearance this summer in a 3D live-action movie directed by Raja Gosnell. The blue-colored creatures will besiege New York City for the occasion.

But before the movie is released, the Lombard Editions will publish a 29th album called "The Smurfs and the Golden Tree," and in November, "the Smurf Encyclopedia".

Read Nouvel Observateur's original interview with Antoine Buéno in French.

Photo - Unfolded

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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