A lecturer at Paris’ Sciences Po University has written a book about the society of the beloved children’s cartoon characters, The Smurfs. According to Antoine Buéno, they live in a fascist dictatorship. Not only that, he argues that many of the stories have significantly colonialist and anti-Semitic overtones.
“People think I’m moralising, which isn’t my approach at all, (Buéno says). I analyse fairly, I have fun … I do not want to disenchant. One can keep one’s childhood approach and impose on top an analytical approach which smiles to itself.”
He believes the emotional nature of the responses stems from the Smurfs’ place in fans’ childhoods. “It’s linked to childhood – it’s ‘don’t touch my Smurfs! Don’t touch my Proust’s madeleine!’,” he said. Le Petit Livre Bleu is a “true monograph, the first ever done on the Smurfs”, says Buéno, and is “rigorous and thorough and documented”, based on intuitions expressed long before his book, including the “Cold War paranoia” that Smurf stood for “Small Men Under Red Force”, and exploring his belief that “popular works, however innocent they seem, have much to say about our society”.
But despite its serious purpose, the book “does not take itself seriously”, he said. “My approach is schoolboy, somewhat in the spirit of Monty Python (my heroes) … Of course it’s funny to talk about totalitarianism, Stalinism and nazism for small animals as friendly, innocent and popular as the Smurfs,” he said. “It’s so obvious that I didn’t think I would have to spell it out…”
Buéno added that he does not believe the Smurfs’ creator Peyo, a pen name for the late Belgian artist Pierre Culliford, added the racist overtones to the Smurfs deliberately. “Peyo was not at all politicised; all this was unconscious,” he said.
Smurfs Accused of Anti-Semitism and Racism [The Guardian]