You remember the Smurfs: Blue skin, white caps and three apples high. Wanton berry junkies. A 1980s pop phenomenon. The adorable masters of the Saturday morning cartooniverse are back, the computer-generated titular attraction in a new movie opening nationwide Friday. As Papa Smurf and friends re-enter the cultural atmosphere, there’s no dodging the question: Are the Smurfs now, or they have ever been … communist?
A red — and blue — menace?
A crypto-Marxist cel escaping from history’s dustbin of discarded lies to reinspire a glorious people’s revolution, one seemingly innocuous cinematic adventure for children of all ages at a time?
“They have a dictatorlike leader, and they all have defined roles,” said Technorati.com editor Curtis Silver, who wrote about the psychology of the Smurfs for Wired magazine’s website. “When it comes to their day-to-day life, they’re like a Communistic group.”
Created in 1958 by Belgian illustrator Pierre Culliford, the Smurfs have since achieved iconic status, conquering the globe with books, figurines, theme parks, video games and best-selling albums (1978’s “The Smurf Song” reached No. 1 in 16 countries). This time around, Smurfette has already inspired a copycat red carpet look from singer Katy Perry, who voices Smurfette in the film.
For millions of fans, “Les Schtroumpfs” are a cute, lovable diversion, stars of an Emmy-winning cartoon that ran for nine seasons and peaked with a 42 percent audience share.
Only don’t tell that to your search engine.
Google the phrase “Smurfs communist,” and you’ll find dozens of essays, blog posts and message-board discussions devoted to a more sinister proposition: The little blue men as surreptitious socialists, mini-Manchurian candidates, propagating subversive ideology beneath a veneer of harmless entertainment.
Three years ago, California resident Evan Topham posted a YouTube video titled “The Communist Smurfs?” The clip since has attracted more than 200,000 views, about 58,000 more than Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential-bid announcement.
Are Mr. Topham and company — gulp — on to something?
In a textbook communist society, all citizens are equal. They labor for the common good. Money is unnecessary. Individual liberty takes a back seat to the needs of the collective. There is no God but the state.
Now, consider life in the Smurfs’ village: Residents live in identical mushroom houses. Everyone dresses alike. They sing the same group song, over and over. They have no apparent deity.
More to the point, the Smurfs have no economy. Farmer Smurf doesn’t peddle his crops to Wholesaler Smurf, who then marks them up for lucrative resale to Grocer and Baker Smurf. Nuh-uh. Farmer Smurf just farms, the better for the other Smurfs to eat at a communal table.
Similarly, Painter Smurf only paints. Handy Smurf builds stuff. Within the village, societal roles are clear-cut. No deviation is allowed — in fact, a memorable episode of the cartoon saw the Smurfs switch jobs with bumbling, humbling results.
Pop quiz: Who uttered the famous maxim, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs?”