Making the Grade: The Smurfs

(This list is dedicated to my six-year-old little guy, who’s recently discovered the joy of classic Smurf cartoons on our friendly neighborhood retro cartoon station… just in time to experience the crushing disappointment that will be next summer’s CGI crapfest.)

Papa Smurf
Never trusted the old sot, myself. While the white beard, red pants and paternalistic attitude provide much Marxist fodder for those with such leanings, I never could get past the age thing. How did he end up as the only old fart in the entire Smurf village? Not that being old is a bad thing, but until Baby Smurf introduced colic and post-Cabbage Patch Kid merchandising to the mix, everyone in Smurfland was the same indeterminate, kinda Dawson’s Creek-ish age… except this one guy. What happened to the other codgers? Where are the Trotsky figures in his little coup, and why does no one even mention Mama Smurf? What’s Papa hiding about his past and his climb to power? I don’t care how crotchety he looks; I wouldn’t turn my back on him for a mother-smurfin’ minute. C-

All naughty 99-boys-to-1-girl jokes aside, I’m surprised the Double-X Pride Patrol has been so lenient about this throwback to the old days. Wears nothing but dresses? Check. Goes traipsing about in high heels? Check. Voiced by Katy Perry in major theatrical releases? Check. And when her mushroom-house roof leaks, she calls in Handy Smurf to fix it up. Plus, she just brings with her too many disturbing thoughts, not least of which is that, before Gargamel whipped her up in his lab, the other Smurfs were female-free. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they seemed to pick up the subtleties of courtship pretty quick once she was dropped into their little blue laps. C

Vanity Smurf
Oh, I get it. Wears a flower, carries a mirror, despises manual labour, obsessed with his looks and speaks in that bored Thurston Howell III voice. Well, of course he has to be gay. Please. Show a little imagination, people; if one of them has to be gay, my money’s on Hefty and his serious machismo issues. Frankly, I’ve always found Vanity a breath of fresh air — while the others are content to work in a mine and sing that “la la la” song for the billionth time, he finds pleasure in pleasing himself. Would that we all could be so easily contented. B

Brainy Smurf
So if he’s so brainy, how come everyone else turns into Disgruntled Postal Worker Smurf the minute he’s left in charge of the village? On behalf of every young boy forced to suffer the taunts of his contemporaries purely for having reading glasses designed by Coca-Cola bottling engineers, it gives me no small pleasure to fight back against He Who Armed Them With a Convenient Nickname by bestowing Brainy Smurf with a well-deserved F.

Clumsy Smurf
With a moniker like that, you can feel safe assuming he’s not the village’s bomb disposal expert or hostage negotiator. Come to think of it, I can never recall what his occupation was, other than screwing everything up. Painter Smurf, Poet Smurf, Handy Smurf, Miner Smurf, Farmer Smurf, Hedge-Fund Manager Smurf… no problems figuring out what they do for a living. Which brings up the question: are Smurfs given a name at birth, or are they given their tribal name in some mystical, dances-with-wolves kind of ceremony? You’ve either got a guy doomed to a self-fulfilling prophecy by his parents (assuming Smurfs have parents), or an entire village deciding a guy’s natural awkwardness and threat to the commonweal is more noteworthy than his vocational talents. Sad. Out of pity, B

Greedy Smurf
The village’s baker and, by choice, self-styled glutton. Which really works out well for him, once you think about it. Come to think, “Gluttonous Smurf” would have been a better moniker, since the only things he’s greedy for appear to be smurfberry pies. But I guess “Gluttonous” was considered too deadly-sinsish for the censors. Too bad. It’s an avenue rife with possibilities; Lustful Smurf alone would have nailed the male 18-to-death demographic faster than you can say “Baywatch blooper reel.” B

Jokey Smurf
What was everyone’s problem with this guy? If I was forced to wear the same damn white hat and sing the same damn song and eat the same damn smurfberry pie every damn day for the rest of my damn life, then damn straight I’d be looking for laughs wherever I could get them. When Jokey gave someone an exploding present, he wasn’t just making a joke or committing possible felonies; he was alive. Dammit. A

Competing with Sylvester and Wile E. Coyote in the “Maximum Time and Energy Expended on Minimal Rewards” category, we’re dealing here with a not-very-competent sorcerer who tried to catch the Smurfs. Why? I dunno. I remember him wanting to eat them at one point, but then he was trying to turn them into gold, hence providing the motive for his wacky schemes to trap them every week. Dust, lead, raindrops, Azrael’s hairballs — no, no, no, we can’t have recipes that make gold out of things plentiful and easy to find, just living blue elves who fight back. He had the raspy cackle, but other than that he really didn’t add much to the evil wizard genre. D+

Baby Smurf
Urgh. You know a show is running out of steam when the only idea it has left is to trot out the tyke. Growing Pains, Family Ties, Gimme a Break, Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life — yep, you can pretty much pinpoint an ’80s show’s descent into hell right about the time someone’s lost child/nephew/orphan waif is trundled onstage. One smells the never-pleasant hands of network executives in the pot, demanding more “cute” to boost the ratings and/or boost a flagging line of merchandise. It’s not much, I admit, but it’s a stand against corporate entropy I’m willing to take: D-

Grouchy Smurf
Like Clumsy, Grouchy is a Smurf who rises to the challenge of personifying his Smurf-given name. And thank you, foul-tempered one, for doing so. I get the feeling that, were I ever to be Smurficized, Grouchy and I would hang out at the less-trendy Smurf bar, get pickled on bad smurfberry ale and say to each other, “Yeah! And you know what else? You know this no-shirt rule we got going here? I hate that, too!” And all the while the other Smurfs will march along happily to wherever Papa Smurf tells them to go. Down with conformity. A+


2 responses to “Making the Grade: The Smurfs

  1. Haha; love it.

    Your Brainy Smurf paragraph is what all of us one time coke-bottle wearin’ kids wanted to say, but couldn’t at the time.

    I think there were a few other smurfs I’d love to see rated. Lazy was great (in hindsite), and add Tailor into that mix of “subversively gay”.

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