Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Freakin' Black Smurfs

No, not the New York Knicks. Not even Ja Rule. I'm talking about the cutesy-wootsy, nauseating pieces of crap that was an inexplicable hit during the eighties when even the suburban kids I grew up around would beat you up if you said you liked them, much less knew each one's name.

Well, back in 1963, Belgian artist Peyo, who had created "Les Schtroumpfs" a few years beforehand (who knew they were that old?) issued the first "album" (issue) of Smurf comics; this particular one entitled "Les Schtroumpfs Noirs", in which one Smurf, roaming around in the woods working or such, happens to get bitten by a black fly, which naturally turns him into an evil black-skinned zombie hopping around screaming "GNAP!" Of course if almost anyone were to suddenly turn black when they originally weren't, hairstyle would not likely be "album" number one...

But it doesn't stop there, oh no. Brothaman has to go around and start biting other smurfs on the behind, turning them into evil black smurfs. Then they hop around looking for hotcombs and biting other smurfs on the behind... you get the idea. In the end, of course, "Papa" Smurf (that's so close to "Massa" you could almost taste it) apparently uses black magic to turn the evil black smurfs back to "normal", yay...

The funny part is that I didn't make any of this up. Smurfs can be disturbing as they are, but damn... it was so obvious that when Hanna-Barbera adapted the Smurfs for that awful series that ran on for way-too long, they changed the story a tad and made the evil black-skinned smurfs purple. I don't recall if they also changed the dialogue from "GNAP!" to "SCHPLIT END!", but apparently they were well aware that I or someone like me would be rather offended at the images and implications of such material. Much was made of the original material anyway; a pointed reference to African immigration, perhaps? What the ass-biting had to do with it, I'm not sure and I'm not gonna speculate.

But it does raise some "albums"; Hanna-Barbera, the studio that developed the series, had made its first contribution to equal opportunity in animation (the result of being on the losing end of a standoff between themselves and the originator of Josie & The Pussycats), yet embraces a cartoon with a long-debated racist introduction and tweaks it a little and still leaves room for debate. Of course, no one was thinking about racist smurfs when they first appeared, they were thinking about how cutesy-wootsy (puke-inducing) and most importantly, how marketable they were.

The very worst news is that a full-length feature starring the Smurfs is scheduled to be released in 2010. Will we have to endure an updated version, akin to Alvin & The Chimpmunks as a modern hip-hop or boy band; where one or more of the smurfs are characterized as Crips and does some stupid CGI dancing? I hope not, because the la-la-la was annoying enough.

So, who was it that said there were no Black Smurfs? That's what they want you to think... enjoy the music below, coupled with the image above. (Taking tongue back out of cheek now, take care! >;)

New York - Ja Rule


Anonymous said...

You can do this for a living. It's very hard to write about racism these days without it backfiring, and the fact that you can do so objectively is impressive.

Shaun P said...

Hey Chyll, thanks for the lowdown over at BB. I appreciate it, man; always good to know someone's looking out for you.

Rasputin Wolle said...

Dude, Chyll! If blue is the new white (or was, in 1963), then what makes you think that black is (was) the new What if it's like the new white, and blue is the new black, and Peyo is having a laugh at your expense? And if the leader is a commie (red pants/ hat) what does that make the white of their hats? And why do they follow him anyhow? (Or maybe the red white and blue of Papa Smurf is a subtle reference to France, and with blue being white, and white being white, too, then it's just red and white, which is Poland, which means... nevermind)

What if the world looks like nails, just cuz you got the hammer, yo? Nothing wrong with pointing out racist 60ties comics, but aren't there bigger fish (or fish at all, for that matter, since Peyo was black, no blue, wait, white?) to fry? Like Tintin (at least when in Congo)?

For real, the color scheme of the smurfs is so f'ed up to begin with that "Evil to him who evil thinks" (JW Goethe) may not be so absurd a thought here, no? Now, the purple on the other hand, that is f'ed up for sure. Cuz, clearly Hanna-Barbera thought what you thought, agreed, that black is the new black, thus not p.c. in this context, thus should be purple, cuz then we can't recognize the inherent raging racism at work here that way. That's really what made it racist.

Or maybe i didn't really get that you had your tongue in cheek all along? Either way, the Hammer, that's Ja Rule now, no? But who was it 1963?


Rasputin Wolle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chyll Will said...

Okay, I heard you the first time >;)

Yeah man, I was speaking strictly with a mouth full of tongue sandwich. There are larger issues around the globe than the subversiveness of 1960's European post-colonialism in the African diaspora, but hey, it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. And by not pointing it out, we tend to forget what it leads to (Tintin, as you suggest), or in a minuscule and certainly hyperbolic sense, Idi Amin, the Last King of Scotland.

Frankly, I wonder if Goethe had an objective enough view of evil to believe that one was deserving of such if they thought in such a manner. Is evil universal or, in the case of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a matter of cultural opinion or even survival? Is there really such thing as a "necessary evil"? And where would war fit in the relative scheme of evil? These are modern thoughts I suppose, but not too distant from the point about ideas being bred from simplicity.

Hey, thanks for the look. We can go crazy if we look too deeply into the trench for water with all of the mud in our way >;)