Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Smurfs

Parachute pants, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Growing Pains, L.A. Gear, Breakfast Club....what do all of these have in common? They all helped define the 80s. Come take a fun "Journey" with me as we revisit the totally radical decade.

Back in the 80s, one of the things kids looked most forward to every week was Saturday morning cartoons. I'd sit plastered to the TV from morning until about lunchtime. My morning would start with Superfriends, followed by The Smurfs.

I was a big fan, but I'm not sure why. The stories of these little blue creatures with white hats who lived in mushrooms captivated me. You had your heroes, all led by Papa Smurf. And of course, you had your antagonist in the form of Gargamel, who is obsessed with capturing some smurfs for dinner and using them in some magic potion to create gold.

The smurfs all had distinct personalities, and were thus named as such. You had Brainy Smurf, Handy Smurf, Jokey Smurf, Grouch Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, Vanity Smurf, and of course, Smurfette (the only female Smurf). There's also another billion more nameless Smurfs.

Usually, there was a lesson to learn with each episode, but I can't recall any of them! Many people have speculated about some of the hidden meanings behind the cartoon, like the white hats was a nod to the KKK. Or that Gargamel represented Jews. Or how about the Smurf Village being one big Marxist Utopia. All of this isn't true. 

Although, I did read somewhere that the Smurf creator, Peyo, was a sexist. Smurfette was created by Gargamel, originally, and she was the seductress of the group. She'd get any Smurf to do her bidding just by batting her eyes and throwing her curves all over the village.

But all that controversial stuff was over my head back in 1981. The Smurfs, to me, were cute innocent little beings that just wanted to live in peace. I also remember that a bunch of kids had Smurf lunchboxes (include me), t-shirts, and collected the little figures. Smurfs became a brand back in the 80s.

The show was a powerhouse for NBC until it was cancelled in 1989. Saved By the Bell took its place, and that was the death knell for Saturday morning cartoons.


Cynthia said...

I loved the Smurfs. When I was a kid, I had to attend Chinese school on Saturday mornings, and so I would tape the show before I left home on an old school VHS tape. I think I still have a tape somewhere with a bunch of my old Smurfs episodes.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Big Smurf fan here! I plan to get all the episodes one day so I can watch them anytime I want. This series was one of the best ever.

Elise Fallson said...

I used to be one of those kids plastered in front of the tv Saturday mornings too. Good times. (: The Smurfs were great back then, but I wasn't impressed with Smurfs the movie that came out a few years ago.

Miranda Hardy said...

I admit, I watched it every week, too. I loved the smurfs!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I was too old for Smurfs, so never got into the craze.

Jay Noel said...

Cynthia: You should find those tapes!

Sheena: They're still a big time money maker. People are buying up the DVDs still.

Elise: I didn't see the new movie. I don't like how Hollywood keeps rehashing my childhood.

Miranda: Ha! Feels good to admit it, right?

Alex: Yeah, as an adult I look back and can't figure out why we loved the show.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Don't forget Azrael, Gargamel's cat! (Sad that I knew that without having to look it up.)

My sister had a big Colorform set of the Smurf village. I loved that thing.

farawayeyes said...

Saturday morning 'toons' were great, but at least today we have the full feature length ones.

I was recently quite literally drug to see 'The Croods' and once again I was surprised at how good it was.

Melanie Schulz said...

I was a big fan and I DO know why. Something about being the only girl in a community full of hardworking men really appealed to my five year old self.

Jay Noel said...

Madeline: Colorforms!!!! Loved those. I had a Batman one.

faraway: We'll check out The Croods on DVD. I still miss Saturday cartoons.

Melanie: Huh. I guess it's understandable that I never came at it from that perspective.

Dana said...

I loved them, too.

I have a 41-year-old friend who collects all things Smurf. You should see his house!

Happy Monday. ☺

Tony Acree said...

As a lover of Saturday morning cartoons, I have to admit the Smurfs passed me by. Scooby? Sure. Smurfs? Never liked them. Surprising, since I love blue! For me, the cartoon growing up I loved the most was Johnny Quest, but he is a show of the 70's.

Laura Eno said...

I can't remember if my kids watched much of the Smurfs or not. Without having seen them myself, I never understood why there was only one female smurf.

Laura Eno – A Shift in Dimensions

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

I wish Neil Patrick Harris had better roles to pick from than playing in the smurfs.

David P. King said...

Seriously. The 80's was the decade to be a kid. Somewhere in the mid 90's, Saturday mornings lost its magic. Now we have instant cue, so it's all good. :)

Gina Gao said...

I am a HUGE fan of the Smurfs. And Madonna of course.

The Desert Rocks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Desert Rocks said...

We carried the Smurf balloon for the Thanksgiving Weekend Christmas Parade many, many years ago here in California. My boss at the LA Times 'volunteered' me for the job. It was a tough one!

Kevin Hunsperger said...

I loved the Smurfs back then. I love them still today. I've seen the movie and looking forward to the sequel later this summer. Of course it doesn't hold a candle to the cartoon series. I still have all my little Smurfs and the glasses Hardee's released in the 80's. Good read.

Kevin Hunsperger said...

I loved the Smurfs back then. I love them still today. I've seen the movie and looking forward to the sequel later this summer. Of course it doesn't hold a candle to the cartoon series. I still have all my little Smurfs and the glasses Hardee's released in the 80's. Good read.

Tony Laplume said...

My dad was obsessed with the Smurfs.

Jay Noel said...

Dana: You need to take pics of your friend's house!

Tony: I LOVE Johnny Quest.

Laura: Yeah, lots of dirty hypotheses came up about Smurfette.

Michael: I guess he needed the $

David: That's true. Now you can have cartoon every day.

Eve: I'd pay money to see that.

Dex: I'm sure I have Smurfs somewhere around here.

Tony: Your DAD???

M Pax said...

I was starting college then and avoided Saturday mornings at all costs. Well, OK, I might get home in the morning and sleep all day...

Kelley Lynn said...

The Smurfs. Oh gosh, that is a GREAT one. Love! :) Hope things are well with you!

David List said...

I loved the Smurfs. They were way better than the Snorkels or whatever that nonsense was called.
The controversy was over my head, too, at the time but I also remember speculation that there were demonic implications considering Gargamel and Azrael (his cat) were supposedly demonic names.

Phats said...

I loved the smurfs!! However, don't hate me I also loved Saved By The Bell haha :)

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