6 Insane (But Convincing) Theories on Children's Pop Culture

#3. The Smurfs Are Tiny Blue Nazis

In the world of reading too much into children's cartoons, it's a well-known fact that the Smurfs are secretly Communists. But Antoine Bueno, senior lecturer of sociology at Sciences Po University in Paris, decided to smurf that right in the smurf. In his The Little Blue Book (Le Petit Livre Bleu), Bueno claims that the Smurf village is actually a Nazi, totalitarian utopia full of micro-fascists. He additionally accuses the Smurfs of being anti-Semites because, hey, while he was at it ...

KiTes. He said "kiTes."

Why It's Not That Crazy:

The creator of the Smurfs, Pierre Culliford, aka Peyo, was born in Belgium in 1928, which means that he spent his childhood under Nazi occupation and, according to Bueno, might have consequently reflected the spirit of those times in his later work, whether he was aware of it or not.

We can all agree that a person's early years can have a great influence on his or her later life. It's like how the creator of Mario allegedly based his design on his annoying landlord, except in this case Peyo drew little blue Nazis. It makes sense.

For one, the Smurfs are all united against a common enemy, the sorcerer Gargamel, whose large nose supposedly makes him look like a Jewish stereotype:

This is the face of a man set to take over Hollywood.

Gargamel also has a cat named Azrael -- a name that comes from Jewish mysticism -- and is the creator of Smurfette, who becomes a vision of Aryan beauty after Papa Smurf "fixes" her with magic.

Maybe if the Nazis got laid more often they wouldn't have been so uptight.

The most damning evidence, however, seems to come from a comic titled "The Black Smurfs," where the Smurfs get infected, via bites, with a mysterious disease that turns them black, mindless and aggressive, which Bueno interpreted as concerns for blood purity. The book would not have appeared in the U.S. to this day if the color of the sickness wasn't eventually changed to purple.

Daily Mail
Who'd have expected the Smurfs' first crossover to involve Al Jolson?

#2. Babar Is a Colonial Apologist

Babar the Elephant might not be as famous as other cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, but he still achieved great success. First created in 1931 by Jean de Brunhoff, the Babar books are published today in over 17 languages with more than 8 million copies sold worldwide.

And -- if you believe experts like Herbert Kohl or Ariel Dorfman (the Donald Duck guy from before) -- that's over 8 million copies of sneaky colonial propaganda, simply because the titular Babar, an African elephant, is raised in France and later returns to his homeland to reform it using the superior power of Western civilization.

We're not sure we'd have gone with bowler hats to symbolize cultural superiority, but hey.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

In the first book, The Story of Babar, we find out that Babar's mother was shot by a hunter, and the small elephant was taken in by an old lady in Paris, given clothes and enrolled in school, like some reverse Tarzan. Later, after the death of his father, Babar is declared king of Elephant Land because he has lived among humans and "learned much," though apparently the concept of representative democracy wasn't part of it.

He then proceeds to civilize the fuck out of his kingdom by introducing it to French culture, much to everyone's excitement.

"Yay, a palace! We'd have preferred a hospital, but still, yay!"

It isn't hard to see why someone would have issues with a story like this. In Babar, the Western culture is presented as obviously superior to the African one, with the regions of the African continent outside Babar's control being populated by spear-chucking political incorrectness.

This is terribly inaccurate. What kind of elephant wears flowery dresses?

Even the native African elephants are originally depicted as naked and walking on four legs until the bipedal, clothed Babar and his family (who saw the light of European civilization) make them aware and ashamed of their primitive, naked ways. It's as if the books were trying to say, in an almost Biblical sort of way, that accepting Western civilization is akin to finally being human.

"Instead of fostering equality, we're introducing the feudal system. Welcome to civilization!"

A lot of this stuff does make sense, especially considering that the first book came out at the height of French colonialism in Africa, but looking for religious undertones in Babar sounds like the biggest ass-pull since the 2010 Proctology Olympics. We'd definitely need to see something more convincing before we buy into it; something like ...

There it is.

#1. Thomas the Tank Engine Lives in a Totalitarian Dystopia

Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, a story about sentient trains learning about responsibility, friendship and all that noise, might possibly be the most sickeningly wholesome children's show in existence. With that in mind, it'd take some pretty massive balls to accuse said show of, say, promoting totalitarianism, fascism and racism.

Shauna Wilton, a professor of political sciences at the University of Alberta, has just such balls. She argues that the world of Thomas the Tank Engine is in reality a fascist, racist hellhole where dreams go to die and where only "useful" elements are allowed to continue to toil away in pointless misery.

Oh yeah. Stick more proles in the carriage and it would totally be 1984.

Or maybe ... maybe someone switched Wilton's Thomas DVDs with Schindler's List.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

Here's a totally hypothetical question: What if one of the trains on the show decided that he wanted to do something else with his life, like travel or star on Snakes on a Train 2: Snake Harder? He'd probably get yelled at and told to get back to work.

Trains can never really follow their own path. It's like a metaphor or something.

You see, on the island of Sodor where the show takes place, there is only room for really useful engines. That's not only the show's catch phrase, but also the basic summary of every episode in the series. That is, the engines are either trying to prove themselves or worrying that they aren't working hard enough (see "James and the Coaches," "Thomas, Percy and the Post Train," "Tender Engines" and many more).

This totalitarian obsession with usefulness is instilled in the engines by the iron fist of Sir Topham Hatt, aka the Fat Controller, who swiftly punishes all those deemed as "useless."

Look at his hands. There's no way this guy has ever contributed anything to society.

In the episode "Break Van," Hatt has two twin engines, Donald and Douglas, compete against each other to determine which one he will send back to Scotland to be destroyed. In "The Sad Story of Henry," when an engine refuses to go out of the tunnel because of the rain, Hatt actually gives orders to brick him alive in the tunnel.

"Oh man, what the fuck ...?"

You can't really defend any of this by saying that the trains are Hatt's property. They are obviously sentient beings capable of emotions ... one of which unfortunately happens to be racism. In the show, there is a clear feud going on between the steam engines like Thomas and Percy and the diesel engines, who are depicted as stubborn, lazy and shifty.

In the episode "Daisy," a diesel named Daisy arrives on Sodor and flat out refuses to do chores. In "The Diseasel," a diesel called BoCo is accused of stealing trucks. In "Thomas's Day Off," a new, lazy diesel, Dennis, tricks Thomas into doing his work. Even the closest thing the show has to a villain is a diesel fucking named DIESEL.


But maybe there is some perfectly reasonable, nonracist explanation for why the trains that run on clean white steam dislike the trains powered by dirty, black diesel oil. So, if you can think of one, please tell us, because we're just dying to hear it.

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance English-Japanese-Polish translator, tour guide and writer. Contact him via email or buy this awesome book about death that he helped write.

For more ways to be that annoying guy at the party, check out The 7 Most WTF Origins of Iconic Pop Culture Franchises and 5 Reasons Pop Culture Is Run by Fan-Fiction.

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