This week Belgian television is showing a 25-second animation movie (click here to see video) in which the village of the Smurfs, the blue characters created by the late Belgian cartoonist Peyo, is annihilated by bombs. The short movie is part of a campaign by Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, to raise funds for former child soldiers in Burundi. So as not to upset children the movie will only be shown on television after nine pm, though last week it was shown in the main evening news, thus upsetting quite a few children. The movie concludes with the message “Don’t let war affect the lives of children.” That, however, is exactly what last week’s showing did.
According to Philippe Henon, a spokesman for Unicef Belgium, the movie is aimed at adults but is definitely meant to shock because, as he explained, traditional images of suffering in Third World war zones have lost their power to move television viewers. That is why Unicef is committing large-scale smurficide now.
It could have been worse even for our little blue friends. According to the advertising agency that made the movie Unicef toned down the agency’s original plans in which blue blood would have flown abundantly, with Smurfs being decapitated by the blasts and limbs scattered about.
Judging from the reactions on the internet the adults the movie is directed at are not particularly impressed. Reactions vary from:
“I thought it was low ratings that killed the Smurfs”
“Next week on The Smurfs, poverty and disease strike the innocent village”
“...and then the Teletubbies all shouted ‘again, again!’”
“has anyone seen the episode lately where Hutu Smurf machetes Tutsi Smurf to death while Belgian peacekeepers sit around watching and doing nothing?”
“John Bolton, Could You Take Care of This, Please?”
“I know the little blue guys are annoying as hell, but really...”
to: “We have evidence Gargamel has acquired weapons of mass destruction.”
Unicef’s perception of the real world strikes us as strange if they really believe that they can upset adults more by destroying an imaginary Smurf village than by showing the suffering of real people. Which leads us to suspect that the actual intention of the designers was to target children, who will naturally be curious to see anything that involves Smurfs.