Friday, July 29, 2011

Are the Smurfs Queer Pagans? Part Two!

3. Smurfette.

For further proof of the Smurfs' queer pagan nature, look no further than Smurfette.


The lone female Smurf, she was created by villainous wizard Gargamel from clay to cause discord among the male Smurfs. Happily Papa Smurf foiled his plan by giving her a magical make-over, changing Smurfette's hair from black to blonde, and her personality from evil to good.

If you ignore the tired old "black hair = evil" trope, this story is basically a reworking of the Prometheus and Pandora myth.

According to Greek mythology, in the primordial past Zeus and his siblings waged war against the Titans, the older generation of gods. Zeus won and kicked most of the Titans into the deepest underworld, but spared a few, including Prometheus, whose name means "forethought."  Prometheus populated the world by creating men out of clay.

Prometheus making men out of clay. Athena looks on skeptically.

It's important to note that Prometheus only made males, not females.  (There are also some myths that relate how Prometheus made homosexuals, but they deserve a post of their own.) Zeus later punished Prometheus and mankind for stealing fire by creating the first woman, Pandora, who carried a box that contained all the world's evils.

The ancient mythographers didn't specify Smurfette's hair color or if she had blue skin, but I think it's clear that Smurfette is the modern Pandora. The Pandora and Smurfette stories both are a little misogynistic, don't you think?

4. Vanity Smurf

The queerest of the Smurfs by far is Vanity Smurf. I'm sure the comic's author wanted to call him Gay Smurf but was warned against it by his publishers. Vanity Smurf is overly concerned with his appearance, loves clothing, and speaks in an effete manner. He also carries a mirror and wears a flower in his hat.

Work it girl! Show those other Smurfs how to wear a hat!

The name, the mirror and the flower identify Vanity Smurf with Narcissus, another important figure in Greek mythology.

Many people are familiar with Ovid's story about Narcissus, where the handsome man Narcissus spurns the nymph Echo. She asks the gods to punish him, and they cause him to fall in love with his reflection in a pool. He ultimately wastes away into a flower, and Echo wastes away until she's only a voice.

Damn! I look gooood!

It's a pretty story, but there's an earlier and gayer version. According to the poet Conon, Narcissus was a handsome young man who was pursued by multiple men but ignored them all. One particularly persistent wooer named Ameinias refused to give up, until Narcissus finally sent him a sword with a note telling him to end his life. Harsh! Ameinias killed himself, but with his dying breath prayed for the love god Eros to punish Narcissus.

His prayer was answered. While hunting in the woods Narcissus sees his reflection in a spring. He falls in love with his own unobtainable image. Realizing that he's being punished for his behavior towards Ameinias, Narcissus kills himself. The narcissus flower emerges from his blood. 

The narcissus flower shows up in many places in Greek mythology. For example, Persephone is lured into the underworld by a large narcissus, the Furies wear it in their crowns, and it grows in Nysa, the mystic land where the wine god Dionsysos was born. Clearly, it has some powerful occult connotations!

Could Vanity Smurf be wearing a narcissus in his hat? It seems very likely. I wouldn't mess with this Smurf - maybe he can access the occult powers of the narcissus!

So, are the Smurfs queer pagans? Maybe, maybe not. Honestly, I don't think the new Smurf movie is going to be a gay pagan love fest. But I do think that ancient pagan themes pervade our pop culture, and queer imagery does too, if you know where to look.

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