Welcome back Smurfers! COVID shut down most production studios as we all know, but it could not stop writers writing. Writers write. Some writers need their trusty iBook and their Frappacinos. Others need a piece of paper and a semi-workable pencil. Who knows when, why, or how it happens. Just hit it. Isolation can have unhealthy elements, but it can also lead to introspection, reflection, and in some cases, perfection. Trey Donaghy hit it hard this year, as did Davy Holliday, after surviving the contract negotiations detailed in our September newsletter, and he earned every penny of it by giving us Rara Avis Smurf, one of our personal favorite Smurfs of all time. Great job, as always, Davy! As we also detailed in November, Chesterton’s own Sharon Tiegs, showed why she was such a great hire by introducing us to our favorite new Smurf of the year, and no we’re not homers(!). This season of The Smurfs was one of our favorites, if you can’t tell, and we would’ve loved to include more, but this year’s characters required more in-depth analysis. As always, we’ll start the countdown to next season when we learn the date.
(Spoiler Alerts: We apologize, in advance, to anyone who hasn’t seen this season of The Smurfs for any details we provide here, but proper analysis would not be possible without thorough examination. We encourage die-hard Smurfs fans to watch the season before reading this review.)
Meta Smurf—The difference between Meta Smurf and the other Smurf comedians making an appearance at The Smurf Festival became quite clear in the early moments of The Smurf’s season premier this year. His skits weren’t humorous so much as they were subversive artillery aimed at the Smurf psyche. His sketches don’t strive for laughter so much as discomfit that leads the audience to feel … something, and they don’t manipulate those emotions either. To arrive at Meta’s message, the audience needs to read between the lines, around them, above them, and in all spaces beyond. Sharon Tiegs wrote her characters and concepts so well that we suspect she has extensive experience with it.
Sharon’s primary directive is esoteric in the beginning, until the illustrative exchange with Papa Smurf halfway through the episode. In this exchange, we hear Meta’s sense of urgency, as Papa Smurf informs Meta that his brand of comedy isn’t testing well, his Q ratings were not what they thought they would be when they invited him to perform at The Festival, and that Impresario Smurf decided to go in another direction.
“With all due respect to you and Impresario,” Meta said, “it takes time, and more importantly repetition, for Smurfs to build a rapport with a style of humor most Smurfs have never heard before, a humor that exists between, around, above, and in all spaces beyond.”
“I enjoy your sketches,” Papa Smurf said, “but they require a substantial investment to wrap your mind around. Smurfs work very hard throughout the week. They come to The Festival for belly laughs. They want to drink their Berry Juice and have a good time, and they say your humor requires a clear mind. Why don’t you try the simpler jokes Jokey Smurf performed? Those jokes test so well.”
“I respected Jokey, may Smurf rest his soul, as much as anyone,” Meta said, “but my humor is intertextual, and it requires a link, or a jump to another level, and when Smurfs put the intertextual within the link, they’ll experience both at the same time to find a meta-intertextual moment of sheer hilarity.”
“Do you see how complicated that is?” Papa Smurf asked. “We’ve seen a 23% decrease in Berry Juice sales during your time, and I don’t need to remind you how vital the proceeds from Berry Juice are to Smurf Village do I?”
“No,” Meta said. “And it will happen. I promise you it will happen. We need repetition. We need Smurfs to see my name on The Festival list so often that they know what to expect. Once they see what Thespian and I are doing, I assure you that they’ll stop in to see what we’re doing, and they’ll walk away talking about it.”
“And what will they be talking about?”
“The joke within the joke, around the joke, and beyond the joke,” Meta said. “They’ll get it. With enough repetition, they’ll get it Papa Smurf. I just need you and Impresario to be patient through this growth process.”
Meta was trying to fill the vacuous hole left by Jokey, before the other Smurfs moved in to fill that humor vacuum. Meta saw it coming, and toward the end of the episode, he wrote a line for Thespian Smurf to say that he would never touch an actual vacuum to thus precipitate the demise of his career. That meta joke proved prophetic when Meta was eventually cast aside. His skits were never performed at The Festival again, while Meta was alive.
In the interim, between his inability to land anything at The Festival, and his eventual demise, Thespian Smurf informed us that Meta only became more prolific. He suggested Meta wrote more material that proved more meta, and more intertextual. The critics of Meta’s work analyzed Meta’s post-Festival work posthumously, and they suggest he spiraled into and out of his “intertextual” themes so often that he may have missed the exit ramp. “It was so intertextual, so meta, and so insular that the works probably proved inscrutable, even to Meta,” one critic wrote. “Even those who professed such devotion to him privately confess that the meaning and humor of Meta’s post-Festival works may have died with him. Suggesting that his iconography, might be more important than his anthology.”
Thespian Smurf eventually moved onto become a successful actor in his own right, but he testified to the Smurf’s brilliance so often that Meta’s material began to build a slow and ever-growing cult following. By the time, it reached the level we know today, Meta was no longer alive to appreciate it. In his eulogy, Thespian suggested that Meta may have died of a broken heart.
2) Patri Pris Smurf— “I’m not political,” One of our favorite new characters in the series, Patri Pris Smurf, says to introduce himself to us in the Smurf on You Crazy Smurf episode. As most rabid fans of the show know, when a Smurf introduces themselves in such a bold manner, it often means the Smurf will battle that characterization throughout the episode, thus revealing him for who he is, under the “Dost thou protest too much?” banner. The brilliance of Trey Donaghy’s character is that he exposes the character’s weaknesses in a way we should probably all consider. Patri Pris’ display suggests that preemptively revealing our weaknesses could be a prescription for social success on some level, for what do our peers do when they meet us for the first time but search for our weakness on some deep, subconscious plane?
If that’s the case with Patri Pris Smurf, you might ask, why doesn’t Patri say I am too political? That question spawns another. What if everyone already knows our weakness? What if we’re provocateurs who need to offend our audience? Is our desire to appear independent dependent on repeating a lie so often that people believe it? Donaghy’s Patri Pris presses the issue that he’s not political by repeatedly suggesting that it’s simplistic to believe that he is. He politely refutes it initially, “I understand why people think that, but it’s just not true. Whereas some focus on politics 75% of the time, I might 25% of the time.” Every interaction Patri Pris has involves refuting this charge, and most of these conversations are driven by Patri. Every interview of Patri, by a major publication, sympathetically points out that Patri is so much more. The PR campaign is vital to Patri’s career, because he needs to offend the Smurfs through provocation. Donaghy appears to be suggesting that the reason we press such issues is that it’s much more difficult to provoke and offend if everyone knows your core motivation.
As if fatigued by the issue to a level of concession, Patri says, “If I am, as you say, political, my politics might not fall as you might think.” Yet, Patri Pris’ greatest attribute and his greatest problem is that he is consistent in his beliefs. When Quotidian Smurf challenges Patri’s attempt to appear independent or nonpartisan, Patri says, “Where do you assign my allegiance then? The White or Blue Party? I can tell you that I refrain from such allegiance. I am, at my core, a contrarian.”
“Provide us a first or last time,” Quotidian says, “you contradicted the worldview of his party.”
“Pardon me kind sir,” Patri Pris said, “but I might be more critical of this party you consider mine than I am the other.”
“We’ve heard all those criticisms Patri,” Common Smurf says, “and they center on the idea that your party doesn’t go far enough to satisfy your demands. ‘Tis hardly criticism that suggests independence on a matter.”
This frequent criticism culminated in a rare talk show appearance by Patri Pris Smurf in which the host allows Patri to address FITB’s charges. Those of us who know the talk show format were suspicious when Patri feigned outrage at the question for surely the Smurf Show’s producers prepped Patri for the question the host would ask. Regardless, Patri all but verbally (and perhaps strategically) attacked the host who, again, was merely giving Patri a forum for addressing the charge. “Check my Smurf Bag,” Patri said to the host, “and I think you’ll find complaints from both sides of the aisle.”
“What’s the break down contained in that mailbag?” the host asked. “What percentage of complaints do you receive from one side versus the other?” Patri answered without answering the question, because (we can only assume), he didn’t expect the question. When researchers were permitted access to Patri’s Smurf Bag, via lawsuits submitted under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), they found one side registered 2% of the complaints and 98% of the complaints came from the other side, nullifying Patri Pris’ last refuge.
3) Rara Avis Smurf—The Latin term rara avis means rare bird, but in the case of Rara Avis Smurf it might mean weird, strange, or just plain odd bird. Whatever the case was, when Overlord Smurf named him, or when Frowzy Smurf changed his name, based on what he saw, whomever decided on the name determined that Rara Avis was just plain different. He was raised in the healthy and happy manner of every Smurf, but he reacted to their communal care in a decidedly way. Reports on Rara’s rearing suggest he was a respectful and appreciative Smurfling who wanted more out of the relatively short life of the Smurf.
“Truth be known,” Frowzy said, “Rara didn’t know what he wanted.” Frowzy was charged with the Smurfling Rara Avis’ care. Rara Avis loved Frowzy, but he remained unsatisfied by his teachings. Whereas most Smurflings loved and worshipped their assigned parents, and the Smurf hierarchy, up to Papa Smurf, Rara Avis began ascribing to ideas outside The Village teachings. He began reading philosophy from the Westside of The Village, and he eventually fell under the tutelage and guiding hand of Philogist Smurf, the leader of the Fifth Westside Movement.
Contrary to most reports on Rara, and the fallout of these reports, he never sought anarchy so much as he thought there might be a different way. We can all criticize Rara Avis now, in hindsight, for where he took Philogist’s teachings when he inadvertently(?) took the Fifth Movement in a decidedly different direction that some now state we should call the Sixth Movement, but Rara Avis insists his path was just an extension of Philogist’s teachings to what he considered its logical conclusion. Those of us who poured through the dialogue, and its subtext, insist that Rara Avis never intended, at the outset, to take in such a radical, and violent direction. The true villain, we maintain, was Rara’s right hand Smurf, Iniquity Smurf, who desired control and led Philogist’s followers down a path Rara couldn’t possibly foresee. When Rara saw where it was headed, he struggled to maintain his leadership, but he was too late. When he couldn’t control them, it juxtaposed with his desire to stave off Iniquity’s push for power. Rara Avis saw how popular and powerful Iniquity’s push was, and his desire to maintain leadership led him to make some ill-advised and irreversible decisions. There’s no need to pour through the details that followed, as we all know them, but, and this might just be our opinion, we think the complexities and duality of Tyler Hyde’s scripts turned out some of the widest ranging, deepest Smurf episodes and characters ever put on screen.