The dark side of popular cultureThis is a cute, palm-sized book, but it deals with some big issues: homosexuality in “Brokeback Mountain” and “South Park,” fatalism and education in “Harry Potter,” “Starship Troopers” and even militarism. But rather than criticizing popular culture, the author delves into how it’s influenced by social, political and philosophical ideas.
In Chapter 1, “Socio-Political Themes in the Smurfs,” Schmidt argues that the popular cartoon “The Smurfs” is an allegory for Marxism.
Smurf Village is a Marxist utopia, where Smurfs live a self-reliant life and have joint ownership of the land. The bushy-bearded Papa Smurf is Karl Marx while Brainy Smurf represents Trotsky - and if you look a their mugshots, there are actually similarities.
The way Smurfs refer to themselves as “So-and-So Smurf” is much like “Comrade.” The author also compares the evil wizard Gargamel to an extreme capitalist hellbent on accumulating wealth.
Schmidt’s point, he says, is that many liberal countries that had raging debates about anticommunist education in the 1980s were deceived by the cartoon.
To Schimdt, the popular TV series and film “Sex and the City” is a clash of two world views, natural and romantic versus commercial and pessimistic, while the Korean movie “Taegukgi: Brotherhood of War” is a reflection of the complications of fraternal love.
Schmidt wrote this collection of essays while teaching in Korea, Japan and Germany for 10 years.
While the reader might not agree with everything he says, his style of capturing his own distinct views makes the book attractive.