A Serious Discussion of My Own Depression And Why “The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol” Is the Worst Thing I’ve Ever Seen

Posted: December 9, 2013 in Cartoon Review, Christmas
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This isn’t going to be one of the fun reviews, with lots of screen caps and funny captions that people can put on pintrest. I’m going to take this thing to task, but not in a fun way. I didn’t even want to do it, but I came across something I wrote in a piece of fiction a few years back.
“If you have a talent, you’re responsible for how, or if you use it. Letting it go to waste is as bad as misusing it.” And I have a talent for explaining why things are bad. As far as I can tell, I’ve never been able to convince someone that a movie is good, but I can convince them something is shit! Not an enviable position, perhaps, but I’ve got a talent and I’m going to try to use it for good this time.

I’ve decided we’ve got to talk about this, we have to have a conversation about this thing because it’s evil and wrong and if I don’t warn people, I might feel responsible later. Let me be frank about this, so that we don’t misunderstand things. This is not a fun little cartoon, it is harmful, it is DANGEROUS! You should not watch this damn thing, no one should watch this thing. This is less a review and more of a warning, because watching this could drive someone to suicide. I’m going to discuss this in personal terms, since that last sentence seem hyperbolic, so I’ll explain….

This starts off as the CGI Smurfs that came from the Hollywood movie a couple of years ago, but turns into 2-D animation. The CGI is frame story and the 2D is the meat of the story. I would have given them credit for that, but I was already against this thing by the time that happens. If you have depression, or love someone who does, then this is going to hit close to home. I’m going to encourage you to keep reading though. While I’m going to talk about this movie, I’m also going to have to talk about myself and Syd because you have to be given the background to understand why both of us started screaming at the screen and then just watched in disgusted silence.

Here is the plot, Grumpy Smurf doesn’t want to engage with Christmas, so the other Smurfs perform and intervention and via magic, Papa Smurf sends him a vision that reminds him about the spirit of Christmas. That’s the nicest I can make this nightmare of animation. The devil, as always is in the details. Now this is where we have to get personal. The closest I ever got to suicide was during Christmas. I wasn’t sad, or stressed, or having crying jags, or doing any of the “normal” things a depressed person is supposed to do. I was just simply… tired. Do you remember how Lestat describes Louis’s problem in Interview with The Vampire? “Life has no meaning anymore… does it? The wine has no taste. The food sickens you. There seems no reason for any of it… does there?” That’s where I was. I was simply tired and the idea of going on just seemed like so much more effort for no good reason. That the Christmas Season had done nothing to even pretend to lift my mood made things all the worse. And what with, what was it… five deaths that year? Six? A faltering relationship that finally crashed a few weeks later, I do sometimes think that physical and mental exhaustion was the only thing that kept me alive. I was simply too tired to work up the energy to kill myself. Had there been real pain, or if I had been able to summon up the strength, I would not be writing this today. I was no fun that year, and my attempts to celebrate was on autopilot. I simply no longer felt like playing along at one point.

What I’m saying is that I totally feel what Grouchy Smurf was going through in the first few minutes. Grouchy isn’t feeling the Christmas Spirit at the start. The CGI Animation is actually quite beautiful, I’ll grant them that. I don’t actually hate the design of the Smurfs, and it’s nicely detailed. Papa Smurf and a few other Smurfs are singing carols through the village, but when they come upon Grouchy’s house they find he hasn’t decorated. This moment of individualism is so shocking that the Smurfs glance up and the signing sort of dies in their throats. They’ve never actually seen someone not decorate. Now, I will grant, Papa Smurf runs up to Grouchy’s house, looking concerned. He knocks on the door and asks what’s wrong, looking genuinely worried that something may have happened. Everyone else sort of acts like douche bags. They remind him that they all decorate the Christmas Tree as a family, and that he always puts the star on top. They actually remind him that he’s quite into Christmas, and that he sheds his grumpy demeanor for the day of days. Not asking why he’s suddenly turned against it, no one’s actually that interested in anything outside themselves.

Now this is where it gets horrifying to me. Smurfette turns to Papa Smurf and says “Oh Papa. You need to do something. It just won’t be the same if we can’t all celebrate together.” Well thanks Smurfette, you’re concern for Grouchy is commendable. Oh wait, you didn’t show any! How fucking selfish! No one has yet bothered to ask why Grouchy is suddenly against the idea, no one is even showing concern for him. He needs to show up and celebrate, whether he feels like it or not, because otherwise IT WON’T BE THE SAME! Syd has also suffered with depression in a big way, and her worst time came during a confluence of events. Only, unlike me, she had fucking douche-canoes to contend with who were berating her for feeling bad at a time like this. Her sentence to boil it all down was. “Can’t you see how your suicidal depression is affecting me?” She was literally told to “Get a grip” at one point because she was “Bringing people down.” The fact that she almost didn’t make it through that winter alive doesn’t seem to matter, she was being a real drag man. Yes, I am still angry, why do you ask? And the lack of concern for why Grouchy might be feeling this way, the demand that he just fall into line like everyone else? Yeah, it brings it all back again.

So Papa makes a potion that he calls the Spirit of Christmas and that it’s ”designed to show one the true meaning of the holiday.” So again, Grouchy is just WRONG here. He’s forgotten the true meaning of the holiday. The fact that he’s personally sitting there, privately fighting for his life, combating a darkness alone… that’s his problem. He needs to be dragged into a celebration he cannot begin to feel part of, to be with people who only remind him of isolated he feels from them, and to be told throughout this event that is killing him to at least pretend to be happy for everyone else’s benefit. What an utter and complete group of selfish assholes! Grouchy gets the potion in his Smurf-Nog and it knocks him out, causing him to wake up in a 2D world that looks like the old Hanna-Barbara animation. It’s still done on computers, but they got the look of the animation down. If I wasn’t so outraged at the whole thing by now, I would have given them some major kudos. I guess I am now, so there you go. All about the silver-linings, me.

This is one of those productions where regular members of “The Cast” and inserted as the ghosts. Grouchy actually mentions that to him, this is Smurfette. She explains that she’s the Spirit of Christmas Past and that he’s lost the True Meaning of Christmas® and that their going to help him find it. We’re taken back to a past where Grouchy liked Christmas. He’s told that he enjoyed the holiday and “put your grumpiness aside” which again makes it sound like a depression is just something you can pick up or put down. It’s like how you can just stop having cancer on Christmas, so as not to inconvenience everyone. Maybe his mood really was better in the old days, but this isn’t last year, this is now. He’s another problem, actually reminding someone of this just reminds them of the big empty hole in their soul where joy used to live. He was probably just about getting by, ignoring the pain of no longer feeling like a part of the family by cutting off that joy and pretending he never felt that way and thus can lessen the pain by acting like the loss didn’t happen. And now he’s reminded that once he felt that way, and the wound of his own empty feels are ripped open again. THANKS FOR THAT GUYS!

Now we see the place where Grouchy is supposed to be a selfish dickhole, but even there I can sympathize. Grouchy wanted a hang glider. And year, a year, he didn’t get one. He just got what Papa Smurf gave everyone, a new hat. He asked Papa every year for the hang glider, and every year he just got the hat. And then last year, Jokey Smurf gave him a big hang-glider shaped box that just exploded in his face. This bullying just causes him to stop off and have a complaint that he never gets what he wants for Christmas. He throws the hat away and stomps off. Spirit Smurfette asks Now Grouchy if that’s the reason he decided to hate Christmas and he explains that you don’t want to get your hopes up just to see them dashed. To which Spirit Smurfette says “What’s there to be disappointed about when you have such a Smurfy Family?” One that he doesn’t feel a part of? One where his single wish for life is openly mocked by the members?

There is more going on here. There is a mantra among those who deal with depression, “Depression Lies.” You kind of have to hang on to that sometimes, because otherwise you can’t go on. You have to say to yourself, all the time, “NO! These people DO care about me. They’re not ignoring me, they just don’t know how to help.” And other such things. Is the hang-glider such a big deal? Well, if Grouchy is already feeling ignored and picked on, it becomes a symbol of the isolation. It’s the emblem of every negative feeling he has. Would the hang-glider really fix it? Probably not, but because Depression Lies, he feels the hole in his heart. He thinks it’s a hang-glider shaped hole, but who can tell what it really is? Again, this is a sickness, it’s a chronic disease and if Grouchy can’t get some kind of help, it’s going to turn out to be fatal. Hell, even with friends and family clustering around to try and help in whatever way they can, he’s only got a 50/50 chance. This isn’t some little moment of sadness, this is a lifelong condition.

So the bit with Smurfette ends and now the show gets reprehensible and more than a little bit dangerous. Brainy Smurf shows up as the Smurf of Christmas Present (wasn’t Smurfette the Spirit? Great continuity there guys) and shows Grouchy how his actions ruined Christmas for everyone. See, Chef had to put up decorations instead of baking cookies, which resulted in exponentially less cheer for everyone. Then Clumsy finds the star that Grouchy normally would put on the tree, he trips, the star going flying, and hits a bulb. This results in a Rube Goldbergian chain reaction of destruction that leads to all the lights exploding, the tree getting knocked over, catching on fire and exploding. Upon putting out the fire, the Smurfs gather round and Smurfette actually says “This wouldn’t have happened if Grouchy were here.” REALLY? Clumsy would have been prevented from tripping in any way, shape or form? He would have suddenly become Safety Smurf if Grouchy had been around? FUCK! Let’s be glad that Grouchy didn’t suddenly catch flu and was physically unable to come, or that would have apparently happened anyway. Claiming all of this is Grouchy’s fault is that “Can’t you see how your suicidal depression is affecting me?” BULLSHIT all over again. And now that he’s seen that he has, in fact, ruined Christmas for everyone and that it’s all his fault, and no one else’s, what choice does he have? You’ve added pointless guilt to his already crushing depression, making it his fault for not watching over Clumsy closely enough. These guys might not be equipped to prevent a suicide, but they do seem hell bent on causing one.

We then see how Papa Smurf makes the hats for each and every Smurf himself, and that he tries to make them to conform to the needs or desires of each Smurf. This is actually kind of touching, because we do see that Papa is maybe trying. He takes the hat he made for Grouchy and says that he made one that he knows Grouchy will love, if he just gives it a chance. See, I forgot to mention that he threw the hat from last year away, and that Papa found it and looked crushed over the event. He looks sad about it, and in this you see the one person in the whole village that isn’t so completely tied up in their own solipsism that they are unable to see the pain others are going through. I get the impression that Papa wasn’t sad to see his hat thrown away, so much as he can’t stand to see Grouchy in such turmoil. The problem of course is that Papa knows that he doesn’t have the tools to really help, he knows that there is something really wrong with Grouchy. I do actually get the impression that Papa really gives a shit, but that he feels powerless to help, due to the fact that 99 other Smurfs also need his love and support. Papa is in a tough place here, and he’s trying his hardest, but it might just be too late.

And now the special goes from horrendously bad, to even fucking worse. See, in the future (played by Brawny who keeps calling Grouchy “bro”) the entire village is destroyed and deserted. To replace the tree that was destroyed, they went to get a new one. Now the Smurfs claim that this was to try and cheer Grouchy up but they’re also just replacing the tree that was lost, let’s be honest. This was for them, not for him, they’d just use the fact that he wouldn’t be impressed to further shame him. He wasn’t impressed by the first tree, why would the second one cheer him up? No, this is for you, and you’re pretending it’s for him to further shame him for not being happy enough. When he finds out they never came back from their trip, Grouchy runs towards the woods. He stumbles and falls, to which Brawny says “Need to do more cardio, bro!” and I can’t define why, but that line just stuck in my fucking craw. Fuck you and your anachronistic jokes to make things sound hip but will only date them in three years. Fuck you and everyone who even looks like you!

And now we get to the worst part. All the Smurfs got caught by Gargamel and are now going to be eaten BECAUSE GROUCHY WASN’T SMURFY ENOUGH! You ruined Christmas for everyone by not pretending to be happy. It’s all your fault that everyone is going to die because you couldn’t just fake your feelings and play along for everyone else’s benefit. How very selfish you have behaved this Christmas. “Can’t you see how your suicidal depression is affecting me?” Grouchy even falls for it, expressing that he can change, he can make amends, he can set right what once went wrong and hope that the next leap will be the leap home. He does leap back to CGI at least. He then admits that he was wrong, that Christmas is a time for loving and that he shouldn’t have been so wrapped up in himself… you know… like every fucking other Smurf in this fucking village! It seems while everyone was sleeping, Grouchy got a new tree and put all the decorations to right… in four and a half hours. Fuck this special, fuck it in the ear. Papa gives him a new hat, and Grouchy jumps off a ladder upon realizing that his hat was made especially for him, and that Papa knew he wanted a hang glider. So yeah, the hat IS a hang glider and that’s supposed to make everything all better.

Well I’m sorry, it doesn’t. Having been down this road a few times, having people explain that my mood (and desire to be just left the fuck alone) ruined things for everyone else, despite trying to have these moods in private, you can go fuck yourself. It’s not my job to wrap the holiday in a warm red woolen blanket and pretend everything is just hunky-dory. My job is to try and survive a place and time that was filled with an unimaginable vast empty darkness, one from which there seemed no escape save for the final one. I’m sorry if that puts a damper on your feelings, but I’m really not responsible for you. I have a hard enough time being responsible for me. Telling someone that if they’re not cheerful enough, their entire family will be killed, is irresponsible, and it’s BULLSHIT!

Listen, you feel as bad as you have to feel. If you don’t want to engage, okay. I’ll offer you these three things. 1) I’ll be here when you want me. 2) I will not judge you for feeling the way you do. 3) There are things that can be done to help. I won’t say it’ll get better, it might not ever get better, but it might get manageable. And things can improve, it can happen. You can come to a place where it won’t hurt so much, or you won’t feel empty all the time. Where there’s life, there’s hope. If it gets that bad, if you just need to talk to someone, there are people who will listen. Until then, you just feel the way you feel, and don’t let someone else make you feel worse for already feeling bad.

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