A billboard for the newest Smurfs film in a religious Israeli city has left many commentators in the Jewish state feeling blue.
Promotional posters for “Smurfs: The Lost Village” were unveiled across Israel on Sunday, but in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox enclave just outside of Tel Aviv, the usual image of four blue humanoids had a very deliberate tweak: Smurfette, the lone female of the bunch, had been erased.
Ultra-religious Jewish males are forbidden to look upon images of women, and in Israel’s most devout communities, depictions of women are routinely cropped out of newspapers, catalogues and advertisements. During the U.S. presidential election, religious news sites in Israel ran coverage without any images of Hillary Clinton. Earlier this year, the local arm of Swedish furniture giant IKEA came under fire from some Israelis for distributing a special version of its catalogue with only men and boys in its photos of pre-fab kitchens and dining rooms.
Film posters featuring women also routinely come under the knife when they appear in religious neighborhoods. In 2015, Jennifer Lawrence disappeared from posters for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” replaced by an image of a fiery crown.
But the Smurfs poster marks the first time a non-human female has also been deemed forbidden fruit. According to the Israeli press, the tweaked posters were created by the film’s local PR film as part of an organized publicity rollout and appear only in religious neighborhoods. In most of the rest of Israel, in cities such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, Smurfette is present alongside Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty.
Secular Israelis were quick on social media to mock the decision to excise Smurfette.
“Wait until they find out that Jokey Smurf has been living a lie and all this time was attracted to Brainy,” TV scribe Yotam Zimri tweeted.
Other commentators pointed out that the male smurfs are shirtless and therefore not particularly modest, while a more serious debate centered on the illogic of producing a bowdlerized billboard for a film that hasn’t itself been censored.
Some religious Jews do attend secular cinema, and others secretly download films and view them at home or at Internet cafes. And not all residents of communities like Bnei Brak are equally religious.
Forum Film, which distributes “Smurfs” in Israel, told Israeli daily Haaretz that the scrubbed billboard was standard practice in ultra-Orthodox enclaves.
So when “Wonder Woman” comes out this summer, it’s unlikely that Israeli actress Gal Gadot will grace posters for her big starring vehicle in the more religious pockets of her homeland. The film’s local PR team was unavailable for comment, but a representative for Gadot mused that it’s possible a special poster will be created for religious communities, featuring safely male co-star Chris Pine.