I've been to the Smokies three times (most recently just a few weeks ago) and I love them. Gatlinburg, in my opinion, is a very nice little mountain town comparable in some respects to Lake Placid ... definitely geared towards tourists but with an unmistakeable "in the mountains" feel to them. Pigeon Forge is a little odd - kind of like Las Vegas in the mountains - but if I were to ever take my kids to the Smokies, I know they'd get a kick out of Pigeon Forge.
If you want to talk about weird though ... during my recent highpointing trip, I drove through the Cherokee Indian Reservation during a Harley rally on the reservation. It was one of the strangest things I'd ever seen. The reservation in general plays up every stereotype you can think of when it comes to the Native American culture. Now just throw in 20,000 or so biker types. It was truly amusing.
Anyway, towns and places are what they are ... calling someplace "ugly" just to make your own favorite area seem somehow better serves no useful purpose if you ask me.