Smurf Girls Are Easy … and Love To Shop!

In her classic 1991 article, Katha Pollitt named the tendency in media where “a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined” the “Smurfette Principle.” Twenty years later, this principle is still all too common–including in the new movie The Smurfs.

In the film, Smurfette–the first and usually only female Smurf–is certainly stereotypically defined, as she was in the cartoon. But in CGI her blonde locks are even more obvious, threatening to weigh down her feminized Smurf body. Near the start of the film, Smurf-antagonistic sorcerer Gargamel (Hank Azaria) has a rather creepy sequence praising “the tawny locks of Smurfette.” In a later scene, we see Smurfette distracted in a toy store, first with unicorns then with doll dresses, at which she exclaims, “Dresses! I could have more than one kind of dress. What?!?” Shortly after, she is angry when told it’s time to go, insisting “Wait! I am shopping!” She wears heels, again in keeping with the cartoon, and has a wide-eyed made-up look to her blue face.

As asked in the post “Gendering Smurfette” on the blog Feminist Media, “Why, decades after the original Smurfs were trotted out, are we still portraying the only female Smurf as an essentialized cliché of femininity?” Why indeed. Even if the filmmakers wanted to stay true to Smurf-lore, they could have brought in the later added female Smurfs Sassette or Nanny, or how about one of the witches instead of only including Gargamel?

Or, they could have made up for only one Smurfette with the inclusion of more female human lead characters. Instead of Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) being an ad exec, why not give that job to Grace (Glee’s Jayma Mays)? Instead, she is almost entirely defined by her pregnancy and her niceness. How feminine!

At Smurf.com we learn, as we do in the film, that Smurfette was created by Gargamel to cause trouble for the Smurfs. Ah, the evil that is feminine. To add a nice twist of colorism to her origin story, she originally had black hair but it turned blonde when Papa worked all night to make her a real Smurf! She is described as “the charming Smurfette that melts the hearts of the other Smurfs. She’s one of a kind, full of feminine grace and frivolous. She can also be very much a woman, playing with the feelings of her sweethearts.” Oh my Smurf!

In the film, Smurfette uses these feminine wiles–”making sexyface“ at the camera and coyly telling Patrick, “Ohh, someone looks Smurfalicious.” The poster featuring her character has the same word on it printed in huge letters, metaphorically shouting, “Look, girls, you better be Smurfalicious too. Your looks are all that matter.” In one of the worst instances of sexing-up Smurfette, she has a Marilyn Monroe moment where she models a new dress and her skirt blows up. One of the male Smurfs smirks “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

The emphasis on female beauty (vs. empowerment) is furthered by Patrick’s work at the cosmetics company Anjelou, where his boss Odile (Sofia Vergara), is marketing a new anti-age cream with the name “Juvenel.” In one scene, Gargamel uses his magic to turn Odile’s mother beautiful, which, by the film’s standards makes her younger, thinner and larger breasted. Odile, like Smurfette, uses her “feminine wiles” as she flirts with Gargamel in hopes she can buy some of his magic.

The film is stereotypically gendered in other regards as well. A male Smurf is told to “smurf up” (i.e., “man up”) to be a real Smurf. And when a customer tries to buy a Smurf at the toy store, he asks, “Do they come in pink? My daughter wants pink.” Ah yes, because all girls like pink. This is why Sassette–the second-ever female Smurf, who doesn’t make it into the film–wears pink overalls. Of course. Blue is for boys–and is even the name of the boy child born to Patrick and Grace at the film’s close.

Through such gendered depictions, as Pollitt argued so well 20 years ago,

“Little girls learn to split their consciousness, filtering their dreams and ambitions through boy characters while admiring the clothes of the princess. The more privileged and daring can dream of becoming exceptional women in a man’s world–Smurfettes.”

Like others of her ilk who play by and benefit from patriarchy’s rules, Smurfette is not doing women and girls any favors. Instead, she just shakes her blonde mane and coos in her Katy Perry voice, “I kissed a Smurf and I liked it.” Poor Smurfette, if only she had instead kissed stereotypical femininity goodbye.

Comments

  1. I have never seen the Smurfs, but it obvious how dumb the creators are. One Smurfette? Plah-leeze!

  2. Blech. I disliked the Smurfs as a child, and as an adult, the sexualization and gender-limiting roles make my head explode a little. This is why the work done by the folks at Shaping Youth, or Pigtail Pals, or 7 Wonderlicious (Empowering Girls) or the amazing Take Back Beauty project are so important. Readers who want to make a change should check out what those folks have to say. (By the way, none of those groups is me, or affiliated with me–they’re just doing really critical work!)

  3. The pregnant woman character was horrible. They had to choose an extremely thin woman who talks with a babyish mousey voice, and jokes about how wonderful it would be to have 0 calorie pizza, even though she’s halfway or more through a pregnancy. I wish I hadn’t taken my daughters to this movie!!!

  4. dammit. Why do they always have to screw up the sweet 3D animation films?

  5. Wait till they find out in France, the story when a Smurf turns evil, he turns jet black. The American version turns them red.

  6. Smurfs (Schtroumpfs) have been with me my whole childhood. I grew up playing with little blue guys, and then one day, got the Smurfette book as a present, along with a Smurfette toy. There were two sides to Peyo’s cartoon. The first, a view on women that was hilarious at the time, right during the feminist awakening of the 60s. The second, a view on men, doing such stupid things in the hope of finding love.

    Unfortunately, out of her time and her social context, and taken to the first degree, the Smurfette loses all her credentials and can only be viewed as a sexist stereotype. Peyo’s humour was deeper (and smarter), but the film makers just didn’t get it and turned the Smurfs into a farce.

    Another childhood memory spoiled. Adapting Smurfette to our times was probably too much to ask for.

  7. Bennyandcheyenne says:

    We liked the movie but would have loved to seen grandpa,the Smurflings,and wild in it. They could have used Handy and Hefty instead of making them side characters .I liked Sassette better then Smurfette.Maybe if Sassette had been running around giving us a laugh out her sassy little Pappy Smurf or Snappy getting them caught in trouble maybe we would got a few more laughs.But overall it was great movie and the ending was the best part.

  8. DrDiscrepancy says:

    I loved the smurfs as a child! I love the song initially until it is now stuck in my head–la la la…It is too bad that there is still overrepresentation of female subordination and the need for her to control her appearance/body. I think I’m going to have a piece of pizza :)

  9. The movie clearly fails for lack of loli Smurfette. Though to be fair, she was a character introduced later, so they may be waiting for a sequel to introduce her, much like they did with the Chipettes.

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