The Smurfette

Smurfette-Smiling

Who is Smurfette?  As most people know, Smurfette is the lone female Smurf in Smurfville originally created by the evil Gargamel in order to sow discord and jealousy among the other Smurfs.

In 1991, writer and cultural critic Katha Pollitt coined the term “Smurfette principle” to describe the trend of narratives in media overwhelmingly male focused but with one female character.  As she describes it,

“Contemporary shows are either essentially all-male, like “Garfield,” or are organized on what I call the Smurfette principle: a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined… The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys.”

The Smurfette principle is based on the main theory of Simone de Beauvoir’s analysis of women’s subservient role in society in her seminal work The Second Sex, but applied to our media.  The two videos below provide an even more comprehensive analysis of how this has played out.

In the two and a half decades since Pollitt coined this term, I’m pretty sure most people with a least a minor understanding of media theory are aware of this trope and why it’s an issue.  But I bring up the Smurfette principle in order to bring up a similar issue that I think a large chunk of our current-day #staywoke political landscape still has a blind spot to.

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The Smurfette

Represent? Pt. 2

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As frustrating as I found the political discourse during the 2016 presidential election, I have found the a lot of discourse after the election very frustrating too.  As part of the Democratic Party’s postmortem after their major loss this past November is that their platform didn’t do enough to address the economic issues of the working class and poor.  I agree that Hillary Clinton’s campaign didn’t do enough to discuss those issues, but almost everyone that has brought up this criticism has mentioned it in opposition to the identity politics that the campaign did address.  In fact, many of them have dismissed those identity politics issues as some sort of trivial “political correctness”.  Goddammit, that’s wrong, wrong, wrong!  Social issues relating to racial, gender, or sexual identity aren’t in opposition to economic issues so framing it that way is so wrong.  They’re not even separate from each other; they’re deeply intertwined.  It made me mad to see Clinton’s wealthy surrogates frame economics as a “white” issue in their criticisms of Bernie Sanders and it makes me mad to see other liberals offering hindsight critiques of Clinton’s campaign dismiss issues relating to identity as “political correctness”, especially because neither side forgot this point in their takedowns of the libertarian “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” philosophy years prior to the election.

I begin with this point to discuss how I think those of us concerned with more multicultural representation in media should approach our advocacy for it.  I think we need to deepen the discussion about it, even if we’re just talking about some cartoon character rather than a particular politician or a specific policy.  This will help us recognize all of the intersections in these issues.

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Represent? Pt. 2

Disney Live Action Remakes!

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So it’s looking like Disney is going to remake all of their animated masterpieces into live action iterations.  On the heels of the live action remake of The Jungle Book’s success, the Mouse Factory’s got more planned for the near future.

There’s a remake of Dumbo slated and I’ve heard they’re gonna give Cruella de Vil the Maleficent treatment starring Emma Stone.  Making a character that kills puppies for clothing sympathetic to the audience is one thing, but I think the more Herculean task is being able to top Glenn Close’s scenery-chewing interpretation of Cruella.

I’ll be looking forward to the live action iterations of The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Tarzan, The Lion King, and Pinocchio.  Mo’Nique might make for a fun Ursula!  Imagine how powerful the infamous wildebeest stampede would look in CG!  Or how frightening this jackass transformation would look with their VFX!  And perhaps the live action iterations of Atlantis and Treasure Planet will enjoy the commercial success the animated versions didn’t!

But I’m particularly excited about the live action remake of Mulan!  I heard they’re casting Scarlett Johansson for the lead!

Disney Live Action Remakes!

Zootopia!

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WARNING: This post contains spoilers.

Last weekend I watched Disney’s latest animated feature Zootopia.  I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about this film based on the initial teasers and how mediocre I found their prior two films Frozen and Big Hero 6 to be.  Well to my surprise, when I finally watched Zootopia, I was….er, pleasantly surprised!  For something that came off like a CG repeat of Robin Hood at first, I’m surprised how much this film captured my imagination.

So the running theme throughout Zootopia is that this animal universe is divided into two different class groups: predator and prey.  This film largely plays as a buddy cop picture, but the division between the predator and prey classes is a constant source of tension throughout.

This isn’t the first time Disney has used animal interaction as a representative for the racial/class/etc. tension in the human world.

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Zootopia!

NWA, Snow White, and Their Legacy with Women

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WARNING: This blog is potentially NSFW.

The release of the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton is just around the corner and is being heavily promoted with all of the “Straight Outta _____” memes on social media.  The biopic is a tribute the highly incendiary and influential hip-hop group.  Like them or not, the influence that NWA has had on not just hip-hop, but music in general, and artistic rights against censorship is still felt to this day.

So what is the connection to a music group with a slur in their name to something as innocent as Snow White and the Seven Dwarts?  Well, I have always thought that the effect that NWA’s album Straight Outta Compton had on hip-hop music is very similar to the effect Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs had on animation.

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NWA, Snow White, and Their Legacy with Women

Disney & Pixar Shorts: A Rant

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Like many others, I was blown away the first time I watched Paperman, the short film from Disney that accompanies the theatrical screenings of Wreck-It Ralph.  The studio blended 3D animation and traditional animation in a way that was brand new, innovative, and looked absolutely stunning.  The story itself wasn’t anything to write at home about (a very simple and conventional “boy meets girl” love story), but it sure was pretty to look at.  I watched Paperman several more times and to my surprise, the “wow” factor of the film’s aesthetic wore off with repeated views.  The only other thing the short offered was a story that was so by-the-numbers and derivative that, to be frank, it not only bored me, it annoyed me.  I thought it was a shame to see such ambitious aesthetic choices and the immense talent that made it a reality wasted on a storytelling equivalent of a Hallmark card.  If I never watch Paperman again, it will be too soon.

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Disney & Pixar Shorts: A Rant