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

disney-princess8

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