Smurfette: Innocuous cartoon character or subversive anti-female propaganda?1comment
The Smurfs movie comes out today, and judging by the fact that it is currently rocking a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems it is every bit as awful as the trailers made it out to be.
I love Neil Patrick Harris and I’ve always thought I’d watch just about anything that he does. Clearly even I’ve found my limit. I understand he’s a new father of two adorable babies, which might account for agreeing to be in this crap (Actually, I don’t think his kids were even born when he ‘filmed’ this, so that’s no excuse), but as one of his babies is a girl, he really did her a disservice by joining the Smurf machine. Though I’m sure this film’s version of Smurfette will be full of ‘you go girl’ moxie, it is important to remember the true story of Smurfette – her origin myth, if you will – from the original cartoon. Because it’s a dark tale, my friends, and not one I think NPH would want his daughter to know.
Let me back up a bit. My mother is very anti TV and always has been. Growing up, I was only allowed to watch PBS and The Muppet Show. When I got a little older I was allowed one hour per night of non-PBS programming which sounds better, but as my bedtime was 8:30 and most shows I wanted to watch went from 8 to 9, it was all very frustrating. My one get-out-of-TV-jail free card was Saturday mornings. For some reason, my mother allowed my sister and me to gorge ourselves on all the cartoons we wanted until they stopped airing around noon. Yes, I’m old and this was before DVRs and entire networks dedicated to cartoons. We took em when we could get em and we were grateful. So I’d watch pretty much anything, including The Smurfs. Hell, I even watched The Snorks, which was pretty much just aquatic smurfs, and The Muppet Babies. I was not discriminating.
But even my non-discriminatingness (not a word. Whatever) was tested the day I saw the episode explaining how Smurfette came to the Smurf village. Here’s the story:*
Bad guy Gargamel was hell bent on bringing down the Smurfs. As a bad guy, Gargamel is a little confusing, and possibly a little confused… he’s always wearing a dress, his only friend is a cat and he’s obsessed with a group of little blue guys. At this point, there were only boy Smurfs in the Smurf village, led by Papa Smurf, the patriarch of the group. Gargamel’s plan was simple. He planned (somehow) to invent a female Smurf to infiltrate the village, and bring the Smurfs down from the inside. One might wonder why Gargamel bothered to expend all that energy to find and destroy the Smurfs if he had the power to make more, but whatever. This was his plan. And he did it! He made a female Smurf. Only she was nothing like the Smurfette we know. For one thing, she was brunette. For another, she did not have a super high and incredibly irritating voice. The original Smurfette’s voice was raspy and seductive, for the original Smurfette was a smart (albeit conniving) lady.
For a while things went as planned. She found her way to the Smurf village and she started causing some serious trouble amongst the previously all dude settlement. But eventually Papa Smurf got wise to her and her nefarious scheme. He decided that that even though she had lied and attempted to destroy their entire civilization, she was not unredeemable. It was not her fault that she was created by a dress wearing, cat-loving villain, who made her evil, brunette and smart. No, it was not. And Papa Smurf would fix her. He would make her ‘good’. And what, in the eyes of Papa Smurf (and presumably the creative force behind the cartoon) did he think a good Smurfette would be like? Well, exactly like the sweet, dumb blonde Smurfette we’ve all come to know and… well, know. That’s right, Papa Smurf Vertigo’d the one female smurf into a bimbo.
This, at least, is my recollection of the episode. But I think I’m remembering it correctly. It made a big impression on me. At the time, I’d never even heard the term ‘feminist’, but I knew this whole Smurfette thing was very, very wrong and I was pissed!
*Please note, I’m working for memory here. I didn’t do any additional research to verify, so if I’ve got something wrong, let me know.