The fact that they made a live action/computer animated film of The Smurfs doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel like they’re betraying my childhood, because, personally, I never cared about the Smurfs. I didn’t as a child, I didn’t during my teens, and I didn’t engage in ironic discussions about the logistics of Smurf cosmology during my twenties. So make a movie about the Smurfs. Layer it with more of that patented, winking irony that seems to be the lifeblood of current films. Make it as self-reflexive and referential as you want. I won’t be seeing it, but probably others will.
But holy shit, why, decades after the original Smurfs were trotted out, are we still portraying the only female Smurf as an essentialized cliché of femininity? I saw a version of this as a billboard today.
Okay, so, Grouchy has his arms crossed, thus expressing essentialized…grouchiness? The Smurf in the kilt is apparently Gutsy Smurf, because Scottish people are…brave? Brainy is looking like the smug asshole he usually is. I can’t identify the Smurf next to him, Jokey, maybe? Papa Smurf is wearing sunglasses, because in the visual language of contemporary children’s features based on legacy properties, the character wearing sunglasses means they’re hip and cool (viz. Garfield, The Chipmunks, Marmaduke). Each of these Smurfs becomes an embodiment of a single personality trait, or a stereotypical role/occupation that individuals theoretically inhabit.
So, what characteristic does Smurfette, the only female Smurf in the film, represent here? She is putting on fucking makeup.
That’s it. That’s the characteristic Smurfette represents. And because she is the only female Smurf, she cannot be read as simply one facet of human experience. No, she becomes the embodiment of the entire female gender. And they show this by depicting her applying makeup.
Lots of women wear makeup. I do, on occasion. I don’t see the wearing of makeup as a bad thing. If you want to wear it, fine. If you don’t, fine.
But the signifier of the female Smurf is her with a compact and lipstick, making sexyface at the camera. Many of the viewers of this film will be children, and they will see femininity defined as being the concern with one’s appearance, the need to be found not just attractive, but sexy, rather than, say, courageous, intelligent, or capable.
So, to put it eloquently, Fuck you, Smurfs. If I want to find an animated representation of femininity, I choose Princess from Battle of the Planets. She was the only woman on the G-Force team, and she unapologetically kicked ass, pink cape, yo-yo bombs and all.