Smurfette as she originally appeared (left) and after Papa Smurf transformed her (right)
|First appearance||1966 (Comic Strip)|
Smurfette (French: La Schtroumpfette) is a female character from the Smurfs. She was created by Gargamel, the Smurfs' enemy, in order to distract and trap them. Smurfette was, at first, the only female character in a village of one hundred Smurfs; a second female Smurf (Sassette) was added twenty-one years later in the comic book Les P’tits Schtroumpfs. A Granny Smurf was also later introduced, although it is unclear how she was created. Thierry Culliford, the son of Peyo and current head of the Studio Peyo, announced in 2008 that more female Smurfs would be introduced in the stories. Smurfette has more delicate features than the other Smurfs, she has long blonde wavy hair, longer eyelashes, and wears a white dress and white high heels. She is the love interest of almost every Smurf. Those voicing her include Céline Monsarrat and Lucille Bliss. Smurfette is voiced by pop singer Katy Perry in the 2011 film version, and its 2013 sequel and voiced by Melissa Sturm in The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol.
- 1 Original introduction
- 2 Creation and conception
- 3 Fictional biography
- 4 Film
- 5 Controversies
- 6 List of Media Tropes Relating to Smurfette
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
The adventure of the Smurfette first started in Spirou magazine in 1966. She was made by Gargamel as a means to sow unrest in the Smurf village. When this was discovered, Papa Smurf transformed her into a "real" Smurf, altering her appearance at the same time. She still was perceived as a source of problems between the Smurfs, and at the end of this story, she left the Smurf village, thus restoring the status quo of the community. She made the occasional on-off appearance, but when the animated TV series of the Smurfs was introduced in the 1980s, she was featured as a permanent character, appearing in stories in which she was not included in the original source comics. Thus, the comics also started to feature her as a permanent character.
Creation and conception
Hal Erickson said in Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1949-1993 that the reintroduction of Smurfette as a permanent character in the animated series was "bowing to merchandising dictates" in order to "appeal to little girl toy consumers." Jeffery P. Dennis, author of the journal article "The Same Thing We Do Every Night: Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons," said that the inclusion of Smurfette in the cartoon version of The Smurfs was likely to serve as an object of heterosexual desire for the other Smurfs and to end speculation arguing that the Smurfs were gay. In a response to Dennis's statements, Martin Goodman of Animation World Network, said that Dennis had not taken into account Erickson's comments about merchandising. Goodman further argued that capturing the young female audience would increase ratings, so the networks were more likely trying to pander to young girls than trying to defuse gay rumors; Smurfette was the most frequently merchandised of the Smurfs.
Smurfette was created by the evil wizard Gargamel as a way of vengeance against the Smurfs, whom he despises. On page 5 of the comic, while searching for the most terrible way to make the Smurfs suffer, and after deciding that setting the whole forest on fire or casting a spell that makes “vines choke all vegetation and life” were not “cruel enough”, Gargamel declares, “No, I want something else! A fearsome spell that makes them beg for mercy!! A horrible curse… Oh! Yes… I’VE GOT IT! I’m going to send them a SMURFETTE!” After using several material components to create a Smurfette statuette, Gargamel searches for the incantation to magically animate the clay figurine he just modelled. He reads the following formula from his spell-book, to give the statuette “a feminine nature”:
- “A spring of flirtatiousness… A solid layer of non-objectivity… three crocodile tears… a bird-brain… powder of viper’s tongue… a carat of sneakiness… a handful of anger… a dash of lying tissue, transparent of course… a bushel of greediness… a quart of bad faith… one thimbleful of recklessness… a stroke of pride… pint of envy… some zest of sensitivity… a bit of foolishness and a bit of cunning, lots of volatility and lots of obstinacy… a candle burned at both ends…” At the end of this text the reader is directed to a footnote stating: “This text is the sole responsibility of the author of the spell-book “Magicae Formulae,” Beelzebub Editions.”
Once Smurfette’s creation is completed, Gargamel sends Smurfette to the Smurf village in order to infiltrate them and create chaos in their community.
At first, the Smurfette created by Gargamel was designed following the Smurf male model, with the only variations of long black hair and a dress instead of pants. In the comic where she first appears, Gargamel’s Smurfette is perceived by the other Smurfs as annoying, ugly, useless, and unattractive. The Smurfs all hate her and the comic even illustrates at one point a Smurf dreaming that he choked her. To get rid of her, the Smurfs enact a prank to make Smurfette believe that she has gained weight (by rigging a scale, placing in a misshapen mirror, and making her listen to some nasty talk).
The prank results in Smurfette crying alone on her bed in complete despair. She tells Papa Smurf, who came to look after her: “I’m too fat! And I’m ugly! My hair looks just terrible! My complexion’s awful! Nothing looks good on me! I WANT TO DIE!!!” The following illustration shows Papa Smurf thinking: “There’s nothing wrong with her! I should smurf something to cheer her up!” However, this text was changed in the English translation from the original French version where Papa Smurf was instead thinking: “It’s true that she is not very pretty! ... We should smurf something for her!”
The subsequent action is the same in both English and French versions of the comic; Papa Smurf decides to help Smurfette, and performs a “plastic smurfery” on her (which was later changed in the English version to a “smurfification”). This operation changes Smurfette’s physical appearance from black hair to long wavy blond hair, from a male Smurf nose to smaller nose, from short to long eyelashes, from a plain white dress to a shorter ornate dress, and from male Smurf shoes to high heels. As soon as Papa Smurf finally shows transformed Smurfette to the other Smurfs, they are all portrayed as falling instantly in love with her.
However, the Smurfs soon start arguing against each other to know who will dance with her first. Smurfette can't stand the Smurfs fighting each other for her anymore, and she decides to leave the village indefinitely. In a note she leaves behind, she writes that she might “come back one day.”
Her influence could still be used for positive actions. When Hefty Smurf tried to organize the Olympic Smurfs, the other Smurfs showed no interest. But when it was later announced that the winner would get a kiss from the Smurfette this produced a mad rush for the signing-in office.
The Hanna-Barbera cartoon series of the Smurfs, introduced in 1981, had her as an actual Gargamel spy and saboteur who intentionally tries to disrupt life in the village. She was magically created from blue clay, "sugar and spice but nothing nice, crocodile tears, half a pack of lies, a chatter of a magpie, and the hardest stone for her heart". She is found in the forest by Hefty Smurf (The Smurfs, season 1 volume 1, "The Smurfette").
Working for Gargamel, Smurfette makes several failed attempts to defeat the Smurfs. In the dam incident, she used a slice of cake to lure Greedy Smurf into opening it. When Greedy tried to close the dam again, Smurfette yanked it back. Greedy soon caught on, all the tugging eventually threw Smurfette off balance and she promptly fell into the river. While Greedy hammered the dam back down, Papa Smurf rescued Smurfette and sent her to Smurf court.
With the entire village angrily aware of her treachery, Smurfette finally admitted her slavery to Gargamel and tearfully offered to submit the Smurfs' judgement. The Smurfs' kindness to Smurfette caused her to want to become a "real" Smurf, so Papa Smurf absolved her of her guilt and offered to try to free her by making her a "real" Smurf. Papa Smurf magically undid some of Gargamel's spells, and transformed Smurfette. Her hair grew and became blonde. Her dress became frillier. And her shoes turned into high-heel pumps. Everyone now loved her and actually fought to get her attention, such as walking her home.
When Gargamel made contact with her again, he was alarmed by the changes in her visage and realized that Papa Smurf had undone his control of her. He managed to placate her and manipulated her into luring the Smurfs into a trap. The trap was successful with the entire community captured and Smurfette was aghast at her unwitting role in it. However, she was then able to spectacularly undo her mistake by disguising herself as the masked "Lone Smurf" to lure away Gargamel and Azrael on a chase that both allowed her to incapacitate the villains and to free the Smurfs. At the conclusion of the story, any doubts of the Smurfs of Smurfette's loyalty were resolved and she was made a welcome permanent member of their village. She quickly rose through the ranks and would sometimes be left in charge of the Smurf Village while Papa Smurf was away. One of the show's beloved running gags was Smurfette hugging and kissing Papa Smurf, and Smurfette reprimanding Brainy.
Smurfette's original artificial nature arose again in the sequel episode, "Smurfette Unmade." In this story, Gargamel tells his apprentice Scruple (who was an added character by this time) about how he regrets creating her, he comments on how bad is that Gargamel can't turn her evil again, and he remembers there is a way. They kidnap her and prepare a spell which initially doesn't seem to work and the Smurfs take her home. When Scruple turns on the next page of Gargamel's spell book, the bad guys realize the spell is complete but its effects won't become apparent until the next full moon's midnight, which happened to be that very night. The effects includes Smurfette changing back to her original appearance and malicious personality before she could consult Papa Smurf on the matter. Thus changed into her original form, Smurfette manages to hide by concealing her black hair with a wig (in spite of her clothes and shoes being a dead giveaway) but the Smurfs eventually learn the truth when she arranges for the Smurfs to be captured. Papa Smurf said he can't repeat the spell that had initially turned her good. However, just as Gargamel is about to get Baby Smurf to test his gold making potion (over Smurfette's objection), Smurfette's conscience rebels and she changes back into blond-haired Smurfette. Gargamel and Scruple attempt to capture her to prevent themselves from losing again but Smurfette destroys the potions and sends the Smurfs' arch enemies into a tree. They all return home with Papa Smurf guessing that Smurfette's Smurf nature is too strong to ever be fully removed.
Criticisms of Smurfette’s Creation Narrative
Writers criticize the text of Gargamel’s formula to create Smurfette for its misogynistic depiction of so-called feminine nature. Didier Pasamonik even declares in an article that he wrote on Actua BD that it is “the most misogynist statement of the history of graphic novels!”
Criticisms of the Male-to-Female Ratio (The Smurfette Principle)
Many critics have denounced the gender representation ratio in The Smurfs comics, cartoons, and movies. In fact, the first The Smurfs movie itself mocks this imbalance when Gargamel’s character makes fun of Papa Smurf, satirizing, "I'm Papa Smurf . . . and [I] live in the forest with 99 sons and one daughter! Nothing weird about that, no no, totally normal!"
Smurfette is, at first, the only female character in a village of one hundred Smurfs; a second female Smurf was added twenty-one years later in the comic book Les P’tits Schtroumpfs. The gender imbalance was famously criticized first by author Katha Pollitt in an article that she wrote for The New York Times in 1991, "Hers; The Smurfette Principle." It is in this article that Pollitt coined the name for the media trope that she called The Smurfette Principle, which she defined as "a group of male buddies [that] will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined." The Smurfette Principle has been reused to describe the disparity of gender representation in many types of media since 1991. Katha Pollitt further critiqued Smurfette as an example of another trope, which TV Tropes refers now as Men Are Generic, Women Are Special.
Video game critic Anita Sarkeesian refers to Smurfette in episode 3 of her webseries Tropes vs. Women. She explains and critiques the narrative of Smurfette’s creation and the origin of the trope named after the character. Sarkeesian continues her presentation, relating The Smurfette Principle trope to numerous other media products, principally Hollywood movies and television shows. She also explains that The Smurfette Principle is "an alternative name for Tokenism or the Token Minority which is the inclusion of one cast member from a marginalized group in an otherwise, white, straight male ensemble."
The website TV Tropes presents a detailed description of The Smurfette Principle, using Smurfette as an example of a "Male-to-Female ratio" problem. TV Tropes also refers to Smurfette for another media trope called Territorial Smurfette.
Some argue that The Smurfette Principle in The Smurfs is compensated for by Smurfette’s strong presence and her capacity to solve problems. However, others refer to this compensation as another trope called Minority Feisty, or, in this case, Prominent Feisty Female Character, a trope in media where strong attributes are given to one or a few characters representing a minority in an attempt to counterweight the disproportion of their representation ratio.
Criticisms of Smurfette’s Personality and Physical Depiction
In his analysis, graphic novelist J Marc Schmidt talks about the problems raised by Smurfette’s appearance and behaviors. Alike other critics, Schmidt condemns the manner in which many of Smurfette’s attributes are negative female stereotypes. He first describes a problem with Smurfette’s name, as she is the only Smurf character whose name is only related to her gender. All the other Smurf characters have names referring to their occupation or their personality, but Smurfette’s main occupation is "being the woman." Schmidt also frames the idea that Smurfette is portrayed as an "object" for the male gaze.
Criticisms of Peyo’s Intent Regarding Smurfette
Sociologist Jeffery P. Dennis wrote a detailed analysis of children’s cartoons featuring homosexual couples and relationships. In his article, he hypothesized that the character of Smurfette was only introduced into the story "to provide an object for the Smurfs' heterosexual desire and defuse conjectures that they might be 'really' gay."
Thierry Culliford, the son of Peyo, declared that his "father had no specific message," while he was answering a question concerning Smurfette’s exclusivity in an interview. However, different information was revealed in a biography of Peyo written in 2003 by Belgian journalist and film critic Hugues Dayez. Many have used this book to cite a famous meeting that Peyo had with the children programs’ executives of Hanna-Barbera studios at NBC, discussing The Smurfs cartoon. Peyo was invited to explain to Hanna-Barbera’s team how he sees his characters. Yvan Delporte, Peyo’s collaborator, helped as an interpreter between Peyo, who spoke French, and Hanna-Barbera’s team, who spoke English. Delporte recalled, "All was very simple until we had to define Smurfette. Peyo started by saying that she was 'very feminine'. They asked him to elaborate on this thought. So he continued, 'She is pretty, blonde, she has all qualities of women…' Knowing the state of feminism in USA, I tactfully translated with 'all good qualities.' I was betting on the fact that Peyo did not understand what I was saying [in English], and the Americans [did not understand] what [Peyo] wanted to say. Obviously, they asked him to explain further. [Peyo] continued his idea, 'She seduces, she uses trickery rather than force to get what she wants. She is unable to tell a joke without blowing the punch line. She is a blabbermouth but only talks about superficial things. She is continually causing enormous problems for the Smurfs, but she always manages to blame it on someone else…' I desperately tried to minimize how misogynistic this description sounded, but then one interlocutor asked him, 'But she still could, when the Smurfs are in danger, take decisions that would save them?' When I translated this question to Peyo he looked at me astonished [and said], 'Come on now, don’t tell me they want to make her a gym teacher?' I obviously did not translate this last comment."
On the fan website BlueBuddies, a page on Smurfette reports parts of this interview, examining if Peyo’s intentions regarding Smurfette were misogynistic. The analysis concluded, "Peyo appears to be misogynist." However, the author continues by explaining that the American studio would certainly not have sacrificed their moral values simply to follow Peyo’s intent, and that Smurfette was presented in the American show as a capable character that "can indeed be a superhero." Nevertheless, this notion has also been criticized and can be linked to the previously discussed tropes of the Minority Feisty, and the Prominent Feisty Female Character, a "modern take on The Smurfette Principle", according to the website TV Tropes.
List of Media Tropes Relating to Smurfette
- The Smurfette Principle
- Territorial Smurfette
- Men Act, Women Are
- Men Are Generic, Women Are Special
- Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty
- Minority Feisty
- Never a Self-Made Woman
- Prominent Feisty Female Character
- Token Minority
- Peyo (w, a). La Schtroumpfette (1967), Belgium: Dupuis, ISBN9782800101101
- Siyan, Yao (January 15, 2008). "Smurfs mount invasion in Europe to celebrate 50th birthday". Xinhua News Agency.
- Siegel, Tatiana (March 4, 2010). "Cast on Smurf Turf". Variety.
- Goodman, Martin (March 10, 2004). "Deconstruction Zone — Part 2". Animation World Network.
- Dennis, Jeffery P. "The Same Thing We Do Every Night: Signifying Same-Sex Desire in Television Cartoons." Journal of Popular Film & Television. Fall 2003. Volume 31, Issue 3. 132-140. 9p, 3bw. Within the PDF document the source info is on p. 134 (3/10)
- Peyo (w, a). The Smurfette (1967), Belgium: Dupuis, ISBN9782800101101
- Anita Sarkeesian (2011-04-21). Tropes vs. Women: #3 The Smurfette Principle (Web Series). Feminist Frequency.
- Santoso, Alex (2008-01-17), 10 Smurfiest Facts About The Smurfs, Neatorama, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Schmidt, J Marc (2011-06-02), Socio-Political Themes in The Smurfs, Vivid Scribe, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Bacon, Annie (2010-05-10), Dans la lignée de la poursuite contre Tintin au Congo… avez-vous relu la Schtroumpfette récemment?, Roman Jeunesse, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Pasamonik, Didier (2011-05-30), Antoine Bueno : " Le village des Schtroumpfs est un archétype d’utopie totalitaire emprunt de nazisme et de stalinisme. ", retrieved 2014-12-09
- Hamon, Auriane (2014-03-17), De quels livres jeunesse faut-il se méfier? Guide de non-achat, Rubiks Culture, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Pasamonik, Didier (2010-04-19), La Schtroumpfette est l’avenir du Schtroumpf (air connu), Actua BD, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Pollitt, Katha (1991-04-07). "Hers; The Smurfette Principle". The New York Times (New York: The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2014-12-09.
- The Smurfette Principle, TV Tropes, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Prominent Feisty Female Character, TV Tropes, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Cohen, Philip (2013-08-09), The Banal, Insidious Sexism of Smurfette, The Atlantic, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Graham, Mariruth, Smurfy Sexism: Drawn with a Biased Hand, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Richards, Jason (2011-07-28), The Problem With Smurfette, The Atlantic, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Olson, Cheryl (2014-05-20), The persistence of "Smurfette Syndrome", Dr. Cheryl Olson, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Gosnell, Raja (Director) (2011). The Smurfs  (Cinema production). United States.
- Men Are Generic, Women Are Special, TV Tropes, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Territorial Smurfette, TV Tropes, retrieved 2014-12-09
- SMURFETTE ON TRIAL - IS SMURFETTE SEXIST?, Blue Buddies, retrieved 2014-12-09
- The Smurfette principle ‘evolves’ into the Minority Feisty, Real Girl, 2013-01-28, retrieved 2014-12-09
- The curse of the Minority Feisty in kids movies, Real Girl, 2012-02-02, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Pasamonik, Didier (2011-07-13), Thierry Culliford (Studio Peyo) : " Les Schtroumpfs doivent être lus au premier degré. ", Actua BD, retrieved 2014-12-09
- Dayez, Hugues (2003), Peyo L'enchanteur, Niffle, p. 190, ISBN 2-87393-046-2