‘Smurfs 2′ and the Minority Feisty: Bad Brunette vs Good Blonde

My expectations were low but “Smurfs 2″ surpassed them.

Not only does “Smurfs 2″ feature the famous posse of too many to count males accompanied by just one female, but this movie is all about fathers. A movie for kids centered on fatherhood could be great, but when the Smurfs are already so creepily male dominated, the erasure of mothers is alarming and disturbing. The good, golden-haired female pitted against the evil, dark-haired female trope, central to “Smurfs 2,” is so tired in kid fantasy world (not to mention the grown-up world) that I was slack jawed to see it again, even though, of course, I shouldn’t have been. That’s why it’s a trope, right?

gargamel-in-the-smurfs-2-2013

Did you know that evil Gargamel created Smurfette as a ploy to infiltrate the Smurfs? That’s right, Smurfette, the only female Smurf, isn’t even a real Smurf. It’s only when Papa Smurf comes to care for Smurfette as a daughter that he uses a magic potion to transform her. At that point, not only does he change her skin to blue but her hair to blonde, thus becoming Smurfette’s true father.

papa-smurf

“Smurfs 2″ opens with that backstory and then brings us to present day with a scene showing the Smurfs gawk at Smurfette as she swishes her blonde locks around in slow-mo. But there’s trouble in paradise: every year on her birthday, Smurfette is haunted by a dream in which she once again turns evil, and her hair, once again, turns brown.

vexy

Cut to Gargamel who has created/ fathered a new race: the Naughties. Evil, dark-haired Vexy has a similar mission to Smurfette’s years ago. Gargamel sends to Vexy to infiltrate Smurfville to recover his “daughter,” hoping that Smurfette will reveal to him the secret potion Papa Smurf used to turn her into a Smurf, thus Gargamel can create Smurfs himself.

neil-patrick-harris-winslow-son

Cut to the human world where Patrick is having a birthday party for his son, Blue, to which his father, Victor, arrives. (Got that? Three generations of males.) Victor serves the kids corn dogs that happen to be fried in peanut oil. A young party guest has an allergic reaction, and the celebration is ruined. That’s the latest in a long line of events that lead to Patrick’s deep frustration with his loving but bumbling father. Turns out, Victor is not Patrick’s biological father, but his step father. Patrick’s “real” father walked out on him years ago. So you see, the conflict of true paternity experienced by Smurfette– wondering if her “real” father Papa Smurf or Gargamel– is mirrored by the Patrick’s own dilemma: can his step-father be his “real” father?

Both Papa Smurf and Gargamel essentially “give birth” without any need of females, kind of like our own Judeo-Christian creation myth and its independent and endlessly resourceful male God. While Smurfette has no mother at all, Patrick’s mother is hardly mentioned in the movie. I couldn’t even tell if she’s dead or alive.

Now, for the good news. There are three Minority Feisty in this movie. This was my first Smurf movie so I don’t know if that’s a record, though the pathetic female to male ratio is of course where the term, the Smurfette Principle, originated from. In case you don’t know what Minority Feisty means here’s a cut and paste from Reel Girl’s review of “Planes.”

Today, if you see a movie for children, it will most often have a male protagonist, while females, who are, in fact, half of the kid population, are presented as if they were a minority. Within that minority, there will be a strong female or two who reviewers will invariably call “feisty.” I call these characters the “Minority Feisty.” The trope has evolved from the Smurfette principle in that there is often more than one, and she is presented as strong. But rarely is she the protagonist. Her power, lines, and screen time are carefully and consistently circumscribed to show that she is not as important as the male star. Still, the Minority Feisty is supposed to pacify parents, making them feel that, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear, this movie is contemporary and feminist.

Smurfette spends most of the movie as a captured damsel in distress who the male smurfs, and mostly male humans, must rescue, but like most Minority Feisty, she has her moments of courage and brilliance. Also, upon befriending her enemy, Vexy, while Smurfette never says, “I want to stay with you because I can’t stand being the only female in Smurfville,” she does express joy at having the sister she never did.

grace-interview-p

Grace is another Minority Feisty. She’s Patrick’s wife, Blue’s mom, and she’s cool and brave. But the central human, with the conflict and the transition, not to mention the lines and the screen time, is clearly Patrick.

Vexy is an okay Minority Feisty. I enjoyed her badness and watching her transition. Did you read that part about transition? We now have–are you ready– 2 female Smurfs! And Vexy stays brunette. Thus with “Smurfs 2,” the Smurfette principle truly evolves into the Minority Feisty: two females and one of them is a bad-ass. Is that progress or what? According to the Geena Davis Institute, at this rate, it will be only 700 years before we get gender equality in the fantasy world.

Reel Girl rates “Smurfs 2″ ***SS*** for gender stereotyping

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing from Children’s Movies in 2013

 

 

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

In 2012, I waited until the last possible minute. It wasn’t until December that I posted Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing from Children’s Movies in 2012. Even though in the age of the internet, the facts were impossible to miss, I kept hoping that, somehow, I’d overlooked something.

This year, I’m going to face the upcoming year of multi-million dollar sexism marketed directly at my three daughters– ages 3, 6, and 9– head on, in January.

Of the 21 movie posters for young kids pictured below, only 4 appear to feature a female protagonist; 16 seem to feature a male protagonist and 10 are named for that male star. In one case, “Peabody and Mr. Sherman,” the movie is titled for its 2 male protagonists.

Of the 4 movies starring females, just two are titled for the star. It’s the small budget 7 million film from Moscow, “Snow Queen,” that was brave enough to name its film after a female. “Frozen” is the title chosen for Disney’s version, the same movie studio that changed “Rapunzel” to “Tangled,” to obscure its female star. Fittingly, in the poster for “Frozen,” the woman’s image also fades into the background.

Both “Dorothy” and “Epic,” buffer the female on the poster with males, Epic with a constellation of them and “Dorothy” by listing no less than 7 famous male actors.

The poster for “Planes” may look mysterious, but it comes from the producers of “Cars,” a movie which had many more male than female characters. Tellingly, the preview for “Planes” doesn’t show a single female character.

From the position of characters on the poster in “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2,” it looks like the male is the star, but maybe, hopefully I’m wrong. When you look at the poster, try to imagine a gender flip, the female in front and the male’s legs and hip in the female’s red-carpet-ready pose. That image will make you laugh.

If you are going to argue that there could be strong females in all of these movies, even if they are not the star of the movie, that’s not the same. Please read The curse of the Minority Feisty in kid’s movies.

“Saving Mr. Banks” is coming out in 2013 but does not have a poster yet. On imdb.com, it’s described:

Author P.L. Travers travels from London to Hollywood as Walt Disney Pictures adapts her novel Mary Poppins for the big screen.

That movie could be really cool. But why, why, why is the movie called: “Saving Mr. Banks?” If there is a female protagonist in this film, could she be concealed any more?  I know the androgynous “P.L. Travers” is how the writer’s name is shown on her books, but Mary Poppins came out in 1934. The writer had to use the initials to sell her book. Of course, J.K. Rowling opted for the same tactic years later, but hasn’t her success done anything for women writers? The year is 2013. When are writers going to be able to come out as women? Finally, and I hate writing this, and I hope that I’m wrong: From what I see on the internet it looks like the protagonist of the movie is, in fact, Walt Disney played by Tom Hanks.

There’s a movie I’ve heard of with no poster and I’m not sure if it’s coming out: an indie, English dubbed release of the French movie “Ernest and Celestine”

I have not yet seen any of these movies. As I’ve written about a lot on Reel Girl, movie posters are their own media. Even if a kid doesn’t see the movie, she sees the ads drive by her on the sides of buses or loom above her pasted on walls. She hears the movie titles. Not to mention, she sees the protagonists on TV, cereal boxes, diapers, clothing, toys, sheets, and in video games.

The posters below are found from Google images. There are multiple posters, and I chose the one I’m predicting that I’ll see around town. Whenever I see a movie poster on a bus or wall with a female character solo, front and center who is not surrounded by multiple male characters, or when multiple female characters are shown, I rush to post the sighting on Reel Girl.

As you look at the posters below, ask yourself: Who looks like the star/ leader/ protagonist of this movie? What would this poster look like if the positions, number of male characters, and title references were switched to female characters? Why are females, half of the kid population, presented as a minority in children’s films? Why is the imaginary world, a place where anything should be possible, sexist at all?

So here we go.

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing from Children’s Movies in 2013

Monsters University

MU

 

Despicable Me

despicable_me_2_movie_poster_01

Smurfs 2

Chapter 14 smurfs-2

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson 2 Sea of Monsters

 

Leo the Lion

leo

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

cloudy-with-a-chance-of-meatballs-movie-poster1

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

sherman

Frozen

frozen

The Hobbit: There and Back Again

kinopoisk.ru

Escape From Planet Earth

escape_from_planet_earth_ver2

Jack the Giant Slayer

jack-the-giant-slayer-poster

Oz the Great and Powerful

OZ-The-Great-and-Powerful-Movie-Poster-oz-the-great-and-powerful-31464719-511-755

The Croods

croods_xlg

Epic

epic

From Up on Poppy Hill

poppyhill

DofOZ_IDW_ad.indd

The Snow Queen

The_Snow_Queen_Movie_Poster

Planes

Planes

Turbo

Turbo Movie Poster

Batman The Dark Night Returns

batman-the-dark-knight-returns-part-2-poster

Tarzan

tarzan-poster