Geena Davis Fights Against Smurfette Stereotypes

Over on radical Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now" propaganda-cast, they're still recycling lectures from the big National Conference on Media Reform weeks back. On Thursday, they rebroadcast a lecture from actress Geena Davis on how children's entertainment cruelly stereotypes women, especially back in the Dark Ages of the last century. Is Judy Jetson too thin? And what's up with Smurfette? Davis started a foundation to fight for the image of women in children's entertainment, as she explained:

Do you remember the kinds of stuff that they made for us, for kids, in the oldie old days? Let’s see, the first animation, of course, was Disney's Minnie Mouse and -- where is she? I’m pushing the button -- Daisy Duck, who didn’t really do much at all, except ask to go shopping, I think. There were a lot of Hanna-Barbera cartoons -- Magilla Gorilla, Wally Gator, George of the Jungle -- virtually no female characters. I had a vague recollection that Yogi Bear had a girlfriend, and I searched and searched, and I finally found her, Cindy Bear, as you all remember. Winnie the Pooh has been around for a long time and still is, has nine characters, and one of them is female: Kanga. I couldn’t find a picture on the internet of her alone, without Roo in her pocket. And if you think about it, really, isn’t she sort of half a character? Kanga, Roo, you know, she doesn’t do things on her own, really. On the Looney Tunes website, they list twelve characters, and only one of them is female, but it’s the great one. It’s the one you all love and remember the best: Granny. She’s the one who owns Tweety, and she has to leave so that the story can happen. Now, we all know that kids get a very strong message about body image from the media. 78% of senior girls say they don’t like their bodies. A third of third graders have been on a diet, which leads me to this question: is Judy Jetson too thin? I think her waist is the same size as her neck in that picture, if I’m not wrong. No, I can see you. I saw you for a second, and then you went away. So a lot of kids’ fare, from back then and even now, shows highly stereotyped, sexualized female characters, even in programs made for the youngest kids. For example, did you know Miss Piggy had cleavage? But, by far, my absolute favorite is the Smurfs. You remember the Smurfs? Smurfette. This was fairly recent. This was like from the ’80s, 1980 to 1990. The website explains that there were a hundred Smurfs, and originally there were no female Smurfs. Not sure how that happened. But eventually they added Smurfette. And this is how she originally looked. They describe her as having stringy hair and ugly eyelashes. She was created by an evil wizard to destroy the Smurfs. But then -- I’m not kidding -- Papa Smurf, after a successful operation of plastic smurfery, turned her into the blonde bombshell that we all know and love. And it notes that after her appearance improved, the Smurfs accepted and loved her.
Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis