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Flashback Friday - Smurfette Syndrome

Smurfette  Today's Flashback is brought to you by a major bee in my bonnet. A lot of television shows geared at children, particularly in the 80s, featured one single female character. It's amazing, as a child, that I didn't develop the mistaken impression that men actually outnumbered women in the world 8 to 1 or something. Today, we reflect on some token females in children's television of yore.


The origin story of Smurfette is full of so much sexism, she really deserves her own post. Not only was Smurfette the lone chick in boy's town, she was introduced (in the pre-animated-series comic) as a creation of evil Gargamel, meant to create discord and bring about the fall of the all-male Smurf community. This makes sense because, as we all know, bitches ain't nothin' but hos and tricks, and serve only to fuck everything up, right? This may have worked, but Gargamel's problem was one of execution rather than theory. See, he didn't make Smurfette hot enough to create a problem. The Smurfs found her annoying and told her she was fat, making her depressed. Then Papa Smurf gave her a makeover so she could be the blonde temptress we all know today. Nice, huh? 

The lone female cat, the voice of reason, and of course the sensitive one, because it Tygra were the sensitive one that would be totally gay. Cheetara was honestly pretty bad-ass...for a girl. Of course her power—that of second sight—crippled her so that she'd need to be rescued every now and then. We can't have boys thinking girls can, like, take care of themselves and shit. THE UNIVERSE WOULD TEAR APART.


Scarlett was the token female on G.I. Joe, and I suppose I should be grateful there was a girl at all on that show, since it could be argued that there aren't as many women as men in the armed services, particularly special forces. However, like all token females, Scarlett doesn't have much of a personality other than "The Chick," and while she was way bad ass in the comics, on the show she did little else but give the other Joes stiffies. Later, there was Lady Jaye, who was a tougher and, well, not quite as femme version of Scarlett.

Sadly, I could go on for hours because there are a lot of token female characters, but I'd rather hear from you. Tell me in the comments about your favorite—and least favorite—token females!

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Hm, there was Princess Adora in Voltron. Who wore a pink space suit...and drove the blue lion. And I think made a lot of goo-goo eyes at Keith but can't be sure.

Back later if I remember more!

Mighty Hunter

She-Ra (also coincidentally known as Princess Adora?), twin sister to He-Man. Seems to have gotten the short end of the stick with that Sword of Protection, though.

Basically a female He-Man but... I'm not actually sure if there IS really a difference.


There was a dearth of female Star Wars characters, too. There's only so many ways you can recostume Princess Leia, and we had them all.


The question of whether Smurfette was a reflection of sexism was a huge, ongoing debate with my husband and me. I said each Smurf had some special talent or trait and why is Smurfette's only special trait that she is female? Why is being female enough to make you different? He defended her existence using her origin story, which didn't help in my mind. If Smurfs were originally asexual, why do we assume they were all 'male'? I'm betting they didn't actually have some kind of equipment that would define them as male. It's just that the creators assumed that maleness was the default position.

This is where I start to sound like a crazy feminist theorist. Anyway, it's good to know I'm not the only one who feels this way...


GI Joe wasn't about sexism but about marketing. "Boys don't want to play with girl action figures" was the dominant (and generally correct) assumption.

The really cool thing now about there not being many female Joe characters is that they're more sought-after, even in the new waves of figures. When a new Joe case arrives, we look for Lady Jaye (who rocked the cleavage and red lipstick) and the Baronness. Everyone else will be warming the pegs.

Amy C.

Great post. I love the Pixar movies. Love them. But they're so male-dominated it drives me crazy. Yes, Jessie from Toy Story 2 is outstanding, Eve plays an important role in Wall-E, and Dory from Nemo is hilarious (and there are other notable exceptions), but Pixar shows a 75% male, 25% female world where all the stories are told from a male perspective, with females as mere supporting players (Cars/Up/Monsters, Inc.). I still love the movies, but I clearly haven't gotten over the chip I've had on my shoulder since the childhood cartoons discussed here. Glad I'm not the only one.

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