The Smurfette Principle and the Bechdel Test

Are you a lady? Have you’ve been feeling that you are underrepresented in cinema? Or that when a lady is in a movie, she’s just there to promote the storylines of the male character or to giggle about boys?

Well, here are 2 things we should all know about:

1. The Smurfette Principle – If you’re watching a “chick flick”, you would expect there to be at least 2 female characters. The female lead and her bff. Well, these movies are marketed directly to women and every hollywood producer knows that you have to have at least 2 women in a movie to get those chick flick bucks. Because what woman isn’t happy with her most dominant portrayals in recent movies being Sex in the City and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?

The Smurfette Principle is the tendency for fiction marketed to “general audiences” to create a female character just for the sake of having a female character for demographics. You know, like Smurfette. She’ll either be a romantic interest for the males, a supporting character for the males like a mother or teacher, or a feminized version of an existing male character.  This is because the people in charge of making fiction available to the masses – the producers, publishers, etc – don’t think men want to consume fiction where the characters are female. Maybe they don’t. But men are only half the population, and us ladies have our own money now. This is starting to let up. 2 of my favorite shows on TV are Bones and Body of Proof, both featuring super smart ladies solving crimes with a variety of male and female assistance. But there’s also Castle which I’m also a big fan of, but Becker is just a really kickass Smurfette with a gun. She hardly ever even talks to any of the other female characters.

2. The Bechdel Test – As a lady, you know we talk amongst ourselves quite often. And a good portion of that time those conversations are about men and their shenanigans. But other than when one of us is in that really horrible lovesick puppy phase, we do talk about other things. Fluff issues like clothes, makeup, shoes. Serious stuff like medical issues, money, political issues. Shouldn’t the portrayals of women in the movies reflect our many interests? Enter the Bechdel Test.

Does the movie:

1. Have at least 2 female characters?

2. Do they talk to each other?

3. About something other than men?

If the answer to all three is yes, then that movie passes the Bechdel Test.

I checked this year’s Netflix DVD list so far:
127 Hours Maybe
Dinner for Schmucks No
Winter’s Bone Maybe
The Fighter No
Unstoppable No
Cyrus No
Despicable Me Yes
Mallrats: Extended Edition No
The Social Network no
How to Train Your Dragon Yes
Machete Yes
Salt Maybe
The Expendables No
The Town No
Going the Distance Yes
Easy A Maybe
Get Him to the Greek No
My Sister’s Keeper Yes
Grown Ups Yes *but it is listed as a maybe although in the comments they say that is because the form was not filled out correctly
Extraordinary Measures Not listed, but I think so.

Why does this matter? Think of yourself when you were a little girl and what characters you had to identify with. What were they like? As women, and as little girls we deserve authentic characters that we can relate to and use as guides and role models. But more importantly, men and little boys need these authentic female characters too. They deserve female characters that reflect a real world, so they can relate to them, and identify with them, and use them as guides and role models. So that movies marketed towards “general audience” can actually reflect the population of a general audience.

This weekend I’m hoping to watch Super 8, and I’ll definitely be on the look out for the Bechdel Test and the Smurfette Principle.


About rhiandmoi

I am totally awesome, if I do say so myself.
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One Response to The Smurfette Principle and the Bechdel Test

  1. The Watchmen is my favorite example of the smurfette principle. While everyone else in that movie had some interesting emotional depth, Silk Spectre Jr. was a vapid character with no depth and I walked away hating the movie. It felt like the plot focused too much on her as a woman who could have had so much more depth and instead acted just like she was only the token hot chick with which hot sex scenes could be made which is what she ended up being.

    I love chick flicks as much as the next girl, but I do think us real women are definitely underrepresented and am looking forward to Hollywood catching up with that idea!

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