Sunday, March 4, 2012

There's A Trope For That - Week of March 4

This week's trope: The Smurfette Principle

"The Smurfette Principle is the tendency for works of fiction to have exactly one female amongst an ensemble of male characters, in spite of the fact that roughly half of the human race is female. Unless a show is purposefully aimed at a female viewing audience, the main characters will tend to be disproportionately male. 

In many series, men will have various different personalities, but women will always be The Chick. Thus, by the Law of Conservation of Detail , you only need one."

Even as a little kid, I noticed this happening in a lot of the shows I watched. 

The Muppet Show: 
Males: Kermit, Fozzy, Rowlf, Animal, Gonzo, Skeeter, Waldorf and Statler, Swedish Chef, Beaker, Bunson
Female: Miss Piggy*

(yeah I watched MASH!)
Males: Hawkeye, Klinger, B.J. Hunnicut, Major Winchester, Father Francis, Colonel Potter, Radar
Female: Hotlips Houlihan*

Males: Scrooge, Launch Pad, Gyro, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Duckworth, The Beagle Boys, Flinthart Glomgold; later, Bubba and Fenton/Gizmoduck.
Females: Mrs. Beakley and Webbigail; Ma Beagle and Magica DeSpell occasionally.

But where was I? Oh yeah. So it never really bothered me. Having just one regular female on the show meant that that person was special. Translation: girls are special and awesome. They are SO awesome that if there was any more than one per show, the TV set would... um... explode, I guess.

Of course, there were exceptions. The Cosby Show was female-heavy, at least until Martin and Elvin joined the cast, evening things up a bit. Then, Martin also brought with him Olivia, so at that point the main cast included four males (Cliff, Theo, Martin, Elvin) and six females (Clair, Sondra, Denise, Vanessa, Rudy, Olivia). 4:6... not too bad of a ratio, there.
As a teenager, my favorite show, Lois & Clark, went crazily male-centric at the end of the first season after Tracy Scoggins (Cat) left the show. Lois, the lone female, was surrounded by Clark, Perry, Jimmy, Jack, and Lex Luthor (count: 1 female, 5 males.) By the beginning of season 2, Jack and Lex were gone, but that still left things at 3:1, and adding Clark's parents to the mix (they appeared in roughly 59% of the episodes) still put it at 4:2. And that's if you don't count Superman as an additional character, but then, why should we? All it is is a costume. Right? RIGHT?

Another favorite, The Pretender, had Jarod, Sydney, Broots, Mr. Raines, Mr. Parker and Mr. Lyle vs. Miss Parker (whose very presence, granted, was equivalent to several members of humankind) and occasionally the awful Brigitte. 6:2. I guess you could count Miss Parker's mother as another female, but then why not also count Angelo? Or Jacob? Or Sam the Sweeper? Or DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT I'M EVEN TALKING ABOUT, no you probably do not, I am totally talking to myself, here.

Let's examine my current favorite shows for male/female proportionality!

Community: It was pretty even... four males, three females... until Chang and the Dean joined the regular cast; now it's 6:3.

Downton Abbey: Ha, I jest, this one is swarming with females. Lord Grantham's got all daughters. Plus a wife. Plus a mother. Plus there's Matthew's mother. And a slew of maids and things.

Oh crap! I just realized most of my favorite movies are male-heavy! (I don't know why I'm saying oh crap. I think I've already said I don't care if males outnumber the ladies. BUT ANYWAY...)

Beauty and the Beast
Males: Beast, Gaston, LeFou, Maurice, Cogsworth, Lumiere, Chip, Philippe, Monsieur D'Arque (Total: 9)
Females: Belle, Mrs. Potts, the wardrobe with six lines, the featherduster? I guess? (Total: 4, and that's being generous.)

Back to the Future
Males: Marty, Doc, Dave, George, Biff/Griff/Buford/Whoever, Biff's 3 cronies, Strickland (Total: 9)
Females: Lorraine, Clara (arguably a strong character, but only in the third film), Linda, and Jennifer, who is parked on a porch swing and left to rot for a movie & a half. (Total: 3.56)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Males: Indy, Henry, Salla, Marcus, Walter Donovan, the Nazi general, the grail knight, Kazim (Total: 8)
Females: Elsa. And, um, well the only others I can remember appearing in the movie at all are the Nazi who yells "alarm!" at the castle and the random extra who holds up her ticket on the zeppelin. (Total: 1.002)

Dang, that may be the worst one yet!
 In conclusion, NONE OF THIS MATTERS ONE IOTA, and goodnight.

*Yes, I know there were a few minor female characters who sometimes showed up and were all "hi, other female here," but let's face it, nobody cares about them.

No comments: