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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Ex Machina

WATWexmachina

Sleek futuristic imagery aside, this is a regressive representation of sexualized, victimized womanhood that’s meant to be titillating.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: -10

-10
Could the protagonist have been female without significantly impacting the film as a whole? (for a film with a male protagonist) [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: 0

[no significant representation of women in authority]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: -55

-5
Is there a female character with significant screen time who dresses less appropriately for the environment than her male counterparts do? [why this matters]
-5
More than one? [why this matters]


-10
Is there a female character with significant screen time who appears fully nude? [why this matters]


-5
Is a woman or women used as decorative objects/set dressing? [why this matters]
-10
Are one or more either a protagonist or significant supporting character? [why this matters]
-20
Is this a major recurring visual motif? [why this matters]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: 0

-3
Is a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]
+3
Is a dead father also mentioned? [why this matters]

WILDCARD SCORE: -15

Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

-5
A “female” robot is held prisoner by her (male) creator, and her predicament is used to motivate the male protagonist. This is a variation on the kidnapped-woman trope. [why this matters]
-10
The film plays continually — in a way that is meant to be cool and clever — with imagery of dismembered female body parts: these are artificial robotic constructs but are utterly realistic looking. Robots that are coded female and that are intended to taken as “real” — ie, as worthy of our pity, for instance — are treated as objects (and indeed are, literally, objects).

TOTAL SCORE: -80

IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: While it pretends to an elite intellectual science-fictional ethos, this is more like a mindless serial killer movie that places a sexualized, nearly naked woman in jeopardy so two men can battle over her. And while that woman may be an android, she is intended in every way to be taken as “real,” from her demonstration of self-conscious artificial intelligence to her creator’s insistence that she is fully fuckable. The film could just as well be entitled Sex Machine.


Click here for the ongoing ranking of 2015’s films for female representation.

Click here for the ranking of 2015’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Ex Machina! It is simply an examination of how well or how poorly it represents women. (A movie that represents women well can still be a terrible film; a movie that represents women poorly can still be a great film.) Read my review of Ex Machina.

See the full rating criteria. (Criteria that do not apply to this film have been deleted in this rating for maximum readability.)


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