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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Whiplash

WATWwhiplash

If a movie must have a male protagonist and a male villain, fine. But must it also pretend that women barely exist in the world at all?

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: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -13

-5
Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [why this matters]


-5
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [why this matters]


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


WILDCARD SCORE: -5

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

Wait, what? Are there virtually no female jazz students at the faux Juilliard school depicted in the film? That seems ludicrously unlikely.

TOTAL SCORE: -28

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: Perhaps the most galling way in which this film pretends that women don’t exist except as adjuncts to men is in how it cannot even be bothered to pepper its music classrooms and competitions with female musicians. We glimpse a rare one in a few scenes, but in the world of this movie, women don’t seem to have any interest in music. Which is ridiculous.

J.K. Simmons’s putdowns of his (male) students by likening them to girls may be “traditional,” but that doesn’t mean they are acceptable.


Click here for the ranking of 2014’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Whiplash! 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 Whiplash.

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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  • RogerBW

    It’s not that women don’t exist at all, it’s that they exist only as adjuncts to men rather than background detail. Which is perhaps an over-nice point but still problematic.

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