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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Captain America: The Winter Soldier

WATWcaptainamericawinter

With multiple women who are competent professionals defined by their work first, this is a great example of good female representation in a man’s story.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +10

+10
Is there a female character with significant screen time who grows, changes, and/or learns something over the course of the story? (for an ensemble cast, or a film with a male protagonist) [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: +11

+5
Is there a female character (either a protagonist or a supporting character with significant screen time) in a position of authority (politics, law, medicine, etc.)? [why this matters]


+1
Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [why this matters]
+1
More than one? [why this matters]


+2
Is there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]
+2
More than one? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: 0

[no issues]

WILDCARD SCORE: +3

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

The film plays on the general perception of women as objects of male attention rather than agents in their own right with the “nurse” who lives next door to Steve and is suggested (overtly and subtextually) as a potential romantic match for him. She’s actually a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent assigned to keep an eye him, and later becomes a significant factor in the civil war within S.H.I.E.L.D.

TOTAL SCORE: +24

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: From small parts — a woman soldier at a PTSD support group; a woman member of the global council that S.H.I.E.L.D. serves — to essential ones — Scarlett Johansson’s kickass and complex Black Widow — we meet multiple women who are competent professionals defined by their work first. (There’s also some fun subversion of gender-fueled tropes, as when Maria Hill effects a rescue of Captain America.) This is a great example of how easily a film can better represent women even when its central character is male.


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Captain America: The Winter Soldier! 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 Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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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where are the women

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