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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

WATWdawnapes

Even among the chimps, there’s just one token female, and she’s defined solely as the sexual partner of a male and as the mother of his children.

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: +5

+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]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -5

-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]

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)

The 5 points that Keri Russell’s character gets for being a medic come right back off again, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s made explicit that while she used to work for the CDC, the CDC doesn’t exist anymore and exerts no authority, and whatever minor authority she might have as a doctor and scientifically minded person in this devolving society is extremely limited. This is highlighted when we see that she doesn’t even have the authority to insist upon joining Jason Clarke’s mission into the forest, to care for anyone who might get injured when they again encounter the angry apes. Clarke wants her to stay behind and watch over his teenaged son… and it’s only when the son insists on going along (and gets his way where Russell didn’t!) that she is permitted to join the mission. In the eyes of the male protagonist (Clarke), she is primarily a caregiver to his son (who isn’t even her son, though she clearly feels like she has adopted him), not the doctor to a community.

TOTAL SCORE: -15

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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, one of three credited (Amanda Silver) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: Even in a story about the dwindling of humanity, with the population reduced to a tiny percentage of what it once was, women are all but absent except for token caregiver and mothering roles. Even among the chimps, the only female character — and she’s very insignificant — is Caesar’s partner, who is defined solely by her attachment to him as the mother of his children.


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes! 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 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

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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