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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? The Judge


There isn’t a single woman here who is not defined exclusively as an adjunct to a man, even though there is plenty of room for women not limited by gender.


Is there a woman who is mostly pretty awesome and perfect who is present to support a man improving himself? [why this matters]


[no significant representation of women in authority]


[no issues]


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

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

Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children? [why this matters]

Is a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]

Is a woman paired romantically with a man old enough to be her father? [why this matters]


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

The way Vera Farmiga’s character is treated here gets an extra special unintentionally ironic zinger when she is forced to tell Robert Downey Jr. that her life philosophy is “I was gonna be the hero of my own story,” yet all she is here is a paragon of awesomeness present to push him onto a better path and be dangled as a potential reward for him, if only he would shape up.

The film also treats as an unexpected surprise the fact that she owns the diner she works in, rather than merely being an employee waitress, as if it’s odd for a woman to own a business.


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: This movie seems to go out of its way to exclude women as people with their own lives and agency in the story. There isn’t a single woman here who is not cast exclusively as an adjunct to a man: as a mother, a daughter, a lover, an ex. There is plenty of room for a woman (or women!) not defined by gender — one of the cops could have been female; the judge who presides over the trial could have been female; RDJ’s opposing attorney could have been female. But none of this seems to have occurred to the filmmakers. This is a classic example of how Hollywood limits women to a support system for men.

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

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

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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posted in:
where are the women
  • RogerBW

    And it’s yet another story about a man with daddy issues. Both the protagonists could have been female: the older having fought to be taken seriously as a female judge, the younger with no experience of that. But then the screenwriters would have needed to think of something new for them to say.

  • But that would have made for a dramatically different film, which is why I did not apply that criterion to this movie.

  • RogerBW

    Yes, fair point, within the context of the analysis it doesn’t apply; it’s just that the film would have been vastly more appealing to me if it had been done that way.

  • Me too, probably.

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