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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Jupiter Ascending

WATWjupiterascending

This is how you squander a female protagonist: Don’t let her make any decisions about her own life and make sure she is in constant need of rescue by a man.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +25

+25
Is there a female 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]
+2
Is she nonwhite? [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: -35

-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: -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 or biological relationship with a child or children? [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)

Important storytelling note for writers: Your protagonist has to do stuff. Is she doing literally nothing to affect what is ostensibly her own story? Think about fixing that. Mila Kunis’s Jupiter is a horrifically weak central character who has almost no agency of any kind, and is present in the story only to be used, abused, and constantly rescued (by a man, of course).

TOTAL SCORE: -17

IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? Yes, one of the two (Lana Wachowski) (does not impact scoring)

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, one of the two (Lana Wachowski) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: This is how you squander a female protagonist: Don’t let her make any decisions about her own life, don’t let her affect the story with her actions, and make sure she is in constant need of rescue by a man.

Oh, and give her an ignominious ending that no male protagonist in a similar story would ever have to endure.


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

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

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

    To fix: well, gender-flipping both Jupiter and Caine would probably be too much for Hollywood to stomach. How about just gender-flipping Caine, so that there’s a contrast of strong woman vs weak woman?

  • Selina Val

    How would Kunis’ Jupiter character compare to the one in the Mortal Instruments (Lily Collins) film? Who do you find to be stronger, or more effective?

  • What is the point of such a comparison?

  • Jurgan

    I get a little tired of the way “strong vs. weak” is the only axis of differentiation for female characters. How about they both have strengths and weaknesses in different areas? You know, like real people.

  • RogerBW

    Baby steps. These are pro screenwriters we’re talking about, not normal people.

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