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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Maleficent

WATWmaleficent

Not the reimagining of a traditional story it purports to be: it perpetuates retrograde notions about the abuse of women as a good way to punish a man.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +25

+25
Is there a female 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: -10

-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]


-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]
+3
Is a dead father also mentioned? [why this matters]

WILDCARD SCORE: -10

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

There’s a female protagonist, sure, but she’s all about getting revenge on a man who snubbed her romantically and mutilated her body… but she takes out all her anger on other women, not on him, which completely aligns with the misogynist cinematic cliché that how a man feels about his female property being damaged is far more important than women being actually physically impacted (never mind their emotional responses to that). Women are punished for a man’s sins, and neither the text nor the subtext seems to think there is anything wrong or inappropriate about this.

TOTAL SCORE: +5

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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes (Linda Woolverton) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: The tiny subversion of a Disney trope about “true love” that has been a trap for female characters for decades aside, this is not the reimagining of a traditional story it purports to be, not when it perpetuates retrograde notions about the abuse of women as a good way to punish a man.


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

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

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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