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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? How to Train Your Dragon 2

WATWhowtraindragon2

This is how you portray women in a film with a male protagonist: as existing as people in their own right not defined solely by their relationship to him.

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: +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)

Ruffnut, one of the hero’s gang of sidekicks, gets to express her sexual desire for a hot guy, and the film also offers us her female-gazey perspective as she looks at him. Her attraction to him is a recurring motif, and nicely balances out the (far more clichéd) lusting after her that two of her male compatriots engage in.

TOTAL SCORE: +15

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 is how you portray women in a film with a male protagonist: as a mother who is not defined solely by her motherhood, as a girlfriend who gets to rescue the hero (and take over his leadership in his absence), as part of a mixed-gender gang with desires of her own (just like the guys get to have).


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of How to Train Your Dragon 2! 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 How to Train Your Dragon 2.

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
  • YouTube

    Who the fuck cares about the women seriously. the movie is great its beautiful but who cares.about this. :(

  • RogerBW

    The scoring criteria are fair enough, but I think the treatment of Valka here is problematic – great introduction, but she rapidly becomes useless once it’s time to get stuff done.

  • I actually didn’t like how Ruffnut seemed solely defined by her lusting after the guys. Nothing wrong with showing it, but when it’s all you show, I see a problem.

    I also thought the movie did Astrid a disservice by making her more the hero’s girlfriend, as opposed to a stronger character in her own right. She was too passive.
    Great movie, overall, though.

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