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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Chappie

WATWchappie

Sigourney Weaver’s weapons-contractor CEO doesn’t have anywhere near the screen time of the scantily dressed mommy to a newborn AI.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: 0

-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]


+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: +3

+1
Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [why this matters]


+2
Is there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: -5

-5
Is there a female character with significant screen time who dresses less appropriately for the environment than her male counterparts do? [why this matters]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -5

-5
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children*? [why this matters] (*in this case, an AI child)

WILDCARD SCORE: 0

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

No.

TOTAL SCORE: -7

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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, one of two credited (Terri Tatchell) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: Yes, the movie features Sigourney Weaver as the CEO of a robotics weapons contractor, but she doesn’t have anywhere near the screen time — or anywhere near the impact on the story — as does the scantily dressed woman who is primarily mommy to a newborn AI.


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

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

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
  • Sam

    I agree with most of this but I’m not sure about this one:

    “Is there a female character with significant screen time who dresses less appropriately for the environment than her male counterparts do?”

    By far the most under-dressed characters in the film are the dreadlocked, subtitled gangster baddie (half naked 100% of the time he’s on screen) and Ninja, who also spends most of his time shirtless. Yolandi wears lots of different stuff but much of it is baggy t-shirts and dresses. She’s certainly not sexualised.

    Not saying this is a banner film for feminism or anything, I’m just nitpicking on that one point.

  • There are scenes where she’s wearing summer-y clothes (tank top and shorts) and the guys are wearing hoodies and long pants. Hence points deducted.

  • Sam

    I think it’s questionable whether showing a woman in a tank top and shorts in a hot country is a negative depiction, even if she’s standing next to a man in a hoodie. And if it’s a question of overall balance between men and women (as the criteria suggests), there is far more male flesh than female flesh in the film.

    Maybe the most important point is that, putting aside the amount of flesh on show, none of the characters are sexualised, which is frankly rare for a blockbuster and kind of refreshing.

  • Her easily triggered maternal instinct is the only really dull and stereotypical aspect of her character.

    But it’s she’s about! Her “spiky” strangeness is barely a thing.

    I think it’s questionable whether showing a woman in a tank top and shorts in a hot country is a negative depiction, even if she’s standing next to a man in a hoodie.

    But see, this is how insidious the depiction of women is. We’ve been trained to see it as “normal” that a woman is half naked while the man standing next to her is fully dressed.

  • Sam

    I don’t think a tank top and shorts is half naked, but in any case, a lot more of Ninja is shown in the film than Yolandi.

  • RogerBW

    A more interesting film could be made with a female scientist being assumed by the men to fit into the mummy role, and deciding whether or not that was actually the right thing to do.

  • Helen

    I agree with you, I thought she dressed appropriately for the southern
    hemisphere, and given Ninja got about in only his undies for about a
    third of the movie (going on a heist in his boxers no less), he was far
    more inappropriately dressed for the situation/environment – I don’t
    recall Yolandi ever being seen in her underwear by comparison. As someone who lives in a similar climate, a tank top and shorts is hardly considered half naked – it is indeed ‘fully dressed’.

    That being said, this is a really great concept, and having just seen Chappie, was pleased to see it already ranked.

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