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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Poltergeist

Where Are the Women Poltergeist

A comparison with the 1982 original makes it easy to demonstrate how much movies have given themselves over to men’s journeys in recent decades.

Warning! The Wildcard section includes information that might be considered spoilers for those not familiar with the story.

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: +4

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


-5
Is there a woman who is kidnapped (either onscreen or off) whose kidnap motivates a male protagonist? [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 or biological relationship with a child or children? [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)

-5
The original 1982 film culminates in the mother of the child who is lost in the other dimension entering that other world in order to bring her back. Here, that job is taken by the child’s brother: he is a nervous kid, afraid of everything, and now he gets to be a hero! What had been an extraordinary adventure and challenge for a woman is here given to a little boy, as a way to make him feel better about himself.
-5
The spooky and memorable medium played by Zelda Rubinstein in the 1982 has been cast as a man (played by Jared Harris), and the script also gives him a dangerous task that did not exist in the original film that allows his character to redeem himself.

TOTAL SCORE: -1

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: The existence of the 1982 original — which represents women better than this remake does — makes it easy to demonstrate how much movies have given themselves over to men’s journeys in recent decades, and how vitally important it has become for movies to ensure that boys and men get to grow as people even at the expense of girls and women doing the same.


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

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

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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where are the women
  • LaSargenta

    So not just pointless but pernicious. Great.

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