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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? San Andreas

Where Are the Women San Andreas

Women exist here primarily to be rescued by men, and they are defined only by their relationships with men.

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: -2

+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]
+2
More than one? [why this matters]


-5
Is there a woman who dies (either onscreen or off) whose death motivates a male protagonist? [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 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)

While the male protagonist’s daughter is depicted as being calm and competent in a disaster situation — which is good, and contrary to the usual stereotype of ignorant, panicky women — this is presented as purely a function of her being her father’s daughter: Dad is a search-and-rescue pilot (and Iraq/Afghanistan vet) and she learned these things at his knee. This might not be a problem if we knew anything at all about the daughter beyond the fact that she is her father’s daughter. We know she’s about to go to university, for instance, but we have no idea what she’ll be studying. Contrast this with the young man she ends up enduring the earthquakes with and whose hopes and dreams and interests we instantly learn upon his introduction: he is an engineer and is looking for a job in that field. One single, simple line of dialogue about, say, how the daughter was so inspired by her dad that she was motivated to learn about first aid and disaster preparedness and that she’s heading to college to study civil management or emergency medicine could have made her knowledge — which is important to the plot — about her. But while the male screenwriters obviously felt that it was vital to let us know about a young man’s life even when it has no bearing on anything that happens, it clearly never occurred to them that a young woman deserved to be seen as anything other than another man’s daughter.

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: Women exist here primarily to be rescued by men, and they are defined only by their relationships with men. Disaster brings out the narrow gender norms in everyone!


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

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

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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