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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Strange Magic

Where Are the Women Strange Magic

This is a movie about beautiful fairy princesses obsessed with love and romance. At least they keep their clothes on.

Warning! Some of the details in the Wildcard section may constitute 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: +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: -10

-5
Is there a female character whose primary goal is romantic (to get married, enter into a longterm relationship with a man, etc)? [why this matters]


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


-10
Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [why this matters]
+10
Is he rebuked for it, either directly (by a character onscreen) or indirectly (by how it is depicted)? [why this matters]

WILDCARD SCORE: -15

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

-5
The two major female characters are pretty fairy princesses who are obsessed with romance — though in different ways — and the entire plot revolves around who they might fall in love with. This is not a progressive depiction of women.
-10
But much worse than having its female characters obsessed with romance is this: Both of the fairy princesses are conventionally beautiful, and they know it, yet both end up falling, happily, for “ugly” men. This is a trope we see repeated time and again, that men who are not conventionally attractive can expect beautiful women to fall in love with them, because women can and do learn to see past surface appearances. (This is the lesson that both women here learn: that looks don’t matter as much as personality.) We never see movies in which handsome men learn a lesson about seeing past a woman’s plainness to beauty within.

TOTAL SCORE: -10

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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, one of four credited (Irene Mecchi) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: This is a movie about beautiful fairy princesses obsessed with love and romance. At least they keep their clothes on.


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

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

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
  • RogerBW

    Occasionally you’ll get a story with a man seeing past the nasty Hollywood-beautiful girl to the nice Hollywood-ugly girl, but the latter always turns out to be Hollywood-beautiful by the final reel. It’s the Loathly Lady all over again.

  • Yup. But plain or even ugly men never have to have a physical transformation in order to be worthy of love. (The only example that even comes close is Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, with the Beast turning back into the handsome prince, but it was Belle already loving him before that happened that made it happen.)

    And the Hollywood-ugly girls are never less than gorgeous anyway.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah, quite – that’s what I meant about the Loathly Lady, in that once the bloke has chosen her she turns out to be (conventionally) beautiful after all so That’s All Right Then.

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