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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Top Five

Where Are the Women Top Five

When they’re not anonymous strippers or hookers, women here are nothing but thorns in the side of the male protagonist, using and manipulating him.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +12

+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]
+2
Is she nonwhite? [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: -3

+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 she nonwhite? [why this matters]


+10
Is there a female villain or antagonist? [why this matters]
-20
Is her villainy/badness defined primarily by her gender (ie, is it related to motherhood, or is it of a sexual nature)? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: -50

-10
Is there a scene set in a strip club for no good reason? [why this matters]


-5
Is a woman or women used as decorative objects/set dressing? [why this matters]
-20
Is this a major recurring visual motif? [why this matters]
-5
Does this include breasts bouncing in slo-mo? [why this matters]
-5
Are the breasts bare? [why this matters]
-5
Does this include gratuitous “booty” shots? [why this matters]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -33

-5
Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [why this matters]
-20
In a way essential to the movie? [why this matters]


-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 adult child)


-3
Is a dead mother mentioned? [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)

A plot point turns on a “funny” false accusation of rape. Because that’s what women do when they’re mad at a man.

TOTAL SCORE: -79

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: When they’re not anonymous strippers or hookers, women here are nothing but thorns in the side of the male protagonist: criticizing him, cajoling him, ordering him about, lying to him, manipulating him, using him to improve their own standing in the world. In almost every way imaginable, women exist in this story as adjuncts to a man… and not even in a positive supportive way.


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

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

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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  • RogerBW

    I suppose that if one were fine-tuning these criteria one should give fewer nonwhite points where the entire cast (or close to it) is nonwhite. But I don’t think it would make a huge difference.

  • It wouldn’t help here.

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