Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [why this matters]
Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [why this matters]
Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)
The only Aboriginal woman with any significance in the film — and only a small one, at that — is present solely for the negative impact she has on the male protagonist’s life. (She is banned from buying booze, and he gets in trouble for buying some for her.)
The only women in any positions of authority here are white, in the white culture (a cop and a lawyer, who appear only very briefly). While this wouldn’t normally be a problem when it comes to the representation women overall (though of course it is problem regarding the representation of women of color), it is notable — in a negative way — given that this film is about the impact of white culture on Aboriginal peoples. There are women of authority and influence in at least some Aboriginal cultures (such as healers), but there is not even the whiff of an indication of that here.
It is hinted that the male protagonist has turned a corner toward a potentially happier life by deciding to teach traditional Aboriginal dance to youngsters. All of the youngsters are male. Perhaps it’s the case that dance is segregated by gender in this culture… but his turnaround could have been indicated by a decision to pass on something that both girls and boys could take advantage of.
IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)
IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)
BOTTOM LINE: This film is a perfect illustration of how men’s stories are intended to be universally applicable to all people, even as they ignore the unique challenges women face. Charlie’s personal journey is meant to be illustrative of how white European culture has damaged Aboriginal societies. But it fails to even hint at the extra impact that colonialism has had on Aboriginal women (such as astronomical levels of physical and sexual abuse they suffer at the hands of Aboriginal men, driven by poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, and cultural displacement). So this film cannot hope to be as universal as it would like to think it is.
NOTE: This is not a “review” of Charlie’s Country! 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 Charlie’s Country.