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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Inside Out

Where Are the Women? Inside Out

That a young girl’s emotions are used to tell a story about universal human experience is something new, a paradigm-smashing win for female representation.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +25

+25
Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: +19

+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]


+10
Is there a female villain or antagonist? [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]

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: 0

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

No.

TOTAL SCORE: +39

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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, two of seven credited (Meg LeFauve, Amy Poehler) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: We see so many — so many! — movies about how tough is the transition is from boyhood to male adolescence to manhood. And almost none about girls at the same precarious ages. So for that alone, this movie is a paradigm-smashing win for female representation. But this movie is also so radically different in how it tells its story, is so devoid of the usual tropes and clichés, that it’s almost impossible to score using these criteria, which were developed to smack those tropes and clichés. That a young girl’s emotions are used to tell a story about universal human experience is something new and special.


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

Click here for the ranking of 2015’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

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

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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  • Ken Patterson

    I know it’s your own scoring system with a specific set of criteria (and I really don’t want to come across sounding like a bitter male in this, because I really enjoy reading these) but I just wonder if the father being primarily defined by his emotional or biological relationship with a child could counter the only negative score you have on this film.

    I feel that the film treats both genders equally in this regard; in that the primary human POV is a child, so both parents will generally be defined by their relationship to a child. Could equal treatment of both genders in negative items counter the negative aspects of how the women are portrayed?

  • These criteria are meant to describe film on the whole. A male character being defined solely as a father is not a problem because men already have the widest possible representation across all films.

    Remember: Where Are the Women isn’t really about any *individual* film. It’s about film on the whole, about the whole ecosystem.

    The particular movie still has one of the best scores of any movie this year. It needs to be seen in that context.

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