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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Barely Lethal

WATWbarelylethal

A teenaged girl gets to be smart and strong, lost and confused, heroic and vulnerable as she chases what she wants out of life. Hooray.

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: -10

-5
Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [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]


-3
Is a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]
+3
Is a dead father also 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)

While femininity is used as a joke [why this is a problem], here it is a rare case not of punching down at women and making fun of them but a matter of a man shown to be capable of understanding the particular pressures of adolescence for a girl. In another movie, this might have been an opportunity not only to make fun of girliness but also to make fun of him for his “unmanly” sensitivity, but the joke here is in the surprise that he acknowledges the impossibility of drilling normal teenaged angst out of kids (as the kiddie secret-agent school he works for is supposed to have done). It’s only a subtle change of tone and emphasis, but it makes a world of difference.

TOTAL SCORE: +39

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: A teenaged girl gets to be smart and strong, lost and confused, heroic and vulnerable as she chases what she wants out of life. Hooray.


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Barely Lethal! 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 Barely Lethal.

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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