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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Where Are the Women? The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

A female villain who isn’t defined by her sexuality helps balance out the underused female sidekick to the good guys (who are, of course, guys).

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

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


-5
Is there a woman who is kidnapped (either onscreen or off) whose kidnap motivates a male protagonist? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: -5

-5
Is a woman or women used as decorative objects/set dressing? [why this matters]

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 and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [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: 0

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 female villain who isn’t defined by her sexuality helps balance out the female sidekick to the good guys who may be smart and capable but, as is typical, still takes a backseat to the men. Still, films in this genre often treat women much worse than this one does, so even a score of zero is an improvement over business as usual.


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.! 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 The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

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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  • David C-D

    “Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing?”

    Which scene are you thinking of? I’ve been trying to recall an example of this but coming up empty so far.

  • For one, there’s Solo telling Kuryakin to behave like a “pussy” in the mugging scene. I’m pretty sure there was at least one more example of that sort of thing, but the movie really has slipped my mind already.

  • David C-D

    Nice catch. For whatever reason, I am still less sensitized to that particular interaction than to many of the others. Another reason why I appreciate the regular discipline of the WATW analysis.

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