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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? War Book

Where Are the Women? War Book

This is (mostly) a great example of positive depiction of women: as people with authority, with strong opinions, with powerful personalities.

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: +16

+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]
+5
More than one (of any race)? [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: -5

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

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: 0

[no issues]

WILDCARD SCORE: -1

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

There’s only one sour note when it comes to women’s representation in this film, but it’s glaring and galling, especially because the rest of the film does so well. The “woman used as a decorative object” issue already noted takes on an extra — and extra offensive — dimension. A man contemplates the body of a much younger woman in a way that is meant to suggest all the beauty and ease that will be lost in the event of a global nuclear war and the collapse of civilization. Though she is plainly depicted as being increasingly uncomfortable with this scrutiny, the overall tone of the scene is intended to be melancholy, verging on the sorrowful, and in a way that anyone watching is presumed to identify with. A human being who happens to be female is reduced to a metaphor, a symbol, in a way that none of the men here are. And the same impact could have been achieved without treating a woman like this.

TOTAL SCORE: +22

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: With only one caveat, this is a great example of positive depiction of women: as people with authority, with strong opinions, with powerful personalities, and not defined exclusively by their gender.


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of War Book! 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 War Book.

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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