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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? 99 Homes

Where Are the Women? 99 Homes

With one tiny (and barely noticeable) exception, women here are nothing more than lovers or mothers to men.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: -10

-10
Could the protagonist have been female without significantly impacting the film as a whole? (for a film with a male protagonist) [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: +2

+2
Is there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -10

-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]


-5
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children*? (*in this case, an adult child) [why this matters]

WILDCARD SCORE: -9

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

-5
Laura Dern (age 48) plays the mother of Andrew Garfield (age 32). At only 16 years older than him, it is not outside the realm of possibility that she could actually be his mother. But cinema’s long tradition of inappropriately casting women as mothers of actors far too close to their own ages (as a way to avoid casting women who are “too old” for the screen) suggests that this is yet another instance of such sexism. Even having Dern’s character comment that she was “so young” when she gave birth to Garfield’s character doesn’t help, because there’s no aspect of the story that requires her to have been a teen mother.
-3
The mother of the young son of Garfield’s character is entirely absent, though her absence is discussed in a way that is akin to the “dead mother mentioned” issue of women’s erasure from screen stories [why this is a problem].
-1
The female character who could have been played by a man? She is a construction worker in the crew of the house-repo team, but she doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. She is a still a net plus for women’s representation, however, which is why I’m deducting only one of the two points awarded for this.

TOTAL SCORE: -27

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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, one of three credited (Bahareh Azimi) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: With one tiny (and barely noticeable) exception, women here are nothing more than lovers or mothers to men. The male villain actually gets a wife, daughters, and a girlfriend, all of whom are present in the story solely to help define the boundaries of his responsibilities and betrayals as a man. Both he and the male protagonist could easily have been played by women without changing anything else about the script, and without losing any of the story’s powerful impact.


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of 99 Homes! 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 99 Homes.

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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