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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Goosebumps

Where Are the Women? Goosebumps

Women as nothing but emotional support and romantic rewards for men is a tedious, tired, insulting trope. This movie takes it to a deplorable new low.

Warning! Some of the details in the Score section may constitute spoilers for those not familiar with the story.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: -20

-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]


-10
Is there a manic pixie dream girl? [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: +1

+1
Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -28

-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]


-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]


-10
Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [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 a woman isn’t actually kidnapped [why this is a problem], the male protagonist mistakenly believes that his pretty female neighbor is being physically abused and perhaps imprisoned by her father. This motivates action on his part to “rescue” her that kickstarts the plot.

TOTAL SCORE: -52

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: Women as emotional support for men and as romantic rewards for men who do heroic things is a tedious, tired, insulting trope onscreen. This movie takes it to a deplorable new low. This is a story about imaginary monsters created for written fiction who are able to leap off the page and into “real” life… and the only significant female character here has been invented just as the monsters are. She is not a real human being but a creation of a male writer to be his daughter in order to assuage his loneliness, and when the teenage male protagonist decides he has feelings for her, she is allowed to continue to exist in the “real” world (when all the monsters are not, of course) as a reward for him for getting all the monsters back into their books. Few films dare to be so explicit about how women exist to be nothing but adjuncts to men.


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

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

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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