Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [why this matters]
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [why this matters]
Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [why this matters]
Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)
There isn’t a hooker with a heart of gold [why this is a problem], but there is a strip-club cocktail waitress with a heart of gold, which amounts to the same thing. (Though she corrects the male coprotagonist’s misconception about her — he believes she is a stripper — the movie has already sniggered/drooled all over the idea of her as a stripper, so damage done.)
One of the male coprotagonists is constantly delivering sexualized slurs against women — such as “Junior year [of high school] is when the girls become sluts,” meaning that he believes means they will all have sex with him — which are all treated as humorous, good-natured, and simply inevitable behavior and attitudes for a male teen.
A woman is subjected to a uniquely sexualized method of zombification: she is bitten on her genitals in a sequence that begins with her expecting her boyfriend to perform oral sex on her (a zombie takes his place). This is treated as clever and humorous.
The film features a particularly blatant example of a woman being manipulated by the plot to become a trophy given to the male protagonist after he rescues her. She had previously expressed only platonic interest in him (as the best friend of her little brother), and she had a boyfriend who we are given no reason to believe that she didn’t actually genuinely like. (She is barely a character, so we know next to nothing about her except that she is “hot” and that the male protagonist desires her.) The male protagonist gets to kill the zombified boyfriend, but she appears to feel no grief at all regarding his death and instantly transfers her affections to the male protagonist.
IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)
IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, three of four credited (Carrie Lee Wilson, Emi Mochizuki, Lona Williams)
BOTTOM LINE: Movies don’t get much worse than this when it comes to female representation. Women here are alternately dehumanized objects, literally, as when zombie female bodies become sexualized playthings for teenaged boys; support systems who will physically fight for teenaged boys, be utterly sympathetic and attuned to even their secret desires, and retain impossible gorgeousness even in life-and-death scenarios; and “hot” prizes awarded to teenaged boys, and delighted to be so. Women’s sexuality here is either commodified, ignored, denied, or treated like a joke. In every sense of the concept, women exist here almost solely for what they can do for men sexually and, occasionally, romantically. I am astonished that three of the four credited screenwriters are women, though I suspect that the original version of the script — which also involved Girl Scouts, who do not appear here — was very different.
NOTE: This is not a “review” of Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse! 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 Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.