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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Where Are the Women? Star Wars The Force Awakens

A new generation of fans will now grow up comfortable with the notion that a young woman can be a badass pilot and a great engineer who longs for adventure. NO SPOILERS!

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: +17

+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]


+1
Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [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: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: 0

[no issues]

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: +27

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: This is not the Star Wars of our childhoods. Leia is far from the only woman in the galaxy this time around. She’s still here, and an even more potent figure of authority than she once was, but importantly, there are women to be seen all over the place here, as pilots and soldiers on both sides of the new good-versus-evil political situation, and there’s a female alien (performed via motion-capture by a black woman) who fills a Yoda-esque role. Best of all, the female coprotagonist is this new series’ Luke Skywalker, which means a whole new generation of young fans will grow up comfortable with the notion that a young woman can be a kickass pilot, an awesome mechanical engineer, and a lonely, messed-up kid from the sticks who longs for adventure, and gets to have it. This is huge.


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

Click here for the ranking of 2015’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Star Wars: The Force Awakens! 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 Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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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posted in:
where are the women
  • RogerBW

    Ya see, Hollywood? It’s Not That Hard.

  • Danielm80

    I agree completely with everything on the scorecard, but surely the three screenwriters could have come up with something for Gwendoline Christie to do.

  • I bet she had a more significant role in the next film.

  • John Maddening

    She joined late in preproduction. The part was going to go to some random tall imposing man, but instead went to a fan favorite tall imposing woman. Now that they have her for future installments, I’m sure she’ll be super badass.

  • Bluejay

    a whole new generation of young fans will grow up comfortable with the notion that a young woman can be a kickass pilot, and awesome mechanical engineer, and a lonely, messed-up kid from the sticks who longs for adventure, and gets to have it. This is huge.

    Oh yes. Hallelujah. I’m just blown away by what an awesome character Rey is. And the fact that she’s the focus of freaking Star Wars means that her story is currently the BIGGEST story in pop culture, everywhere, full stop. Simply amazing, long overdue, and very, very welcome.

  • Typical

    So nothing on the fact that when she first meets the male hero she hits him and he runs away from her scared?

    Oh wait that’s empowering.
    Not so much when men do it but thank god there’s yet another film (as if there’s any that don’t do this anymore) where the strong independent woman hits her male teammatelove interest.

    But again sexist when men do it which is why you rarely see it.

  • Oh wait that’s empowering.

    No, it’s not “empowering,” and I didn’t say it was.

    Finn was not a “teammate” at that point. He was a stranger who approached her in a way that seemed threatening to her.

  • Bluejay

    Well, I don’t think she felt threatened personally, but she chased him down because BB8 told her Finn had Poe’s jacket and was probably a thief. But your point stands: he wasn’t an ally at that point.

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