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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? War Room

Where Are the Women? War Room

Mega points for a black woman protagonist. But minus more for her story, which is about her learning to be submissive in her marriage to an abusive man.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +30

+25
Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]
+5
Is she nonwhite? [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: 0

[no significant representation of women in authority]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -10

-5
Is there a female character whose primary goal is romantic (to get married, enter into a longterm relationship with a man, etc)? [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]

WILDCARD SCORE: -25

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

This is, at its core, a story about a Christian woman’s duty to be submissive as a wife. If things are going wrong in your marriage, if your husband is doing immoral or even illegal things, if he is neglectful and even abusive, a proper lady doesn’t get angry at him or express any dissatisfaction to him. Better a lady should be nice and sweet and unquestioningly supportive and continue to love and even respect her husband, even if he does nothing of the kind in return. Meanwhile, a good wife prays to God, and God will magically turn her man into a model husband. This is not, needless to say, a pro-woman message. It is virulently and dangerously antiwoman, which even God-fearing Christians should see: they, of all people, should know best that God doesn’t answer even all of their prayers.

TOTAL SCORE: -5

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: The film gets mega points for its black woman protagonist… and then loses all of them and more for telling a story about her in which she learns that the best way to save her marriage — which is her only concern here — is to be meek and submissive even in the face of her husband’s secrecy, emotional abuse, and other offenses against their relationship. A female-centered movie that is all about how women should take no realistic action to improve their lives is not the sort of female-centered movie we need.


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

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

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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