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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Anomalisa

Where Are the Women? Anomalisa

May be fresh in its storytelling approach, but the story it is telling is one that puts women in no more than supporting roles to a man’s personal journey.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: 0

-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 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: 0

[no significant representation of women in authority]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: -5

-5
Is there a female character with significant screen time who bares her breasts (but doesn’t appear fully nude)? [why this matters]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -15

-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]


-10
Is there a female character who is sexually manipulated or abused by a male protagonist as a way to advance his story? [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)

Every character in the film who is not the male protagonist or his female romantic interest is voiced by a single other actor… a man. There are good thematic reasons for this, but just as the film would not be fundamentally different if it had a female protagonist, it also would not be fundamentally different if all the other characters were voiced by a female actor.

TOTAL SCORE: -25

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 film may be startlingly fresh and creative in its approach to storytelling, but the story it is telling is, at its root, one that we have seen so many times before that it is a cliché: that of a man’s midlife crisis over identity and the struggle between familiar, comfortable domesticity and the desire for novelty, one that puts women in no more than supporting roles to a man’s personal journey. An even fresher approach would have cast the protagonist as a woman, because women experience such crises as well, yet we almost never see them depicted onscreen.


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 Anomalisa! 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 Anomalisa.

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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