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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Secret in Their Eyes

Where Are the Women? Secret in Their Eyes

Gets close to representing women well but falls down, and ends up a story about a man obsessed with the rape and murder of a pretty blonde teenaged girl.

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: -3

+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 there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]


-5
Is there a woman who is raped (either onscreen or off) whose rape motivates a male protagonist? [why this matters]
-5
Is there a woman who dies (either onscreen or off) whose death motivates a male protagonist? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -5

-5
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children? [why this matters]

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: -8

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: Frustratingly, this film gets close to figuring out how to represent women well but ultimately falls down. It gender-swaps one of the major male characters from the Argentinian original so that she is now played by Julia Roberts… but even though Roberts’s character is here a police officer, we see her do almost no police work; she is little more than the grieving mother of a raped and murdered teenager. The DA character played by Nicole Kidman gets to do a little actual work, but she is mostly an object of unrequited love for the male protagonist. Primarily, then, this is a story about a man whose entire motivation comes down to obsessing over the rape and murder of a pretty blonde teenaged girl, a crime that has remained unsolved for many years. Which makes this very clichéd indeed. If only it had gender-swapped its protagonist instead.


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Secret in Their Eyes! 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 Secret in Their Eyes.

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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where are the women

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