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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Youth

Where Are the Women? Youth

A story all about how women are mere elements in the grand works of art that are men’s lives, often as little more than decorative objects.

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: 0

[no significant representation of women in authority]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: -25

-5
Is a woman or women used as decorative objects/set dressing? [why this matters]
-20
Is this a major recurring visual motif? [why this matters]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -5

-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: -3

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

There is much talk about the absent woman who is (or was) wife to the male protagonist and mother to his daughter (the female supporting character), and until the very end of the movie, we don’t know if she is dead or why she might be absent if she is alive. For all intents and purposes regarding her function in the story, however, she is a key example of the “dead mother problem.”

TOTAL SCORE: -23

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

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

BOTTOM LINE: I can’t decide which is the better example of the film’s treatment of women as little more than decorative objects, one that often mistakes dehumanization for celebration. Is it the shots of random employees at a luxury spa getting ready for work featuring women in their locker room in their underwear, while the men in their locker room are in lab coats? Or is it how the camera lingers on a fully nude “Miss Universe” as the two elderly male protagonists defend staring lasciviously at her as “the last great idyll of [their] lives”? There are, of course, no elderly women who feel they deserve to stare at handsome young men as a way to feel young again: this is a story that is all about how women are mere elements in the grand works of art that are men’s lives.


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 Youth! 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.) See my rating of Youth.

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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  • Jurgan

    Enough with movies about how tough it is for old white male artists. #firstworldproblems

  • RogerBW

    And the literary novel version, in which an ageing male author finds that no-strings sex with a young pretty woman who thinks the sun shines out of him is just what he needs to start being inspired to write again.

  • bronxbee

    what happened to the older woman character who was supposed to be the great love of the keitel character’s life?

  • I’m not sure who that is. Do you mean Jane Fonda? She plays an actress that he wants to cast in the new movie he’s writing. Is that who you’re thinking of?

  • bronxbee

    yes, but i only got that from the commercials and i think a piece on movies that was on some high cable channel.

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