These criteria were originally published on January 12, 2015, and now updated to include the modified and new criteria developed over the course of analyzing 295 films over the past 16 months. The “dead mother” issue has been slightly tweaked, and I’ve added a section about women cast as mothers to offspring they would have been too young to have given birth to. These tweaked and new criteria would not have altered any of the WATW ratings I’ve done, because they were taken into account in those ratings as Wildcard factors. But they cropped up often enough that I thought they deserved to be regular parts of the rating criteria.
It is my hope that others — critics, fans, teachers, and filmmakers themselves — will continue to use these criteria as a way to analyze how women are represented onscreen. Perhaps one day the representation of women will improve to the point where these criteria are no longer useful for their intended purpose.
I crunched numbers on the 153 films that opened in wide release in the United States between December 25, 2014, and December 18, 2015. Get an introduction to this analysis here. You can examine a comprehensive spreadsheet of the details about these 153 films here.
Could the protagonist have been female without significantly impacting the film as a whole? (for a film with a male protagonist) [why this matters]
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]
Is a woman paired as a mother to biological offspring (either children or adult) she’s too young to have given birth to? [why this matters]
Does her role (if mother to adult children) include significant flashbacks to a time when her offspring were still children, requiring that the role was cast with a young woman? [why this matters]
Does her role (if mother to adult children) include insignificant flashbacks to a time when her offspring were still children, perhaps (but not necessarily) requiring that the role was cast with a young woman? [why this matters]
Does the story deal, in either theme or plot, with the ramifications of motherhood at too young an age? [why this matters]
Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)
IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? Yes (NAME) / No (does not impact scoring)
IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes (NAME) / No (does not impact scoring)
BOTTOM LINE: [some brief comments here]
NOTE: This is not a “review” of TITLE! 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 TITLE.