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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Big Hero 6


I wish the protagonist had been female, but at least there are lots of individualized women in supporting roles… most of them gender-blind to boot.


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 she nonwhite? [why this matters]


Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [why this matters]
More than one? [why this matters]

Is there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]
More than one? [why this matters]


[no issues]


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

Is a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]
Is a dead father also mentioned? [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)

The inclusion of two women (and both of them people of color) in the superhero team may seem a small thing, but it instantly defeats the prevalent problem of the “token girl” among a team of guys [why this matters]. And by making one of the women traditionally “girly” (ie, she likes pink and wears high heels) and the other more of a tomboy, the film offers us a depiction of women with their own individual preferences and tastes… which is, sadly, a rare thing to see in film!


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: Women are so underrepresented onscreen that even in a story with a male protagonist and a male villain, simply sprinkling women — more than one! — among the supporting characters in gender-blind roles becomes a huge step in a positive direction. This movie could been seen as a template for ensuring that no movie pushes out women to an unrealistic degree (as so many of them do now).

Click here for the ranking of 2014’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Big Hero 6! 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 Big Hero 6.

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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posted in:
where are the women

  • Trev

    So you’re criticizing a kids movie for not having a female lead? That makes no sense. So you think that women are not going to want to go see a Disney movie because the lead isn’t a girl? That itself is sexist thinking. Every genre has its fans, from both the male, and the female side, especially animation. Your other criteria for women representation is fine and all, but taking off points because the main hero is male is gratuitous. A movie can show strong female characters and not have a female as the lead. Females do not have to be front and center in order to be empowering to the audience. This is the kind of male-bashing that gives feminism a bad name.

  • Guest

    “The inclusion of two women (and both of them people of color) in the superhero team…”

    Both of them? Go Go is Japanese but Honey Lemon is about as white as you can get.

  • Honey Lemon is Hispanic.

  • You win today’s prize for completely missing the point. Congrats!

  • 37 Pieces Of Ric Flair

    It sailed over his head so hard I heard a sonic boom.

  • I saw her as white. Guess i missed something.

  • It’s subtle. Her skin is a little darker, and her accent has hints. The actress who does her voice is Hispanic, which isn’t necessarily another hint. But all the Asian characters here are voiced by Asian actors, so I take that as another indication.

  • Ash

    It is based off an old manga that is infamous. The creators of the movie left the characters the same which is why the protagonist is a male

  • Danielm80

    Big Hero 6 wasn’t manga. It was a Marvel comic made in America. and the creators didn’t “leave the characters the same.” They eliminated several characters, both male and female, and made radical changes to the ones who were left. They could have added a female protagonist.

    It doesn’t bother me that they didn’t. I like Hiro. I like lots of movies with male leads. What bothers me is this: There are many interesting Marvel Comics characters who are women. There are many terrific books about women, and many women in the world with fascinating stories, and yet almost every movie is about a man. At least 70% of movies have a male lead. Some years, the numbers are even more unbalanced. About half the world’s population is female, and Disney has made some great films with female leads. Frozen was a huge success, both critically and financially. So the imbalance is not only sad and unfair, but–considering the enormous profit Disney has made from films about women–it’s commercially foolish.

  • Constable

    Nothing goes over his head, he would catch it. Say what you will about GotG, it gave us some fresh one-liners to spout.

    Trev, this isn’t MaryAnn’s review of the film, it’s her review of it’s representation of women. Naturally a film with a female lead will do a better job of this.

  • But even there, the protagonist could have been female.

  • RogerBW

    In the UK we don’t count Mediterranean phenotypes as “another race” the way we might Black or Asiatic ditto.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The argument being made is: Honey Lemon is polyglot who speaks at least 3 languages (English, Japanese and Spanish), but she speaks with Genesis Rodriguez’s accent. That implies that Spanish is her first language, which implies that she’s Hispanic. She has fair hair, skin, and eyes, so she could easily be Spanish or Argentinian.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    What is Big Hero 6 infamous for? Unless, by “infamous” you mean “more than famous”, like that son of a motherless goat, El Guapo.

  • In the US, “Hispanic” usually refers to people who are ethnically descended from both the native peoples of Central and South America *and* the Europeans who colonized those areas. Whether Hispanics are another “race” or not (and we’ve had the discussion about how race is just a cultural construct before at this site), Hispanic people are generally underrepresented in mainstream entertainment that comes out of the US unless they’re drug dealers or other unpleasant stereotypes. So Honey Lemon is definitely a positive step.

  • Danielm80

    I was going to comment on “infamous,” but from what I’ve heard, some of the characters in the comic book were comically named after Japanese food items, by the American writers, and the female characters were treated as eye candy. So the word “infamous” may actually fit.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I was just going for the increasingly rare “Three Amigos” reference. >.>

  • Tonio Kruger

    It’s our punishment for not liking Elektra more! ;-)

    But seriously, folks…

    I’d take the usual counter-arguments to Danielm80’s premise more seriously if there weren’t so many female comic book characters out there — Marvel-connected or otherwise — that weren’t being used.

    Unfortunately, the more money that gets spent on comic book movies, the more tempting it is for the studio powers that be to play it safe.

    And even at that, you have to wonder.

    For example, most successful comic book characters tend to be people who do the type of things that comic book fans wish they could do in real life. Yet no one is seriously arguing against the new Antman movie — even though most people in real life don’t fantasize about becoming smaller. Nor do they make a convincing case why a movie centered around the Antman character is more essential than a movie centered around the female Marvel character known as the Wasp.


    For that matter, you can make a good argument in favor of a movie centered around the Ryan Choi version of the popular DC character the Atom.


    Unfortunately though, non-white comic book characters seem even less popular with Hollywood than female comic book characters — unless maybe they’re in a supporting role.

  • 37 Pieces Of Ric Flair

    I had to look up what GotG was. D’oh, now I feel silly, but I haven’t seen it so I don’t get the reference. :)

  • Constable

    Uhh, here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h27AcB70Mvc, basically… he’s an idiot.

  • Nina

    Also LOVE that GoGo has a little extra junk in the trunk.

  • Trev

    Nice argument there. You really proved me wrong…

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    Pointing out that not every single movie has to have a male lead = male-bashing? OK then.

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