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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Paddington


The state of women onscreen these days is so bad that a neutral score of zero is actually a positive!


Is there a manic pixie dream girl? [why this matters]


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]

Is there a female villain or antagonist? [why this matters]

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


[no issues]


Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [why this matters]

Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [why this matters]

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)

Sally Hawkins’ kooky mom character is the manic pixie dream girl, and she exists in the story mainly to support her curmudgeonly husband (Hugh Bonneville) in expanding his horizons and accepting Paddington into their family. (After Paddington, Dad takes the biggest personal journey in the film.) But mom does have her own career (as a writer and artist), which is a running motif, and the elderly relative who lives with them (Julie Walters) gets to have a small adventure that takes advantage of the fact that no one expects much from little old ladies.


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: A female villain who holds a position of authority and isn’t defined by her gender nicely balances out other female characters in this ensemble who primarily conform to traditional women’s family roles.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Paddington! 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 Paddington.

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
  • Danielm80

    I like the last couple of paragraphs of the New York Times review:

    At the same time, what tykes will make of Nicole Kidman, playing an evil taxidermist loaded for bear, is anyone’s guess. Squished into a white outfit and stacked on towering heels like a nurse in a bondage video, Ms. Kidman seems more a bone thrown to teenage boys than the antagonist in a children’s movie. The little girl sitting next to me at a preview screening was baffled.

    “Why is she wearing those stupid shoes to climb on the roof?” she wondered. I could have hugged her.


  • What do kids make of male villains with ridiculous outfits?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Likely depends on what you mean by “ridiculous outfit”.

    I assume the Times review was referring to this. Very tropey, combining the “Mad Scientist” on top with the “Skirt and Fabulous Heels” on the bottom. I also found this outfit, which looks like an Edwardian (?) hunting getup (though I can’t quite tell if those are pants or a skirt, nor what shoes she’s wearing), and this variant which also combines a men’s top with skirt and heeled boots.

    All of them look like the costume designers were trying to create “women’s versions” of English men’s dress tropes.

  • Looks pretty standard-villain to me.

    The heels may be ridiculous, but it’s also ridiculous to liken her outfits to bondage gear.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    That’s pretty much what I’m thinking.

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