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maryann johanson | takeaway only

Where Are the Women? Son of a Gun


The contradictions of mainstream film’s treatment of women are built into the weft of this story: they’re perfect, yet not worthy of personhood of their own.


Is there a woman who is mostly pretty awesome and perfect who is present to support a man improving himself? [why this matters]


[no significant representation of women in authority]


Is there a female character with significant screen time who dresses less appropriately for the environment than her male counterparts do? [why this matters]

Is there a female character with significant screen time who bares her breasts (but doesn’t appear fully nude)? [why this matters]

Is there a scene set in a strip club for no good reason? [why this matters]

Is a woman or women used as decorative objects/set dressing? [why this matters]
Are one or more either a protagonist or significant supporting character? [why this matters]
Is this a major recurring visual motif? [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]

Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [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)

Bad enough that women are used as decorative objects here, and as the metaphorical (and almost literal) property of a man as a way to demonstrate that man’s “power.” But two characters have an actual conversation here in which it is explicitly spelled out that a woman belongs to a man because his possession of her makes him look good, and that she is basically otherwise useless to him except for fucking. The tenor of this conversation is in no way critical or satirical: it’s just a bottom-lining of “reality.”


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: The contradictions of mainstream film’s treatment of women are built into the warp and weft of this story. A woman may be smart, competent, and able to take care of herself in a tough world, but she’s not worth placing in the center of a story: better that she help a man learn about and navigate this world. But this awesome and perfect woman is an anomaly among women, who are mostly nothing more than anonymous decorative objects for men (onscreen and in the audience) to lust after. Women! Perfect, yet somehow not worthy of personhood of their own.

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

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

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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