Where Are the Women? The Boy Next Door


The villain is a dude who fails to appreciate that sex is not all about what he alone wants. And the film gender-swaps a trope to motivate the protagonist.

Warning! Some of the details here may constitute spoilers for those not familiar with the story.


Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]
Is she nonwhite? [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]


[no issues]


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 a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]
Is a dead father also mentioned? [why this matters]
Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [why this matters]
Is he rebuked for it, either directly (by a character onscreen) or indirectly (by how it is depicted)? [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)

That female character in a position of authority? She holds that role only so that the villain can insult her (in nasty misogynist terms) and later torment and kill her. Her confrontation with the villain is the only time we see her acting with her authority; otherwise it has no bearing whatsoever on the story.
A glimpse of bare breasts belonging to an insignificant female character in a film that is not otherwise particularly male-gazey wouldn’t normally be a reason to deduct points. But in this case, the character is supposed to be underaged (even if the actress or body double probably isn’t) and the shock of seeing her naked in a sexualized situation is fueled by the fact the she is underaged. The scene could have been shot without this nudity, too.


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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes (Barbara Curry) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: Yes, it’s a cautionary tale for women about the dangers of sleeping with sexy strangers, but it does cast as an outright villain a man who fails to appreciate that it’s not a unilateral decision whom one gets to have sex with. It also turns a familiar trope upside-down by putting a husband and son in jeopardy in order to motivate a female protagonist. The movie could have scored better, though, if it had treated her work as more than merely another place at which she could be menaced by the villain.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of The Boy Next Door! 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 The Boy Next Door.

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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