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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? The Lego Movie


The only woman is shuffled aside as hero in favor of a doofus guy… and then she’s reduced to a joke about how badly she’s being treated. Har har?


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 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 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]


[no issues]


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? No (does not impact scoring)

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

BOTTOM LINE: Bad enough that token awesome girl Wyldstyle really should have turned out to be the Special — because she’s actually special, unlike the doofus guy who gets to be the hero — but then she is also reduced to an ongoing joke about how movies ignore what women have to say if they’re pretty. Wholeheartedly embracing a sexist stereotype doesn’t go as far to make fun of it as the filmmakers would probably like to think.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of The Lego Movie! 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 Lego Movie.

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

  • Nina

    Ouch, that score breaks my heart, because I loved this movie so so so much. :(

  • RogerBW

    This was my major problem with the film: it should have been about Wyldstyle. I know that some of the point of the thing was in ripping off clichés from other films and re-mounting them in Lego, but the heroine who only exists to get the hero up to flying speed and be a reward afterwards is one we could have afforded to skip.

  • Nina

    If the ending of the movie is indicative of what the sequel is going to be about, maybe it’ll address sexism in the toy industry, and hopefully allow Wyldstyle to shine.

  • Derek

    maybe. In a movie so deliberately interested in being creative and spinning on clichés the female role is too pedestrian. That’d definitely be a good jumping off point in the sequel.

  • Nina

    Also, not to excuse the film’s treatment of its main female character, but it does make sense that the guy ends up the “hero”, as the narrative is controlled by a young boy. When I was little and created mini worlds with all of the figures I had (I was never a doll kind of girl), I’d always include both male and female characters, but made my female characters drive my stories, because I’d live vicariously through them.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    Does the male gaze score apply if they’re all Legos? I understand the message is still “women’s job/worth is to be decorative”, but I don’t think little girls would aspire to be Lego-like as they do with Barbies.

  • Bluejay

    But then we could ask why the child in control of the narrative has to be a boy in the first place.

  • Or why the arrival of a girl (his little sister) in his fantasy world is portrayed as a disaster.

  • You think the male gaze is about girls aspiring to be Barbies? (It’s not.)

    Yes, this applies. The movie makes a joke of the male gaze, but it still has the affect of reducing Wyldstyle to an object to be looked at.

  • Justanothernerd

    No points for Princess Unikitty? It’s not enough to get the movie out of the red, for sure, but she *is* a female character who joins the main ensemble later in the film, which at least makes Wildstyle not the “only woman.”

  • Rod Ribeiro

    As the father of two girls, 10 and 2, I’d say that’s probably my main concern. I suppose in the grand scheme, as I said above, “women’s job/worth is to be decorative” is the problem.

    Let me reprhase it: it’s being told that you should be decorative (bad) vs. being told that you should be decorative and being blond and excessively thin is the way to do it (worse or no worse?).

  • There is a criterion in my ratings system regarding a lone woman in an otherwise all-male ensemble. This movie did not lose points for that. But no, no special points for Princess Unikitty.

  • I don’t think a solution to the problem is to broaden what’s acceptable for a decorative women. The solution is to get away from women being primarily decorative. So the issue here isn’t that Wyldstyle isn’t genuinely decorative because she’s made of blocks of plastic, but that Wyldstyle literally *doesn’t get heard* either by the hero *or* by the audience (her voice actually gets muted several times when she’s talking about stuff that should be important) because Whatisface is staring at her.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    What?? That’s unacceptable in a PG movie. Plus it’s most definitely something that would never ever happen to a male character. Gotta talk to the older one… I didn’t see the movie, but she did.

    You know what, that’s what we get when conservatives are the only ones writing parents’ guides. They worry about the toys having nipples drawn on them (literally, look it up!), but shutting up women isn’t noteworthy… damn!

  • Kaitlyn Kline

    … Because he’s a young boy, and young boys think girls are icky and gross? And I can vouch for this, because believe it or not, I used to be one.

    Either way, it’s not because his sister is a girl that it’s portrayed as disaster. It’s because she’s a toddler and is too young to enjoy or play with LEGOs in the same way that her older brother or her father do.

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