Where Are the Women? The Lego Movie

WATWlegomovie

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?

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: -20

-10
Could the protagonist have been female without significantly impacting the film as a whole? (for a film with a male protagonist) [why this matters]
-10
Is there a woman who is mostly pretty awesome and perfect who is present to support a man improving himself? [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: 0

[no significant representation of women in authority]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: -35

-5
Is a woman or women used as decorative objects/set dressing? [why this matters]
-10
Are one or more either a protagonist or significant supporting character? [why this matters]
-20
Is this a major recurring visual motif? [why this matters]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: 0

[no issues]

WILDCARD SCORE: 0

Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

No.

TOTAL SCORE: -55

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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17 Comments
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Nina
Nina
Sun, Feb 08, 2015 10:43pm

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

RogerBW
RogerBW
Mon, Feb 09, 2015 9:30am

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
Nina
reply to  RogerBW
Mon, Feb 09, 2015 2:41pm

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
Derek
reply to  Nina
Mon, Feb 09, 2015 5:52pm

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
Nina
Mon, Feb 09, 2015 11:29pm

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.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Nina
Tue, Feb 10, 2015 3:30am

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

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Bluejay
Tue, Feb 10, 2015 11:08am

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

Kaitlyn Kline
Kaitlyn Kline
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Feb 28, 2015 4:07am

… 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.

SailorSerena
SailorSerena
reply to  Kaitlyn Kline
Wed, Apr 28, 2021 11:15pm

… Because he’s a young boy, and young boys think girls are icky and gross?

You think boys naturally think of girls as “icky and gross”? No, they’re trained to by society, which tells them that girls are lesser than and that anything female or feminine is to be avoided or is not of value. Boys aren’t born chauvinist pigs any more than girls are born misandrists. Boys aren’t born thinking something is gross because “ewwww! That’s for girls!” Boys aren’t born with a distaste for girls and anything girly which leads them to avoid girls and girly things like the plague(or “cooties”, but girls do that, too). No, it’s patriarchal society that trains them to look down on girls from when they are young, and it doesn’t disappear overnight. That’s why teenage boys and grown men are ashamed to admit they watched and liked a chick flick without either renouncing its girliness or claiming it’s better than “most” chick flicks, and why they’re afraid to hold their girlfriends’ purses and pocketbooks for them. Society tells them that female is the inferior sex and that femininity is literally poison(and it tells this to girls, too, but that’s a topic for another discussion.). Please, educate yourself on ingrained misogyny before you go around making absurd claims like “boys think girls are icky” as if it’s a completely natural mindset to have, when it’s not true the other way around(at least, not usually).

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.

And yet it’s the same pattern we see over and over. Mature big brother wants to do some fun adventure that the story focuses on, but his annoying “icky and gross” little sister always gets in the way! Why can’t we see it the other way around? Why don’t we see girls trying to get their little brothers not to interfere with the fun and important plot-related stuff that the story deems so important to focus on? Or just make them two girls instead. Also, what a “coincidence”(not) that it’s the two males who are old and mature enough to enjoy and play with LEGOs while the girl doesn’t. Because girls are too immature and inexperienced to know what quality fun time is. And here I thought LEGOs were for all ages(and genders!). But I guess not.

Rod Ribeiro
Rod Ribeiro
Tue, Feb 10, 2015 2:46am

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.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Rod Ribeiro
Tue, Feb 10, 2015 11:10am

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.

Rod Ribeiro
Rod Ribeiro
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Feb 10, 2015 6:32pm

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?).

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Rod Ribeiro
Tue, Feb 10, 2015 11:11pm

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
Rod Ribeiro
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Feb 11, 2015 1:38am

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!

Justanothernerd
Justanothernerd
Tue, Feb 10, 2015 1:32pm

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.”

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Justanothernerd
Tue, Feb 10, 2015 11:03pm

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.

SailorSerena
SailorSerena
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, May 08, 2021 4:29pm

Aww, that’s sad. But at least she got her own cartoon!