Where Are the Women? Selma


Coretta Scott King is mostly an adjunct to her husband here… but even this traditional representation of a woman is better than many films manage.


Is there a female character with significant screen time who grows, changes, and/or learns something over the course of the story? (for an ensemble cast, or a film with a male protagonist) [why this matters]
Is she nonwhite? [why this matters]


[no significant representation of women in authority]


[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 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? Yes (Ava DuVernay) (does not impact scoring)

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

BOTTOM LINE: Coretta Scott King may have become a figure of moral authority in her own right after her husband’s death, but as the only significant female character in this film, she’s mostly an adjunct to her husband more worried about the protection of their family than anything else. But even this fairly traditional representation is better than many films manage.

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

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

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

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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Thu, Jun 18, 2015 1:03pm

I felt like not only Coretta Scott King, but also Annie Lee Cooper could have been given more story time. Ms. Cooper was more than just that sock in the jaw (magnificent as that was). Not to mention that Amelia Boynton was a tiny role in this and she was a major force in Selma in organizing the march. She wrote a play. She ran for office in ’64 BEFORE the march. She was a lightning rod and — if my memory serves — she’s reduced to feeding people in this movie. (I may have to watch it again to be sure.) Unfortunately, to me, some of her later politics were heavily influenced by LaRouche, who I disagree with very strongly on several points; but, to have made her into a handmaiden in this story is to lie.

reply to  LaSargenta
Thu, Jun 18, 2015 1:32pm

I thought the movie would have been much more compelling, and complex, if we’d seen the King marriage from Coretta’s point of view. But the King estate might have taken legal action against it.