Where Are the Women? Shaun the Sheep Movie


A couple of sheep in human-female drag are essential to the plot of this kids’ flick… whose central characters — human and farm animal alike — are all male.


[no significant representation of girls/women]


[no significant representation of women in authority]


[no issues]


Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [why this matters]
In a way essential to the movie? [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? No (does not impact scoring)

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

BOTTOM LINE: As with so many children’s movies (same as grownups’ movies!), characters default to male most of the time. The two main human characters here — the Farmer and the Animal Control Officer — are male, and even among the animals, the sheep protagonist and the dog sidekick are both male. (Among the rest of the flock, one sheep is identifiable as female because she’s mother to a tiny sheep — hence equating femaleness with motherhood — and because she wears hair curlers on her head, which underscores that that femaleness may defined as “deviation from a neutral maleness.” The genders of the other sheep are not cued in any way, implying that gender doesn’t matter, unless that gender is “female.”)

The major issue with gender representation here is that a joke essential to the plot requires that the Animal Control Officer be romantically attracted to a couple of sheep dressed up like a human woman, which serves to make the Animal Control Officer look stupid (he’s the villain and is meant to be ridiculous) but which also renders signifiers of femaleness as ridiculous as well, in a way that simply is not applicable to the other sheep dressed up in non-female-coded human clothing. (Try to imagine a plot point revolving around a human woman being attracted to a couple of sheep dressed up in a business suit. As a joke, it doesn’t work, because there’s no perception of anything comic in a business suit, even worn inappropriately, the way there is in a flowered skirt and a handbag.)

I am almost tempted to deduct points because there’s no reason why the protagonist and titular character couldn’t have been female, except that the central character springs from a pun (“Shaun” taken as “shorn”) that makes it inevitable that the sheep hero be male. But I do wonder how much the fact that the joke works as a male name — hence creating a male protagonist — contributed to the premise ending up as a TV show in the first place!

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

Click here for the ranking of 2015’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Shaun the Sheep 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 Shaun the Sheep 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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