Where Are the Women? Into the Woods


With a female villain and multiple women who go on personal journeys, even in traditional roles as wives and mothers, they are fully human.


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 there a female villain or antagonist? [why this matters]


[no issues]


Is there a female character whose primary goal is to become a mother? [why this matters]
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children? [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: With a female villain and more than one woman who goes on a personal journey of discover about herself, even the traditional representations (as wives and mothers) of women are more fully fleshed out than movies have trained us to expect of late.

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 Into the Woods! 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.) My review of Into the Woods is coming soon.

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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Liz D
Liz D
Sun, Feb 22, 2015 5:20pm

I think I would’ve given this one wildcard points, to counterbalance the negatives for “female character whose primary goal is to become a mother”, because the male protagonist’s primary goal was to become a father too.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Liz D
Sun, Feb 22, 2015 7:23pm

Yeah, but that really has nothing to do with how women are represented on film. It’s a total cliché for women to desire motherhood, but men pining for fatherhood is not a trope.

Mon, Feb 23, 2015 12:40pm

I was shocked that as soon as Emily Blunt’s character moves beyond her wife/mother fairytale status, she dies – I am surprised that didn’t affect the film’s score here. I suppose her character only gains complexity by kissing a man, and thus is still defined in relation to men, but doesn’t that make it even worse? Or am I missing a deeply ironic commentary on the nature of folk tales?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  lescarr
Mon, Feb 23, 2015 7:03pm

If she were the only woman in the ensemble, that might be more of a problem. But there are lots of complex depictions of women here, so the overall affect is one that doesn’t pigeonhole women, as so many other movies end up doing.

Does she really move beyond wife status, though? Her epiphany is one about fidelity to her husband, after all…

Mon, Feb 23, 2015 1:53pm

Out of curiosity, MaryAnn, do you have any plans to do a full Into the Woods review? I know that’s probably unlikely since it’s already been out for a while, but Into the Woods has always been one of my favorite musicals, and I was curious to see your in-depth reaction to it.

reply to  DaFlipp
Mon, Feb 23, 2015 3:15pm

She says in the original post that her review is coming soon.

reply to  Bluejay
Tue, Feb 24, 2015 3:27pm

Oops, missed that – I thought that was just boilerplate “this is how these posts work” text and didn’t look closely. Thanks!

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  DaFlipp
Mon, Feb 23, 2015 7:04pm

Yes, I will. Yeah, the film’s been out for a while, but it’s still a new film. It’s not even on home video yet!

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Feb 24, 2015 3:27pm

Awesome, thanks!