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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Where Are the Women? Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter


This story could have worked in a similar way had the protagonist been male, but the fact that she is a woman brings in new levels of subtext and meaning.


Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]
Is she nonwhite? [why this matters]


Is there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]


[no issues]


Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children*? [why this matters] (*in this case, an adult child)


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

It’s made clear in the film that it is the specifically sexist pressure the protagonist is under that motivates her in her journey… and it’s open to interpretation that that sexist pressure might actually be driving her crazy.


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: While this story could have worked in a similar overt way had the protagonist been male, the fact that she is a woman brings in extra levels of subtext and meaning that would not be present at all (or would be quite different and cover already well-explored thematic ground) if the story were about a man, demonstrating that the very simple switchup in the gender of a protagonist can result in a uniquely fresh story that might have otherwise felt more familiar.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter! 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 Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter.

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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