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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? The Divergent Series: Insurgent


A female protagonist who encompasses the full spectrum of humanity is a smackdown win for the notion — often ignored by Hollywood — that women are people.


Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]


Is there a female character (either a protagonist or a supporting character with significant screen time) in a position of authority (politics, law, medicine, etc.)? [why this matters]
Is she nonwhite? [why this matters]
More than one (of any race)? [why this matters]

Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [why this matters]

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

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


[no issues]


Is a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]
Is a dead father also mentioned? [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)

While it doesn’t quite rise to the level of being problematically male-gazey, there is one sequence in which Tris is dressed in a sleeveless top with a low neckline that also bares her shoulder blades while the two men with her are wearing multiple layers of much warmer clothing (one them is wearing two shirts and a heavy jacket). Either the guys are sweating bullets, or Tris is freezing… and for no reason at all. Unless it is, in fact, meant to present Tris’s body for male-gazing in a PG-13 way. Worse, this wouldn’t have been an issue at all if the men had been wearing tank tops or form-fitting tees — and hence apparently dressed for the same weather Tris is dressed for — for the benefit of viewers who might like to gaze upon them!


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: The problems that the female protagonist faces here include acting as protector for her meek and passive brother, and enduring a test that puts her through trials that reflect all of the Factions her people get divvied up into… which means that she is specifically required to demonstrate the full spectrum of humanity encompassed in one individual. In an entertainment environment that often sees women as less than fully human, this is a smackdown win for the notion that women are people.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of The Divergent Series: Insurgent! 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 Divergent Series: Insurgent.

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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where are the women

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