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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Where Are the Women? Avengers: Age of Ultron

Where Are the Women Avengers Age of Ultron

Like many of the others in the Marvel franchise, this movie depicts women as well-rounded people with lives, stories, and problems independent of men.

Warning! Two small throwaway jokes — which are not at all connected to the plot — are spoiled in the Wildcard section.


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

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


[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 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)

It’s just a throwaway joke, but in one scene, Tony Stark and Thor engage in a bragging contest over whose girlfriend — Pepper or Jane (neither of whom appear in the film) — is more brilliant. I cannot recall ever seeing men onscreen clamoring to be seen as the partner of a more clever woman than another man, or boasting about their girlfriends’ professional accomplishments.
In the same scene, Stark makes an even briefer joke about “Prima Nocta,” the possibly apocryphal medieval law that allowed a nobleman sexual access to his female subjects, regardless of whether they were willing. Apocryphal or not, Stark is making a joke about rape. Playboy and rapist are not synonymous, and there has never been any hint before that all of Stark’s many partners were anything other than wholly enthusiastic.


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 multiple women in positions of authority and power, and one depiction of a relationship between a man and a woman (Hawkeye and Black Widow) that is strong and emotional but not in the least romantic, this film, like many of the others in the Marvel franchise, depicts women as well-rounded, fully human people with lives, stories, and problems independent of men.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Avengers: Age of Ultron! 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 Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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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