Where Are the Women? Moomins on the Riviera

Where Are the Women Moomins on the Riviera

The female characters adhere to gender stereotypes and maleness is the default. This cartoon is mired in the 1950s era of the comic strip it is based on.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +10

+10
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]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: 0

[no significant representation of women in authority]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -45

-5
Is femininity used as a joke (ie, a man crossdressing for humorous intent) in passing? [why this matters]
-20
In a way essential to the movie? [why this matters]
-5
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [why this matters]
-5
Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children? [why this matters]
-10
Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [why this matters]

WILDCARD SCORE: -15

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

-10
The animation here is a clear example of maleness as neutral and femaleness as Other. The character called simply “Moomin” who speaks with a male voice and is treated as male by the story is an unadorned hippo-like creature. To distinguish the other such creatures from him, “Moominmamma” wears an apron and carries a purse and “Snorkmaiden” has golden tresses and wears an anklet (she also sometimes wears a bikini, and both Mama and Maiden sometimes wear evening dresses, even though they all otherwise go around naked). That “Moominpappa” is also visually distinguished by the fact that he wears a top hat does not negate the fact that in the world of this story, neutral, normal, baseline equals male. Just one tiny adornment on Moomin — maybe, say, a wristwatch — could have countered this.
-5
The female characters here are almost universally the most blatant and reductive stereotypes: one young woman thinks the pirates who kidnapped her, kept her tied up, and abandoned her to seemingly certain death when their ship was sinking are “manly”; another young woman is obsessed with fashion, film stars, and staring at herself in a mirror; the mother character is always making tea, gardening, and worrying about her son and husband.

TOTAL SCORE: -50

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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, three of five credited (Annina Enckell, Hanna Hemilä, Beata Harju) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: With most of its female characters strictly adhering to outdated gender stereotypes and a visual design that depicts maleness as the default and femaleness as deviations from it, this cartoon, based on a 1950s comic strip, is very much a product of the time it was created in. Which doesn’t excuse the modern filmmakers, who adapted it without any apparent awareness of its issues or irony their depiction.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Moomins on the Riviera! 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 Moomins on the Riviera.

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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Russell Moxham
Russell Moxham
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:05pm

For the love of God, it’s the Moomins. There aren’t many tips on how to lag a boiler in the film either, because it’s the bloody Moomins. You might as well say there’s not enough green in the sky. Plus Tove Jansson was bisexual; I doubt she’d have had much time for your trenchant critique of the gender politics of a bloody kids’ story/film.

13thefreerunner
13thefreerunner
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:05pm

For the most part I understand where you are coming from. From what I’ve read you’re not much of a fan of Mama because she adheres to traditional gender roles. This is where I would have to interject and say that I actually believe that Moominmama isn’t some two dimensional housewife but instead a humble person who just likes to keep to herself. It doesn’t help that the over the top nature of the Riviera makes Mama double down on her attitude. The point is that Mama’s simplistic nature was a vital part to portraying the main conflict of the film. She is intuitive enough to recognise that the atmosphere isn’t for her then realises that there is no point in telling her husband that she is uncomfortable so she does what Moominmama usually does- make the most out a difficult situation and let the rest of the family figure themselves out.
How does she do this? By going to the beach and saying in more delicate terms
“fuck you guys, I’m making my preferred holiday at the beach making a wonderful rock display (Which I argue is a valid hobby) whilst y’all have to deal with those snotty twats and then we’ll see who comes crying”.
Moominmama comes off as a dishcloth but I see a resourceful woman who was important to the theme of humility vs glamour having her own fun by breaking away from a situation she was uncomfortable with and making the most out a tight spot. I guess I’m looking into it too deeply but I think her doing that is quite inspiring of course she’s no Ellen Ripley but I don’t think Mama is an awful character.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for SnorkMaiden. I like her character design, I find her endearing, her voice actress did an amazing job and her arch was the most interesting. I just wasn’t satisfied with her character arch and character in the film. Character wise, I found SnorkMaiden to have this abnormally low amount of introspection that makes me worry. I don’t mind what a female character does, is or believes in as long as they are capable of doing the things characters are meant to do which is to have the ability to learn and adapt like we humans do. The whole fiasco between her and Moomin could’ve work if by some chance they both realised that they made mistakes and worked on correcting those like a healthy couple would. But no sadly, she just floats between him and that Tresco in some unfortunate attempt at a “win back the girl plot”. I wouldn’t of minded the fact that SnorkMaiden was irrational and disregarded other people’s feelings at the begging as long as she was capable to learn from that experience.
Also, about the agency you haven’t forgotten about the fact that SnorkMaiden became a self made multi millionaire from gambling? I know it was a deus ex machima but I thought it worked to be frank.