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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Where Are the Women? Return to Sender

Where Are the Women Return to Sender

Falls into a trap that ensnares too many movies about women: that they are only worth telling stories about when they are the victims of gendered violence.

BASIC REPRESENTATION SCORE: +25

+25
Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]

FEMALE AGENCY/POWER/AUTHORITY SCORE: +3

+1
Is there a female character with insignificant screen time in a position of authority? [why this matters]


+2
Is there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]

THE MALE GAZE SCORE: 0

[no issues]

GENDER/SEXUALITY SCORE: -3

-3
Is a dead mother mentioned? [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
This film falls into a common trap: that getting raped is something that makes a woman “interesting” or worth telling a story about. This doesn’t automatically preclude a compelling story or character, but in this case, there is nothing to the protagonist’s life as far as this movie is concerned except her rape and how she reacts to it.
-5
One supporting female character is defined entirely thus: She is a fat woman who is constantly eating.

TOTAL SCORE: +10

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

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? Yes, one of two credited (Patricia Beauchamp) (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: This is a story about a woman, but it falls into a typical trap that ensnares too many movies about women: that they are only worth telling stories about when they are the victims of gendered violence.


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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Return to Sender! 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 Return to Sender.

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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