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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

Where Are the Women? Southpaw

Where Are the Women? Southpaw

Women suffer, but their pain is not the point of the story, and their pain is nowhere as important as the pain a man suffers as a result of women’s pain.

Warning! Some of the details here may constitute spoilers for those not familiar with the story.


Is there a woman who is mostly pretty awesome and perfect who is present to support a man improving himself? [why this matters]


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

Is there a woman who dies (either onscreen or off) whose death motivates a male protagonist? [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 there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

While there isn’t a woman who is kidnapped as a way to motivate the male protagonist [why this matters], the male protagonist’s juvenile daughter is taken away by social services, which is functionally equivalent in that it acts as a prod for him to continue driving the plot and his own personal journey.

A key turning point in the plot revolves around threats to the male protagonist’s “ownership” of his wife (a rival gets a rise of out him by screaming “I’ll take your bitch”), which he treats as a provocation worthy of a serious response. While the film may not perhaps consider that we should sympathize with his reaction per se, it does invite us to see the results of his response as tragic, and we are meant to sympathize with that.

The film is generally good about not turning the bikini-clad “ring girls” — the women who parade the boxing ring holding up cards announcing the number of the upcoming round — into decorative objects; the camera does not focus on them or linger on them… except once, toward the end of the film, when the (male) director appears to give up trying to restrain himself and gives us a completely gratuitous booty shot of one of 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: Here we go again: women suffer, but their pain is not the point of the story, and their pain is nowhere as important as the pain a man suffers as a result of women’s pain. Women suffer so that men can become better people and do “great” things, while the women stand aside and look on adoringly. Oh, and when men and women suffer equally — as with the male protagonist here and his wife, whom we are led to believe had difficult childhoods as orphans in the New York City foster system — we must be sure to understand just how much the woman helped the man to escape his childhood and better himself. There is no need for us to understand how she managed to rise above the trauma of her childhood, or to know who helped her; perhaps she was perfect and pure and in no need of any help whatsoever from the very beginning.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Southpaw! 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 Southpaw.

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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