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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Where Are the Women? Paper Towns

Where Are the Women? Paper Towns

Wants to tell a story about how young women are people… which it does by removing the main female character from the narrative for half of the film.


Is there a manic pixie dream girl? [why this matters]


[no significant representation of women in authority]


[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 there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children? [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 a woman isn’t exactly kidnapped in order to motivate a male protagonist [why this is a problem], a woman does disappear mysteriously, and this motivates the male protagonist to try to find her. Why she disappears is explicitly described as not the purpose of this story; the movie wants to be very clear that this story is not about her at all.


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: Wants to tell a story all about how young women are people with their own hopes and dreams, like young men have, who are confused and uncertain about their lives and the world, like young men are, and are not fantasy objects for young men… and it does it by outright refusing to let the main female character speak about her life, and actually removes her from the narrative for half of the film while the male protagonist pursues her like a fantasy object. This takes the lack of female representation onscreen to an obnoxious new level.

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

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

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

  • Bluejay

    (Spoilers) I think another way the film falls down is with the other female characters, Lacey and Angela. Lacey is first introduced as this beautiful, unattainable being that Ben pines for, then later reveals that she resents being thought of as just a beautiful face — she’s a real person too! — but then spends the rest of the film playing the role of the beautiful girl who sees Ben’s worth as a person and falls in love with him. Nerdy guy gets unattainable girl after all. Angela’s role is expanded from the book — she actually gets to join the road trip in the film — but she’s basically the supportive girlfriend who helps Radar get over his insecurities.

    The film tries to say “women are people” but tells a story that isn’t really ABOUT them. It tries so hard, and just shoots itself in the foot.

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