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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

Where Are the Women? Experimenter

Where Are the Women? Experimenter

The only significant female character here is the male protagonist’s wife, who has little to do apart from acting as his cheerful, supportive helpmeet.


Is there a woman who is mostly pretty awesome and perfect who is present to support a man improving himself? [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 anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

Stanley Milgram’s classic experiment into human behavior — in which subjects are ordered to give electric shocks to a total stranger — is initially depicted as including only male subjects. After someone suggests that the experiment should include female subjects as well, women do begin to be included… but there is absolutely no discussion of why women were not included from the start or how the experiment’s results changed — or did not change — as a result of including women. It’s a particularly strange oversight given the film’s subject matter, yet one that highlights our cultural attitude toward maleness as the neutral human default.


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: For a movie about a man who studied human nature, almost no time is given to the fact that his best known project at first failed to include female subjects at all. And the only significant female character here is the male protagonist’s wife, who has little to do apart from acting as his cheerful and supportive helpmeet not only at home but at work as well: she is his research assistant and secretary.

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

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

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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