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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Where Are the Women? Jem and the Holograms

Where Are the Women? Jem and the Holograms

A female protagonist, a female villain, and a supporting cast made up almost entirely of other women. And their story is not about seeking romance!


Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]


Is there a female character (either a protagonist or a supporting character with significant screen time) in a position of authority (politics, law, medicine, etc.)? [why this matters]

Is there a female villain or antagonist? [why this matters]


Is a woman introduced by the camera crawling up her body (either front or back) from her feet to her head? [why this matters]


Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional or biological relationship with a child or children*? (*in this case, adult 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)

In a similar vein to the issue of a woman paired romantically with a man old enough to be her father [why this is a problem], here we have Juliette Lewis (b. 1973) playing the mother of Ryan Guzman (b. 1987). At only 14 years older than him, this borders on the preposterous, and is indicative of Hollywood’s disdain for casting women in age-appropriate roles once they’re out of their 30s. (An actor in her 50s or 60s would be more age-appropriate for this role, but that would be beyond the pale for the industry.)
In most movies featuring a “team” of characters, those characters are usually almost all male and fall into “types”: the leader, the nerd, the jock, and — sometimes — “the girl,” as if “female” were a “type” of person, and that no woman could ever be both female and a leader, a nerd, etc. Here, however, the cast is almost entirely female and they fall into team types: the leader, the hacker, the fashionista, etc. Most of these characters are not well developed, but a female team made up of women with different skills and interests is still a step in the right direction.


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

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

BOTTOM LINE: A female protagonist, a female villain, and a supporting cast made up almost entirely of other women who are defined as individuals with unique skills and interests. Even better, their story is not about seeking romance or having babies. This is how you represent women well onscreen.

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

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Jem and the Holograms! 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 Jem and the Holograms.

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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