Gender and Film

The story of genre theory and gender starts with the feminist project based on the ideological and Freudian-Lacanian-inspired genre theory that sought to find the dominant. Mulvey’s ([1975] 1992) much-quoted essay combined elements from all aspects of the ideological genre theory, but with the aim of demonstrating the male dominance of the feminine in mainstream Hollywood. She pointed to the male gaze and the feminine characters as the looked-upon object, and she also described the asymmetric relation of active/passive roles. But Mulvey’s article did not just open the feminist critique of male dominance, but also the demand for another esthetic, a feminist countercinema. Eventually it also led to the investigation of subversive female readings of classical genre films, most notably ‘women’s films,’ e.g., melodrama or film noir as it is very broadly demonstrated in Gledhill’s (1987) anthology on melodrama and women’s films and Kaplan’s ([1978] 1998) on women and film noir, in which prominent feminist film genre critics, e.g., Mary Ann Doane, Tania Modleski, and Annette Kuhn, figure. Later feminist writers have directly entered more action-oriented and excessive ‘body genres,’ such as Williams studying pornography, horror, and melodrama (Williams 1989) or Clover’s (1992) thorough study of the horror genre. And just as feminist criticism has opened towards seemingly more ‘masculine genres’, gender studies of film genres have also included studies of gay and lesbian films or gay and lesbian aspects of mainstream genre films.

Feminist Criticism

Feminist criticism is the analysis that arises from the viewpoint of feminism, ​feminist theory, and/or feminist politics.

Critical Methodology

A feminist literary critic resists traditional assumptions while reading a text. In addition to challenging assumptions which were thought to be universal, feminist literary criticism actively supports including women’s knowledge in literature and valuing women’s experiences. The basic methods of feminist literary criticism include:

  • Identifying with female characters: By examining the way female characters are defined, critics challenge the male-centered outlook of authors. Feminist literary criticism suggests that women in literature have been historically presented as objects seen from a male perspective.
  • Reevaluating media and the world in which it is read: By revisiting the classics, the critic can question whether society has predominantly valued male authors and their works because it has valued males more than females.

Embodying or Undercutting Stereotypes

Feminist criticism recognizes that literature both reflects and shapes stereotypes and other cultural assumptions. Thus, feminist criticism examines how works embody patriarchal attitudes or undercut them, sometimes both happening within the same work.

Feminist theory and various forms of feminist critique began long before the formal naming of the school of literary criticism. In so-called first-wave feminism, the “Woman’s Bible,” written in the late 19th century by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, is an example of a work of criticism firmly in this school, looking beyond the more obvious male-centered outlook and interpretation.

During the period of second-wave feminism, academic circles increasingly challenged the male literary canon. Feminist criticism has since intertwined with postmodernism and increasingly complex questions of gender and societal roles.

Tools of the Feminist Literary Critic

Feminist criticism may bring in tools from other critical disciplines, such as historical analysis, psychology, linguistics, sociological analysis, and economic analysis. Feminist criticism may also look at intersectionality, looking at how factors including race, sexuality, physical ability, and class are also involved.

Feminist criticism may use any of the following methods:

  • Deconstructing the way that women characters are described in novels, stories, plays, biographies, and histories, especially if the author is male
  • Deconstructing how one’s own gender influences how one reads and interprets a text, and which characters and how the reader identifies depending on the reader’s gender
  • Deconstructing how women autobiographers and biographers of women treat their subjects, and how biographers treat women who are secondary to the main subject
  • Describing relationships between the literary text and ideas about power and sexuality and gender
  • Critique of patriarchal or woman-marginalizing language, such as a “universal” use of the masculine pronouns “he” and “him”
  • Noticing and unpacking differences in how men and women write: a style, for instance, where women use more reflexive language and men use more direct language (example: “she let herself in” versus “he opened the door”)
  • Reclaiming women writers who are little known or have been marginalized or undervalued, sometimes referred to as expanding or criticizing the canon—the usual list of “important” authors and works (Examples include raising up the contributions of early playwright ​Aphra Behn and showing how she was treated differently than male writers from her own time forward, and the retrieval of Zora Neale Hurston‘s writing by Alice Walker.)
  • Reclaiming the “female voice” as a valuable contribution to literature, even if formerly marginalized or ignored
  • Analyzing multiple works in a genre as an overview of a feminist approach to that genre: for example, science fiction or detective fiction
  • Analyzing multiple works by a single author (often female)
  • Examining how relationships between men and women and those assuming male and female roles are depicted in the text, including power relations
  • Examining the text to find ways in which patriarchy is resisted or could have been resisted

Feminist literary criticism is distinguished from gynocriticism because feminist literary criticism may also analyze and deconstruct literary works of men.


Gynocriticism, or gynocritics, refers to the literary study of women as writers. It is a critical practice exploring and recording female creativity. Gynocriticism attempts to understand women’s writing as a fundamental part of female reality. Some critics now use “gynocriticism” to refer to the practice and “gynocritics” to refer to the practitioners.

American literary critic Elaine Showalter coined the term “gynocritics” in her 1979 essay “Towards a Feminist Poetics.” Unlike feminist literary criticism, which might analyze works by male authors from a feminist perspective, gynocriticism wanted to establish a literary tradition of women without incorporating male authors. Showalter felt that feminist criticism still worked within male assumptions, while gynocriticism would begin a new phase of women’s self-discovery.

Feminist Film Theory

Feminist Film Theory

Feminist film theory has emerged in the past 20 years to become a large and flourishing field. Its dominant approach, exemplified by such journals as Screen and Camera Obscura, involves a theoretical combination of semiotics, Althusserian Marxism, and Lacanian psychoanalysis. On this view, human subjects are formed through complex significatory processes, including cinema; traditional Hollywood cinema’s “classic realist texts” are purveyors of bourgeois ideology. Added to this theory by Laura Mulvey’s now-classic essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” [Mulvey, 1975], was the feminist claim that men and women are differentially positioned by cinema: men as subjects identifying with agents who drive the film’s narrative forward, women as objects for masculine desire and fetishistic gazing. Mulvey’s essay is heavily invested in theory. It is cited as “the founding document of feminist film theory” [Modleski 1989], as providing “the theoretical grounds for the rejection of Hollywood and its pleasures” [Penley 1988], and even as setting out feminist film theory’s “axioms” [Silverman, quoted in Byars 1991]. Mulvey assumed a general picture of cinema as a symbolic medium which, like other aspects of mass culture, forms spectators as bourgeois subjects. She used Lacanian psychoanalysis to ground her account of gendered subjecivity, desire, and visual pleasure. Mulvey allowed little possibility of resistance or critical spectatorship, and recognized no variations in structure or effect of realist cinema. Unsurprisingly, her view has been much criticized and further refined, as writers (including Mulvey herself) have noted issues raised by differences among women, phenomena like male masochism, or genres that function in distinctive ways, such as comedy, melodrama, and horror. Still, writers in feminist film theory commonly assume Mulvey’s basic parameters and take some version of psychoanalytic theory as a desideratum. Key issues are often seen only in terms of some refinement or qualification of psychoanalytic theory. Thus Barbara Creed’s book The Monstrous-Feminine argues that the fact that women in horror films are often not victims but monsters “necessitates a rereading of key aspects of Freudian theory, particularly his theory of the Oedipus complex and castration crisis.” [Creed 1993] Creed turns instead to Kristeva’s theory of the abject and the maternal. Far less often, Mulvey’s critics have adopted more sharply different theoretical bases such as cultural studies, identity politics, deconstruction, or the philosophy of Foucault.

The resulting “theory” in feminist film theory is peculiar. What justification does a specifically feminist theory have for adopting the patriarchal theory of psychoanalysis? Why is theory needed at all; what is it a theory of or about? What are its data; do they supply evidence in a non-circular way? How is theory related to feminist action and social change? What is the relevant theory of feminism itself? Theory has usually been more problematic in feminism. Feminist philosophers question patriarchal theories and urge the need to link theory with practice. Jane Flax in Women Do Theory describes patriarchal theory as “territorial” or “entrepreneurial” ‹ something used to prop up forms of dominance [Flax 1979]. In the face of theoretical structures that are abstract, hostile, unintelligible, and disempowering, she says, women understandably panic. Similarly, feminist philosophers like Karen Hanson question why writers in film studies have assumed science as a paradigm of theory [Hanson 1995]. In doing so, they set up film theory as distinct from and superior or even foundational to film criticism. Theory stands somehow over and above the more primitive “data”: it is ideal, abstract, permanent, austere, universal, and true. Allegedly science/theory has the virtues of being unifying, coherent, well-grounded, and explanatory. But film theorists naively invoke concepts that are quite contested, such as explanation, justification, and systematicity. Nor is there operational agreement within the discipline for what counts as evidence, testing, or confirmation of a theory. This differs sharply from feminism’s more usual emphasis on the experiential.

As Hilde Hein notes, “Some feminists advocate a new definition of theory that decenters, displaces, and foregrounds the inessential and that does not flee from experience but ‘muses at its edges'” [Hein 1990/93]. Early feminists took consciousness raising as a model for feminist theory because it is necessarily both experiential and transformative. Feminist film theory however is often universalizing, and it makes use of complex language and alienating categories which deny women’s experiences as active spectators enjoying films or reading them critically. bell hooks argues for example that

Mainstream feminist film criticism in no way acknowledges black female spectatorship. It does not even consider the possibility that women can construct an oppositional gaze via an understanding and awareness of the politics of race and racism. [hooks, 1992/1995]

In sum, many feminists would criticize feminist film theory as overly abstract, totalizing, jargon-prone, and non-experiential. The dominant psychoanalytic focus has created a narrow framework for the analysis of subjects, pleasure, and desire, while alternative feminist accounts are not considered. For example, Silverman notes in Male Subjectivity at the Margins that “The implicit starting point for virtually every formulation this book will propose is the assumption that lack of being is the irreducible condition of subjectivity” [Silverman, 1992]. This approach is odd. Silverman posits a theory of the subject without saying why and without considering alternatives. Similarly, Mulvey posits a theory of desire and pleasure rooted in Lacan’s theory of the self and desire, a view stemming from a particular and highly contested philosophical tradition. To begin from a certain theory of the self or pleasure in interpreting film commits one in advance to categorizations that create the evidence that allegedly confirms them.

An alternative approach would ask how films depict the self and pleasure, or whether viewers can find gaps and ruptures in a film’s depictions. Feminist philosophers present alternative views about the construction of women as subjects of knowledge, vision, or pleasure. Carolyn Korsmeyer argues that feminist aesthetics offers a picture of emotional response to artworks different from the traditional one and from that employed in mainstream feminist film theory [Korsmeyer 1993]. Traditional aesthetics is problematic since it sought only a supposedly “disinterested” pleasure. But psychoanalytic theories of the emotions are also problematic: in treating emotions a matter of the unconscious, they ignore key questions about description, introspection, and moral recommendation. Feminist aesthetics by contrast holds that “perception and appreciation not only entail some particular social standpoint, but are also formed out of the responsive dynamic operating within an embodied viewer” [Korsmeyer 1993].

Philosophers of film can use philosophical defenses of the rationality of emotions to offer new, non-psychoanalytic studies of film pleasures. An emotional response to a film (or other artwork) can be rational, permitting positive claims about the viewer: that she is active not passive, cognizing not simply reacting, and potentially critical not simply absorbing ideological effects. Laurie Shrage argues that concentration on film texts has led to an universalizing of psychological subjects and an overemphasis on readers’/viewers’ passivitiy [Shrage 1990/1993]. Shrage proposes a contextual approach that recognizes considerable variation among an audience’s “cinematic habits.” Similarly, Flo Leibowitz [Leibowitz,1995] utilizes a rhetorical and cognitive approach, rather than a psychoanalytic one, to discuss processes of audience identification with certain forms of melodrama, which she thinks may be a form of rational reflection. And Noel Carroll [Carroll 1990/95] supposes that emotions are complex learned forms of behavior acquired from certain “paradigm scenarios”, and that film among other sources can offer such scenarios. Thus sexist films like Fatal Attraction present a purportedly valid but problematic paradigm scenario about the omnivorously sexual career woman, and about the “appropriate” level of male emotional response to such women.

Some feminist philosophers think that what is needed is not so much one feminist film theory as a number of strategies of feminist critical readings of films. Hanson mentions Stanley Cavell as an example of someone who offers deeply theoretical and philosophical readings by exploring films individually and attentively. While Cavell’s writings on film are idiosyncratic and not necessarily feminist, they offer a springboard for philosophical critiques of assumptions about subjectivity and pleasure still dominant in psychoanalytic feminist film theory [Cavell 1981, 1987]. For example, Naomi Scheman [Scheman 1988/1995] notes that Cavell offers broad and varied notions of the gaze and visual pleasure, enabling one to criticize Mulvey and reject her position that women are subjects or viewers only “in drag.” But Scheman also criticizes Cavell for reading films to uncover not a feminist but only a feminine gaze, one “conscripted” by a masculinist world. Scheman seeks a more promising form of female subjectivity in film, and cities Foucault’s point that dominant modes of secularity are quite complex and do “not define women as exclusively as either the seers or the seen” [Scheman 1988/1995].

Significant alternative feminist theories might also inform feminist film theory. Liberal, socialist, and postmodern feminism all suggest new questions and frameworks. Liberal feminism has emphasized traditionally female attributes in constructing alternatives to standard ethics, such as maternal ethics, the ethics of care, or lesbian ethics. These models may romanticize women, but they offer more complex accounts of the social nature of the self than the Althusserian-Lacanian ones, since the self is essentially configured in relation to others (mothers, children, sisters, friends, lovers). Alternatively, work by socialist feminists or feminists in cultural studies foregrounds the linked oppressions of gender, ethnicity, race, and class. Ann Ferguson in Blood at the Root describes women’s traditional unpaid forms of labor as a form of “sex-affective production” which has been exploited by men [Ferguson 1989]. Thomas Wartenberg draws on this kind of notion in offering a critical reading of White Palace, a Hollywood film which seems to attend to factors of class and ethnicity [Wartenberg 1995]. However, Wartenberg shows that the film relies on a stereotyped representation of the older, divorced woman, romanticizes the working class, and oversimplifies the nature of class divisions.

Postmodern feminists also present alternatives to a Lacanian-Althusserian theory of the self or subject, since they question standard notions of human identity based on categories of bodily integrity, race, ethnicity, class standpoint, or even gender. Identity is fractured by complex intersecting social technologies. hooks points to Julie Dash’s film Daughters of the Dust as exemplifying a specifically black feminist gaze. Other black writers similarly point to the complicated ways in which a specifically black female identity is represented in films. The postmodern approach to contemporary fractured identities takes filmic signifiers to be recirculated and utilized in a larger system of mass media and popular culture.

Alternatives to psychoanalytic feminist film theory raise new questions about the representation of women in films because of their different accounts of the self, agency, identity, and the cultural surroundings of the subject. They reflect more textured and nuanced views about the self’s complexity and emphasize the film viewer’s potential to construct critical readings. In so doing, they offer more scope for feminist social change than a view which maintains we are, in effect, products of the texts around us.

Feminist Film Theory in the 21st Century

Twenty-five years ago, at the time of writing, Patricia Erens, in her introduction to Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, wrote that “the rise of feminist film criticism is an outgrowth of the women’s movement, which began in the United States in the late 1960s, of feminist scholarship in a variety of disciplines, and of women’s filmmaking.” Less than twenty years after the publications of Molly Haskell’s From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women at the Movies and Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (the fortieth anniversary of which was marked in academic and public forums in 2015), Erens is already reflecting on the history of feminist film criticism at a moment when it was on the precipice of being both challenged and expanded by the rise in gender studies and media studies. As feminist film scholars looking back on these developments from our contemporary vantage point , it seems appropriate to consider what kind of challenges feminist film criticism may now be facing.

With the declining influence of cine-psychoanalysis and post-structuralist theory more generally, alongside the rise of television and media studies and the developments of gender and sexuality studies, it might seem as if feminist film criticism has been on the wane since the early 1990s. However, understood as a textual reading practice through which scholars and commentators alike mobilize a feminist frame for understanding popular cinema, one which is intertwined with feminist film theory, feminist cultural studies, feminist reception studies and feminist film (and other screen) histories, feminist film criticism’s legacy and continuing influence can be found anywhere that feminism and visual culture meet.

Feminist critical perspectives remain vital in feminist analysis of various forms of visual media. Moreover, with the growing profile of feminism in new media and journalism, there is widespread use of terms associated with feminist film theory; concepts such as “the gaze,” “to-be-looked-at-ness,” “monstrous feminine,” and “final girl” regularly appear in feminist magazines such as JezebelBitchBust, and Feministing. While popular feminist criticism is not in the business of providing in-depth readings of individual texts, criticism of patriarchal cinema and media culture is now widely generated by journalists and other cultural commentators who use feminist critical tools to question the circulation of sexist images and gendered value systems.

For feminist film studies, some of the most recent ground-breaking work has been on recovering women’s film history. The discovery of many women working behind the scenes in key areas—directing, writing, producing, owning studios—in Hollywood’s early/silent period has changed our standard view of that industry’s history, as has the ongoing discoveries of women working in early cinema around the world. Such investigations have returned feminist film studies to a focus on authorship that takes an industrial-historical perspective. The rise of feminist film history has also coincided with a social-science approach to gender inequality in Hollywood. Data reports on inequality in cinema have garnered high media profiles in recent years, prompting regular discussion about the lack of progress in raising women’s numbers in key production roles above 20%. Numbers can speak loudly, and they can also be (necessarily) blunt. But the numbers alone aren’t enough, and the lessons of history have not been learnt.

Despite the perennial anxiety expressed by film critics about the state of cinema (box-office receipts, dependence on franchises, digital piracy, the rise of quality television etc.), film still holds significant cultural value. We would argue this owes in part to (white) men’s ongoing domination of the industry. As such, feminist critical analysis of the representation of gender and other intersectional identities of class, race and sexuality in film has remained a key component of the feminist critical studies approach to postfeminist media. The scholarship on women filmmakers, likewise, continues to use feminist textual analysis to make the case for the cultural and historical value of women’s work even as we are routinely made aware how few have that opportunity.

The detailed work of film criticism may seem an outdated form of scholarship. Yet when engaged through a feminist perspective, film criticism notices the scandal of women’s marginalization. It responds to that marginalization in multiple ways—in detail, in outline, through engagement with history or writing about the contemporary moment. Motivated by an understanding of inequality and an interest in cinema, feminist film criticism offers a political as well as aesthetic response to visual culture.

Methods of Feminist Critique

The Male Gaze versus the Female Gaze

The “gaze” is a term that describes how viewers engage with visual media. Originating in film theory and criticism in the 1970s, the gaze refers to how we look at visual representations. These include advertisements, television programs and cinema.

When film critics talk about the gaze, they are often referring to the “male gaze”. But what does that really mean? And is there a female equivalent?

The “male gaze” invokes the sexual politics of the gaze and suggests a sexualised way of looking that empowers men and objectifies women. In the male gaze, woman is visually positioned as an “object” of heterosexual male desire. Her feelings, thoughts and her own sexual drives are less important than her being “framed” by male desire.

A key idea of feminist film theory, the concept of the male gaze was introduced by scholar and filmmaker Laura Mulvey in her now famous 1975 essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.

Adopting the language of psychoanalysis, Mulvey argued that traditional Hollywood films respond to a deep-seated drive known as “scopophilia”: the sexual pleasure involved in looking. Mulvey argued that most popular movies are filmed in ways that satisfy masculine scopophilia.

Although sometimes described as the “male gaze”, Mulvey’s concept is more accurately described as a heterosexual, masculine gaze.

Visual media that respond to masculine voyeurism tends to sexualize women for a male viewer. As Mulvey wrote, women are characterized by their “to-be-looked-at-ness” in cinema. Woman is “spectacle”, and man is “the bearer of the look”.

he male gaze takes many forms, but can be identified by situations where female characters are controlled by, and mostly exist in terms of what they represent to, the hero. As Budd Boetticher, who directed classic Westerns during the 1950s, put it:

What counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what she represents. She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does. In herself the woman has not the slightest importance.

This can be see in the different ways the camera repeatedly positions us to look at women’s bodies. Think of Rear Window (1954), for a literal framing of women’s bodies, or She’s All That (1999), which revolves around a make-over. For a modern example, the Transformers film series (2006-2014) presents women as sexual objects to be desired.

Filmmakers often attempt to avoid presenting female characters as “mere” sexual objects by giving them complex back stories, strong motivations and an active role in the plot of their story. Yet the masculine gaze is still commonplace. Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) has significant personal motivations, yet she is still clearly there to be looked at.

Although written 40 years ago, Mulvey’s essay still provokes strong reactions. One common response is that both women and men are objectified in cinema.

Isn’t Fitzwilliam Darcy as beautiful as Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC teleseries of Pride and Prejudice (1995)? Surely this indicates the presence of a (heterosexual) female gaze.

Such arguments don’t consider how insistently women are presented as sexual objects.

The Hawkeye Initiative is a project that draws attention to the different ways male and female superheroes are posed in comics and movies. Take this illustration as an example, which poses the male heroes of The Avengers in the same hyper-sexualized position as the film’s sole female protagonist, Black Widow.

The illustration makes a good point about double standards. But its humour derives from the fact that it is unusual to see men sexualised in the same way as women.

Another argument is that cinema doesn’t invite women to desire men’s bodies. Rather, female viewers are positioned to identify with a heroine who is herself desired by a man. According to this logic, it is not Fitzwilliam Darcy’s wet undershirt that inflames the female viewer in Pride and Prejudice. Rather, it is Darcy’s longing for Elizabeth that truly appeals.

Many films that represent women’s desire do so in “non gaze”-related ways. Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993) expresses the heroine’s passionate nature through the film’s famous score.

Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides (1999) conveys female experience through sound and visual aesthetics, portraying the teenage protagonists’ inner life. This scene uses warm tones (yellow, salmon), feminine symbols (flowers, unicorns) and music to express female adolescence.

Coppola uses a similar strategy in Marie Antoinette (2006), using florid set design to communicate women’s claustrophobic life at Versailles.

The argument that women’s desire is best expressed through sensation rather than a gaze may evoke the cliché that male desire is “visual” whereas women’s is “sensory”. But men’s inner lives have always been conveyed via sound and sensation. Action films like Rambo (2008) or Casino Royale (2006), for example, bombard the senses with male anguish and aggression.

So is there a female gaze? Certainly, beautiful men abound in cinema. But I’d argue that there is no direct female equivalent of the male gaze. The male gaze creates a power imbalance. It supports a patriarchal status quo, perpetuating women’s real-life sexual objectification.

For this reason, the female gaze cannot be “like” the male gaze.

Instead, films that center women’s experiences are deeply subversive. Films about women’s sexuality often face censorship ways that prove their subversiveness. Scenes that focus on female pleasure undermine women’s “to-be-looked-at-ness”. Censorship bodies like the Motion Picture Association of America, however, seem to treat female sexual pleasure as “more graphic” than expressions of male sexual pleasures.

Films like The Piano, In The Cut, or Marie Antoinette show that cinema can use music, erotic scenes and visual aesthetics to express a feminine point of view. In doing so, such films counter the gaze, depicting women as subjects rather than objects “to be looked at”. Whilst not replicating the male gaze exactly, they challenge the enduring dominance of masculine worldviews in film and media.

The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test, or Bechdel-Wallace Test, sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel‘s comic, the name of which Google won’t let me put on this page for inciting hate, in a 1985 strip called The Rule.

The Mako Mori Test

The Mako Mori test is a media test which analyzes films along the following lines: (1) at least one female character; (2) who gets her own narrative arc; (3) that is not about supporting a man’s story.

It was first proposed in 2013 by user chaila on Tumblr, in reply to another Tumblr user (spider-xan) who questioned feminist critiques of the depiction of women in the 2013 film Pacific Rim. The film, depicting only three women who do not speak to each other (thus violating the Bechdel test) but containing a strong East Asian supporting woman character (Mako Mori, played by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi), was seen by spider-xan as being a film which depicted the filmic rarity of a well-developed Woman-of-Color character; and spider-xan was thus reluctant to disregard the film’s merits.

In response, chaila supported spider-xan’s concerns and proposed a test which, unlike the Bechdel test, specifically addresses the character development of woman characters in film. It is not intended as an oppositional test against the Bechdel test, but as an extra tool for those seeking to analyze woman representation in film.

Where the Bechdel test emphasizes female relationships as ‘true’ feminist representations in film, the Mako Mori test would emphasize female independence and self-reliance, which, while still reductive and essentialist, would accept a broader range of feminist interpretation in film.

Case Study:

Harley Quinn


From The Hollywood Reporter:


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