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How Sexist Are This Summer’s Blockbusters? An Informal Ranking

9 minute read

It’s summer movie time again, and with the Cameron Diaz vehicle The Other Woman premiering Friday, it’s time to see what Hollywood’s take on 51 percent of the population will be this season. It’s no secret that women aren’t getting a fair share of worthwhile screen time in Hollywood: only 30 percent of all speaking roles belonged to women in 2013, even with huge hits starring women like Gravity and The Hunger Games. And summer tends to be the worst for women who are often relegated to playing a superhero’s damsel in distress.

But after The Heat’s success last year, it looks like we’re getting more women on screen—though that doesn’t necessarily mean more nuanced women. I’ve gone through the trailers for the big summer films starring the fairer sex. (I skipped movies like 22 Jump Street and Godzilla due to the total lack of women in the trailer.) And, wherewith my “woman rating” for each movie as “good,” “bad” or “ugly” based on the following factors:

  • How prominently the woman is featured in the trailer
  • How likely the movie looks based on the trailer to pass the Bechdel test—a handy metric that asks if two women talk to each other in a film about something other than a man
  • How original the female role looks
  • I have not seen any of these films, so I cannot judge them based on their quality. I also cannot predict if a movie like Walk of Shame is secretly a feminist manifesto that is being advertised as a movie full of prostitute jokes. I am basing my sexism analysis on the trailers alone. And full disclosure: I will see and likely enjoy many of the movies to which I gave “bad” or “ugly” ratings.

    The Other Woman (April 25)

    A romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton about three women who find out they are all dating (or married to) the same guy

    Ruling: UGLY

    It’s like they tried to write a script that violated the Bechdel test by stuffing as many blondes as possible in one movie and having them only talk about one (extremely sexy, plucked right from Game of Thrones) man the whole time. Sure, they’re getting their vengeance, but can’t they all just dump him? Does Cameron Diaz’s high powered lawyer character have time for this?

    The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2)

    The next installment in Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man series starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone

    Ruling: BAD

    I watched three different Spider-Man 2 trailers to find one where Emma Stone had more than one line to say. I was unsuccessful. At least in this trailer she and Peter have a “meaningful” interaction where he traps her with his web so she can’t follow him into a dangerous situation and then she accidentally yells out his secret identity. Damsels in distress are so useless. Please, someone give Emma Stone an Easy A-like script again. Free her!

    Walk of Shame (May 2)

    A comedy about a news anchor doing a—you guessed it—walk of shame starring Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden

    Ruling: UGLY

    Apparently every woman wearing a bandage dress has sex for money. I count six prostitution jokes in this single trailer. Pair that with the working-woman-learns-to-let-go-with-a-nice-guy cliché plot line, and you have yourself an “ugly” ranking.

    Belle (May 2)

    A biopic of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who was the mixed-race daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay and who helped influence her uncle Lord Mansfield to pave the way for slavery’s abolition in England.

    Ruling: GOOD

    The movie shines a light on a strong young woman who changed history. Bonus: she has things on her mind other than love (though, this being 18th Century England, that Jane Austen-esque aspect is part of it too).

    X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23)

    The time-bending prequel/sequel to previous X-Men movies starring Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry and about a million other people.

    Ruling: BAD

    The X-Men franchise really lucked out signing Jennifer Lawrence on before she got too big. I imagine now she’ll have an enhanced role in the ensemble film (she gets more air time than Halle Berry in the trailer, and Ellen Page is nowhere to be seen). Still, nothing in this trailer indicates that this movie will pass the Bechdel test. Plus, we can’t forget that Lawrence’s superhero “costume” is just a bunch of blue body paint.

    Maleficent (May 30)

    The untold story of the villain from Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning.

    Ruling: GOOD

    Yes! More movies about women villains, please—especially if they’re played by Angelina Jolie. Though Jolie action movies have been hit and miss in the past (Tomb Raider, Salt, Wanted), she’s still the go-to woman for such flicks. Let’s hope this movie opens the doors for other female-driven blockbusters (Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy could be a start) and a whole new genre of evil women movies.

    Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)

    Sort of like Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds: in a battle against aliens, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt discover that they’re caught in a time loop: every time they die in battle, they wake up in the past and must fight again.

    Ruling: GOOD

    It’s still a Tom Cruise action movie at heart. But Emily Blunt gets to wield a gun and train him in the art of killing off aliens. She’s even the one on that badass poster. She’ll probably end up falling for him, but, hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

    The Fault in Our Stars (June 6)

    A love story about two teens who meet in a cancer support group, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort

    Ruling: GOOD

    Pass the tissues, please. Every summer has to have a heart-wrenching, doomed romance, and who better to anchor this summer’s than Hollywood’s newest it-girl Shailene Woodley? Woodley is, by the way, growing into an awesome role model for young women.

    Tammy (July 2)

    After losing her job and finding out her husband had been cheating on her, Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) hits the road with her profane grandmother (Susan Sarandon).

    Ruling: GOOD

    This could be the worst movie ever, but the fact that Hollywood decided to trust Melissa McCarthy to carry a movie without a male co-star like Jason Bateman or even a “hot” female co-star like Sandra Bullock is a good sign for things to come. (Not that Susan Sarandon isn’t super sexy.) Of course, let’s hope it’s even funnier than The Heat or Bridesmaids—the funny female flicks that preceded it.

    Begin Again (July 4)

    A fired music business exec (Mark Ruffalo) “forms a bond” (read: helps professionally then probably falls in love with) a young singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley).

    Ruling: BAD

    I’m ambivalent about this clichéd romance where a man who is a mess is rehabilitated by caring for a talented woman. But I downgraded this trailer to “bad” because Mark Ruffalo could be Keira Knightly’s dad, reinforcing a greater trend of movies featuring older-guy, younger-girl couples—and never the other way around.

    Jupiter Ascending (July 18)

    A futuristic sci-fi flick starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum.

    Ruling: BAD

    I really want to give Jupiter Ascending the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ll eventually cut the Mila Kunis damsel-in-distress bit. This did come, after all, from the makers of the Matrix who gave us the badass Trinity character. Plus, Mila Kunis is literally the Queen of the Universe in the movie. And yet throughout the trailer, she’s being rescued or kidnapped or falling from things. Let’s hope for a twist ending.

    Sex Tape (July 25)

    A married couple’s sex tape disappears into “the cloud,” and they frantically search for it, starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel.

    Ruling: GOOD

    Say what you want about the premise—this isn’t how “the cloud” works—or whether it was actually a good idea to do a Bad Teacher reunion with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. At least Segel gets as naked as Diaz in the trailer (though Segel hasn’t exactly been nudity shy before). Plus, they’re equally dim-witted throughout the trailer, and that’s all we ask for. So hooray for equality in stupidity!

    Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1)

    Marvel’s first tongue-in-cheek superhero blockbuster featuring a talking raccoon and starring Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana.

    Ruling: BAD

    I’ve decided we’re past the point where we applaud superhero films just for having a woman in uniform instead of one in danger. That era ended with Black Widow in the Avengers films. Now, we have to hold superhero movies to a higher standard, and this trailer does not meet it. You have Zoe Saldana in your movie, and yet she doesn’t get a line in the trailer? You even showed her topless without giving her lines? That’s crazy! She’s arguably the most famous (visible) person in this film. (The actual most famous but non-visible people are Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel voicing a raccoon and a tree, respectively.)

    Lucy (August 8)

    A sci-fi action movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.

    Ruling: GOOD

    We’ve gotten a lot of fighting teen heroines lately: Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games and Shailene Woodley in Divergent. But we need a grown up version. With Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson proved she can be an action star. Now here’s her shot to carry her own movie. And nobody gives a movie gravitas quite like Morgan Freeman.

    Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22)

    The sequel to the crime noir action thriller Sin City, starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba and a dozen other celebrities.

    Ruling: UGLY

    Almost every woman in this trailer is wearing only a bra or bustier or leather outfit—basically all things you can find in a sex shop.

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    Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com