Female movie character rating scale

I keep a small notebook with me each year, a place to write down odds and ends that don’t go anywhere else (this year, for the first time, I made my notebook myself). In flipping this year’s notebook, I stumbled upon this scale for rating the presence and role of women in movies. I remember intending to post it–only somehow I forgot, until now.

I’m thinking 10 and up is a pass, and 9 is the near-pass it looks like.


0 – There are no women on stage. Anywhere. Apparently we’re on a planet populated solely by men. How we get more men from this starting place is never discussed.

1- A nagging wife here, a worried mother there, all left behind when the main all-male adventure begins.

2 – Of course there’s a woman in this movie! We need a victim to inspire the hero.

3 – A few women off in the background. Maybe they even get to speak, though they’re careful not to actually do anything that affects the plot.

4 – There’s a woman among the primary characters. Not sure why, though, since she doesn’t do anything to affect the plot either.

5 – She sure is spunky, though! And/or she’s the love interest. Either way, she inspires the hero in some non-victimy way. Isn’t that enough?

6 – There’s a woman among the primary characters, and she is the hero. Except she acts stupid whenever the male love interest shows up. Or she doesn’t act stupid, and so the love interest gets all insecure and he acts stupid–undercuts her, feels threatened by her, and so on. The movie eventually gets derailed into angsting about his feelings about not being the hero.

7 – There’s a woman among the main characters. And she does things! They’re still not plot-shaping things, but at least no one tries to make her feel insecure about doing them.

8 – There’s a woman among the main characters, she does non-plot-shaping things, and there are other women around for her to talk to about things other than possible love interests. This movie passes the Bechdel test. Probably only by the skin of its teeth, but still. Isn’t that enough?

9 – There’s a woman among the main characters, and she does plot-shaping things that truly matter. She’s still crippled by her role as not-the-designated-hero–she may be a professional spaceship pilot or dragon rider, but she’ll always slide on into the passenger seat when the hero shows up–but otherwise, she matters and she’s real.

10 – He’s the hero, but only because it really is his story, for reasons that make sense and are not in any way contrived. She’s a full and real character, she has agency and goals and dreams all her own, and the hero’s presence never undermines hers. Also, she’s not the only woman in the story, and the other women aren’t all villains or people who she conveniently never talks to.

11 – She’s a full and equal partner in the hero business, and when it really counts her partner (or partners) doesn’t just step in and take over. They’re a team.

12 – She’s the hero, and any love interests on stage do nothing to undermine this.

13 – She’s the hero, and any love interests on stage do nothing to undermine this, and her team of secondary characters includes other women who talk to each other and to her.

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