Gender Roles – Women
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Men
Gender Roles - Women: 5 Stars
Viola is an athletic, courageous and imaginative high school student who knows what she wants and doesn’t back down when an obstacle is put in her path. She learns some hard truths about gender roles in the opening scenes of the film - when her boyfriend Justin refuses to support her in trying out for the boys’ soccer team. She quickly realizes that there is sometimes a stark difference between what men are willing to say to women in private, and what they are willing to say in front of their male friends. But Viola doesn’t spend much time moping over Justin’s disloyalty. Instead she comes up with a plan to prove herself, and sees it through till the end.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 4 Stars
Viola spends a good portion of the film dressed as her brother, believing that a man’s body might open doors that a short skirt and a pretty smile won’t open. Unlike Monique or her mother, she sees beyond the fleeting power of sexuality and is aiming for bigger objectives. While she does eventually agree to attend her mother’s debutante ball with her prince charming in hand, it’s generally clear that she prefers her baggy uniform and a dirty field to princess dresses and heeled shoes.
Plot: 4 Stars
She’s the Man takes on the issue of equal support for female athletics, boldly asks whether women can compete on the same level as men, and encourages men of all ages to accept the changing landscape of gender roles.
She's the Man doesn't make Viola's journey easy. She struggles more than expected in keeping up with the stronger, taller male athletes at Illyria - and it's refreshing to see that the film doesn't gloss over the very real challenge that Viola is up against. To the contrary, she needs to work hard everyday to accomplish the goals she set for herself.
Gender Roles - Men: 2 Stars
Unfortunately for Viola, her new crush Duke isn’t much more sensitive than her old boyfriend, Justin. In one of their earliest scenes together, Viola (dressed as Sebastian), listens as Duke and his friends talk about how long Duke’s been waiting for an opportunity to move in on Olivia. They have no compassion for the fact that she’s just ended a relationship and is still healing from the break-up. In fact, they come across as predatory, looking to strike while she’s still vulnerable. Viola, on the other hand, immediately expresses some sympathy for Olivia, reminiscing on her own recent break-up. This was an ideal opportunity for Viola to encourage the guys to drop some of their bravado and show them that it’s safe to show their caring side. Instead, the guys stand up and walk away from “Sebastian,” acting as if there’s something terribly wrong with him for expressing his feelings.
While it’s recognized that most of these scenes are meant to be exaggerated and funny, there’s no reason that the gender roles couldn’t have been exaggerated and funny in the other direction, with the men learning to open up to Sebastian and embracing the freedom to finally do so.
Character Development: 3 Stars
Viola’s character is funny and engaging, but she's also a bit simple and flat. She breaks up with Justin over a relatively minor argument and never looks back. She makes a short speech to her new guy friends about how painful break-ups can be, and yet we don’t see her displaying any of the usual symptoms. She never pines over old memories or photographs, or questions whether she should give him a second chance. Similarly, as Viola’s wild plan gets further and further out of her control, we never see any indication that she’s struggling with the fallout or regretting her decision. While it’s important to have a strong female character for this type of a role, it's also important that she come across as real and relatable. And unfortunately,
there are very few real, relatable moments once Viola dons her wig and begins masquerading as her brother.
Love: 3 Stars
The love story in She’s the Man is meant to be funny and chaotic, but as a result, lacks anything resembling substance. Duke pines for Olivia up until he kisses Viola at a kissing booth. Somehow this one amazing kiss almost convinces him to abandon his pursuit of Olivia - until Olivia comes onto him at the gym. Duke then forgets all about Viola and becomes obsessed with Olivia once more. With the rate at which he alters his affections for the two women, it’s difficult to take him seriously anytime he expresses interest in one or the other. Viola, for her part, doesn’t seem to have learned much from her break-up with Justin and quickly falls head over heels for a man who doesn’t seem to know what he wants. For all the strength and bravado she displayed when breaking up with Justin, she has little shame or pride when it comes to going after Duke.
Family: 1 Star
The family dynamics in She’s the Man are a familiar cliché. Viola has an old-fashioned mother who is trying to push old-fashioned ideals on a daughter that would rather play soccer. Although some of this is used to highlight Viola’s strength in pursuing her goals despite the lack of any family support, it’s also discouraging that her parents don’t take her ambitions seriously.
Friendship: 2 Stars
She’s the Man does a great job of encouraging girls’ participation in athletics, and it’s probably not a coincidence that this atmosphere creates some of the healthier portrayals of female friendships in teen dramas. The girls support each other in standing up for their team and never spend a moment distracted by shopping malls or cute boys. It’s unfortunate these women don’t play a larger role in Viola’s story.
The solid female friendships in this film are also overshadowed by the shallow male friendships that Viola finds in Illyria. Duke, Andrew and Toby never have a serious discussion about women, competition, or anything else. Duke does eventually open up to “Sebastian,” but much of this is due to the fact that “Sebastian” is not truly a guy. Underneath her disguise, Viola is still a woman who is willing to share her feelings, and create a safe environment for Duke to share his.