I know that the depiction of women in movies has become so fraught with controversy that filmmakers are forced to walk a very narrow line to avoid one cliché or another. So I try not to be too harsh about minor missteps. I try not to view every film through a warped feminism lens, snarking on every time a woman acts, well, womanly.
But something really bothered me about the women of Ender’s Game. This is a world in which everyone is unbelievably brutal and focused on winning at all costs. Except the women. Every single female character was a portrait of compassion and empathy, wanting nothing more than to take Ender by the hand and gently lead him on his path to greatness.
None of these female characters would be problematic by themselves. There is nothing wrong with depicting a woman as compassionate and caring. But this is the only way women were depicted in Ender’s Game, and it was a persistent theme even when it made very little sense in the circumstances.
Fourteen-year-old girls are among the nastiest beings alive (I know; I’ve been one). So why is Petra an angel of sweetness and light? Why is she so concerned about helping Ender and so little concerned with helping herself? Why are there no girls who seem to display even a smidgeon of the ambition and ruthlessness that characterizes all the men and boys in the story?
It’s been a long time since I read the book, so I have no idea whether the filmmakers were just being true to the source material. I’m criticizing the film as I saw it, and maybe I'm being too picky. But I wish they could have done better, especially since I liked the way they handled almost everything else. Sigh.