5 Reasons DREDD Is Secretly One Of The Greatest Feminist Films Of The Decade

I’ll be honest; I had zero interest in watching Dredd. It was my husband who really wanted to go this thing. Having never read the comics, my only knowledge into the world of Mega-City One was from the spectacularly awful 1995 film Judge Dredd, which, despite being unintentionally hilarious, was not what I would call a “must-watch” film.

Very nearly worth watching for the power of that cod-piece, though. Very nearly.

Add that to a trailer that was lack-luster at best, and I just wasn’t feeling it. However, I have a hard time telling my husband no, because his face is cute, and he really wanted to see this movie and wanted me to go with. So, off we went to see Dredd.

Internet, I was wrong. So wrong.

Dredd is a really good movie, and I’m not even saying that in a good-for-an-action-movie way. It is just straight-up enjoyable. Good music, truly bitchin’ effects, and in this age of bloated, messy storylines, a solid script that is refreshingly tight.

Just like those pants. Give that seamstress an Oscar.

The most surprising thing for me, though, was how great it was viewed from a lady perspective. For those of you who are skeptical, allow me to break it down.

5. Lena Heady Is Strong, Scary, And Not That Sexy For Once

Not saying I don’t enjoy seeing a man nearly killed by pure thigh power, Just would like to see a bit more variety, that’s all.

A female villain is not a rare character to see. One who doesn’t rely a good deal of sex appeal to throw the hero off guard, that one is a little harder to find.

Ma-Ma is a lot of things: strong, calculated, crazy as two squirrels stuck in a sock full of bees, but not sexy. Like, so not sexy that even soaking wet Lena Heady in a slow-motion glittery bathtub was not titillating in the slightest.

This is the face of a woman who does not need a deep V-neck sweater to help her get things done.

It is refreshing to see a woman be just as brutal and intimidating as dudes typically are in these types of roles. She pistol whips people twice her size, indiscriminately kills to prove a point, and does not give two shits about how she looks while doing it.

4. The Uniform Is Actually Not Stupid

As we all know, bikini armor, though striking and distracting, doesn’t necessarily protect essential things, like organs. Dredd is a film that appreciates their characters wanting to live, and this is showcased in the uniform. In addition, there really is not a “male” versus “female” uniform.

Really, the main difference here is that Dredd has a little bit of wiggle room in an area that needs some wiggle room.

These uniforms are utilitarian. No boob plates nor any unnecessarily exposed skin. Not that Urban and Thirlby look bad in these outfits. They are pretty people whatever you put them in. The point is, however, that the Judge uniforms were not built to be titillating, for either gender, but to keep bullets from killing you, which is pretty great when you consider a Judge’s line of work.

3. The Lady Actress Does Not Have The Hots For The Dude Actor And Vice Versa

Despite the matching leather outfits, Dredd and Anderson have absolutely zero romantic interest or chemistry. They are professionals on a mission and that’s it. No tension, no lingering passion. The drama comes strictly from trying very hard to not get shot in the face.

And also from shooting others in the face.

As a professional myself (not the shooty kind, more like the cubical kind) it is good to see a normal working relationship between team members. The majority of the population is completely capable of getting their job done without also wanting to get the naked with their attractive co worker. This actually makes the two of them much more relatable than other films with opposite sex team-ups, despite the fact that they are working in a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland tracking down a drug lord and one is also a psychic. One a side note, this seems to be a trend that is catching on. Pacific Rim and the new Mad Max are excellent examples of platonic, bad ass team-ups of collective lady and dude awesomeness. Keep going, Hollywood, I would like to continue giving you money for more movies just like these.

2. Dredd’s Boss Is This Woman And It’s Not A Big Deal


In addition to Rakie Ayola playing the Chief Judge, in the world of Mega-City One, the word “sir” has changed to a title, rather than a gender-specific term.

I actually hadn’t thought of it until I started writing this piece, but both of the leader figures in Dredd are women. At no point is it an issue that either one of these women are, in fact, women. They are simply respected and listened to, without anyone bringing up any gender-fueled tensions. Of course, one of them is a homicidal psychopath, but still, you can’t deny that she’s an effective leader.

1. Anderson Has A Character Arc

One hundred percent, certified bad ass.

Dredd is an immovable force. He is essentially a plot device in of himself; the paradigm of unchanging lawful good. He is not capable of having character development. Anderson, however, is.

She begins the film nervous and unsure, timid and afraid of action. This is not how she ends. Anderson proves that although Dredd knows the law, she knows what is right, and she is strong enough and smart enough to know what to do and how to do it. This film is essentially a character study of her becoming a Judge, arguably a better one than Dredd could ever be.

As a feminist, Dredd was a joy to watch. All too often, I think we focus on the bad examples that exist in film, and although there is a lot to pick on as far as that goes, there is a growing number of films that are breaking out and showcasing women as powerful. I am one of those who would love to see a sequel to see more of Olivia Thirlby and Karl Urban kicking butt, but if this film is just the beginning of others like it and not necessarily a continuation of this story, as it seems to be, I’m still a happy camper.

Agree or disagree, Dredd fans? Let us know in the comment section below!

  • Dave Wilson

    points well made and yes very refreshing to see in a film, however I disagree one a minor point:

    ****spoiler if you haven’t watched this kids, you have been warned!****

    “He is essentially a plot device in of himself; the paradigm of unchanging lawful good. He is not capable of having character development. ”

    If he didn’t develop, Anderson wouldn’t have got that pass in the end. The development is “sometimes, just sometimes, the spirit beats the letter”

  • Richard Shenton

    Some good points made however i would disagree on some , firstly anderson is more the lawfull good and a case can be made for dread being Lawfull neutral he dose know whats good but he he will stick to the law, he is ultimatley a fascist. Better than dredd ? debatable , in the long run she dose become a good Judge in her own right but she is definately different to dredd who is regarded as the number one judge and for good reason. To say Dredd dose not have any ability to have character development is also wrong , even in this film it is hinted under the controll and anger there is something else .. and if we are to draw from the 2000ad background he dose question and grow as a person and is deeper than this film had the chance to depict. The lady has never read any of the 2000ads so we can let it go to ignorrance that she feels dredd is limited.

    • Akseli Eskolin

      I think you are spot on. But we have to consider in context that the author has never read the comics which affect her knowledge of the background but that is probably how someone like that would see the movie. Dredd has always had a political undertone and the comics have always had a sarcastic view of American culture. In a way I am sad to say the old comics have on some points predicted the future of humankind pretty accurately.

      But going to the original point. Yes, Anderson in the comics were originally the goody two-shoes character that wanted to make a difference. Dredd on the other hand is all about the law. In the comics Anderson also learns from Dredd and becomes more like him to be more effective as a judge, but never leaving that “do the right thing” way behind which is her defining character. She learns to put her ideals aside to become better and more effective in her job. The same happens to Dredd too but the other way around. Anderson teaches him that there actually is more to being judge than just the law. He starts to actually think whats right and it is very well portrayed at the end of the movie. Learning that world is not just black and white and to give way to his sensitive side which is hidden deep in him is a huge part what made him to be chosen the Chief Judge in the comics.

  • MyBodyIsReady

    I’ve read this article months ago already. So either you stole it, or you’ve reposted it again for clicks, most likely because the new Ghostbusters just launched

  • Andy Saveloy

    Dredd is Lawful neutral he is not swayed by good or evil but the law, as in the comics he has had dealings with criminals but he knows they are evil but they haven’t broken the law so he won’t interfere, as for development he has changed over the years but essentially he is a fascist and the Judges run a dictatorship for the good of the people as they can’t be trusted which was touched upon in America and other stories, over all a Neutral character trait would prefer good neighbours to evil ones but it’s all about the Law with Dredd he is one of the best Anti Hero’s ever, you shouldn’t like him but you find yourself routing for him even though he is being a total fascist. and i felt the original comics back in the late 70’s and early 80’s had more political commentary about the state of British political system.

  • Geoclac

    Another interesting thing is that even the filmmakers do not focus on the women’s beauty for once.

  • Torva Tenebris

    Excellent article. Funny, entertaining, and some good points raised.

  • chris perez

    That the movie filled all the boxes on your feminist checklist is simple coincidence. If anything it shows that you really do know nothing about the universe it was based on. Dredd is like an emotionless machine in the comics which is why Karl’s performance was so good. Everything in the movie was accurately portrayed in regards to the source material. It’s still cool that you liked the movie as it was way better than the Stallone one.

  • JDredd

    How does any of this even remotely suggest the film is ‘feminist’? It means the film is well-written, nothing more.

    • Jenny Ford Hale

      You say that as though it is possible to produce a “well-written” film that reduces all female characters to place-holders, victims, and sex interests! I guess you could just have zero female characters, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about writing the female characters “well” … otherwise, to write well, you have to write the female characters as interesting, complete human beings, and that is the definition of feminist.

      • JDredd

        That doesn’t make it “feminist”. Hell, I could write a movie about fatherhood, involving a father who successfully fights for custody of his kid and isn’t an abusive alcoholic but that would make it a “men’s rights film”. It just means it’s well made.

        • Jenny Ford Hale

          Your description is just a plot line. It could be well made, or it could be stereotype-fuelled drivel. If the father was a complex character, just like the mother, and the father’s flaws weren’t seen as disqualifying him from parental rights, just like the mother, and the father was honoured and respected for visibly expressing his grief, fear, and insecurity, just like the mother, then it might be “well made”.

          Feminist films ARE men’s rights films. That’s the whole point of feminism – to free BOTH genders from the limiting roles forced on them by the archaic social system that we have inherited. The idea that treating both genders like full human beings is “anti-men” is PROPAGANDA designed to keep men trapped in the role of emotionless financial providers who compete in an endless game of one-upmanship until they die from a stress-related illness, because that makes them spend more consumer dollars. Fuck THAT. Let everyone be full human being.

  • ColmanWebster

    Anything is “feminist” if you try hard enough.

    That, or misogyny.

    It’s all arbitrary.

  • Robert Kohler

    Perhaps the reason it was a good film is because it didn’t give a shit about the identity politics and just focused on telling a good story.

  • John Doe

    I think it’s important to point out that one of the main reasons why it might have been one of the best “feminist” movies of the decade is specifically because they weren’t at all trying to do that. Anderson wasn’t written to be a female hero kicking butt in a man’s world. The Chief Judge wasn’t written to show how great women are as leaders. There is no dialogue where anyone doubts Anderson because she’s a woman, and there’s nothing that happens that shows she better because she’s a woman. It simply is never brought up, even tangentially. No part of the movie ever tries in any way to make this a “feminist” movie. It’s a story about a badass, and a rookie who learns to become a badass as well. If it weren’t for having to stay true to established lore and characters, they could have flipped a coin for each person to decide if they’re male or female and it wouldn’t have changed anything. That’s it. And that’s why it succeeds. Other producers and directors should take a hard look at Dredd when trying to make the next “feminist” movie. People don’t want a political message crammed down their throats or shoved in their faces for two hours. People don’t go to movies to be lectured or taught social lessons. They go to see good stories portrayed well that are fun to watch. Do those things, and most viewers will not only not care who is or is not a woman, they likely won’t even notice. That’s how you get past misogyny. You just get past it. You stop talking about it. You stop making it an issue. You just get past it and make it irrelevant. That’s what Dredd did and people loved it.