ByTom Cox, writer at
Staff writer for Moviepilot. Tweet me @thomascox500

I've just read a fascinating theory over at Movie Thoughts that completely changed how I saw Dredd. The article dissects the representation of the three main characters — Dredd, Anderson and Ma-Ma — to unearth a crazy insight into contemporary gender roles.

The sci-fi film based on the 2000 AD comic books Judge Dredd follows the judge on his violent law enforcement in a dystopian city in the smoking embers of America called Mega-City One.

Dredd (Karl Urban) is accompanied by his apprentice sidekick Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). The two attempt to bring blood-drenched order to a 200-story block of flats controlled by resident drug queen Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).



The article begins with the observation that Dredd never removes his helmet. He is always clad from head to toe in armor. And he never reveals any particulars about his past. Not so nuts huh, but The Movie Thoughts writer Clifford Bugle thinks that this means Dredd is the breathing incarnation of the law, his persona being as abstract as legal boundaries.

Unable to see his face it becomes impossible to ascribe him with any visual value as an individual. He is as anonymous as a stormtrooper. Bugle also pinpoints the similarity of Dredd's story with those in Western cowboy movies.


Bugle wrote:

The world of Mega-City One is depicted much like the old west, where the rule of law was not far reaching and anarchy was only one dead sheriff away, if it was repressed at all...Critic Robert Warshow articulates well the makeup of a character of this type, which he dubs the 'Westerner':

"What [the Westerner] defends, at bottom, is the purity of his own image — in fact his honor. This is what makes him invulnerable. He fights not for advantage and not for right, but to state what he is, and he must live in a world which permits that statement."


Having a name emblazoned on the badge on his breastplate doesn't so much give the judge a personality as distinguish him from other law enforcers, heightening his authority and strength as upholder of the law. He is a lone hero like the nameless sheriffs of Westerns.

Watch Dredd doling out justice:

Dredd is a literal symbol of the law.


Anderson never wears a helmet at all, as apparently it interferes with her ability to use telepathy. She has a personality that develops throughout the movie, unlike Dredd, as we can see her reactions.

As a result, Bugle says:

Anderson, by contrast [to Dredd], represents what modern patriarchy assumes is the quintessentially admirable female. Her individuality and what distinguishes her from everyone else — good or bad — [via her face] is hindered by an item meant to protect her.

The suggested results of this signify two notions:

1. To be independent from men women must shed practical things.

2. By losing this practical measure the woman is in greater need of protection from men.

Bit of a catch-22.



The other main female character, Ma-Ma the drug lord (lady?), is also much more defined as an individual — perhaps more so than Anderson, as her face is split by a scar.

In a male-saturated world, Ma-Ma rules an army and is completely autonomous. However, she adopts the male characteristic of seeing the world in positive or negative, black and white.

This reduction contrasts with Anderson. Bugle explains:

Anderson, by comparison, in occasionally showing hesitation, and through other such hints, shows to at least have the willingness to consider the world as being more complex than her job would have her acknowledge.

Bugle continued:

Simone de Beauvoir states in her book 'The Second Sex', “To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man.”

From this perspective, then, Anderson is a more favorable representation of womanhood than Ma-Ma because she is more greatly differentiated from Dredd, i.e. the epitomized male.

Dredd doesn't give the obviously sexist point of view of Dredd vs. Ma-Ma = good man vs. bad woman, because of the presence of Anderson.

The movie does show a man, Dredd, finding it impossible to have the same way of identifying himself as women.


Dredd is a powerful figure but a simplistic one; one who shares base characteristics with those in Westerns, which were made a century ago. Ma-Ma and Anderson highlight his flaws. He is incapable of baring his face as a person, instead retreating behind tradition and uniform, machismo and a helmet.

Bugle concludes:

This precarious scenario is an accurate illustration of the modern western man’s inner conflict while living in a post-feminist society.


Remind yourself of the movie with the original Dredd trailer:

Do you think Judge Dredd represents the modern man's inner turmoil?

Source: Movie Thoughts


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