Everyone Loves a Good Gender Bend.
I’m going to admit right off the bat that Hollywood has a serious issue when it comes to gender equality. More often than not women are cast as the sidekick, love interest or object of desire for audiences to lust after. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional sexy sidekick, Hollywood needs to make a sincere effort to give women roles with dimensionality to them, because when done right it can be absolutely amazing. Just look at Charlize Theron from Mad Max: Fury Road.
Fortunately, it seems like Hollywood is catching on (slowly but surely) and starting to produce some films that offer bigger roles for women; unfortunately, they’re being incredibly lazy about it.
Gender-Bending Reboots Look Like the Next Trend in Cinema.
Like anyone else, I love some good gender-bent fan art. However, the internet has taught us one thing when it comes to this trend, just because it’s popular doesn’t make it good idea to do it. After all, just look at the recent Ghostbusters reboot. Of course, there are those who hated it because they are actually misogynists who think women aren’t suited for the fictional job of catching ghosts, but a lot were upset because it wasn’t the movie they wanted.
The original Ghostbusters was a cherished franchised, beloved by millions, something that parents watched with kids to share in the joy of the series, and this new movie wiped the slate clean. Honestly, I think a film that focused on passing the torch from the old Ghostbusters to the new, more impressive generation would have been the kind of movie fans could have backed (even though there would still be plenty of trolls complaining about women sporting a proton pack).
Does the lack of success seen by the Ghostbusters reboot mean that gender bending isn’t a viable option for Hollywood? I don’t think it does. I think that it all depends on the property and how it is handled. Currently there are four predominant gender-bent reboots in development, Ocean’s Eight, Splash, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Rocketeer. From the limited details currently available, most seem to have solid concepts behind them.
Ocean’s Eight seems like a heist movies featuring a new gang that takes place in the universe of Ocean’s Eleven, and features an incredibly talented cast (Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, just to name a few). Splash was one of my favorites as a kid, but swapping out Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah for Jillian Bell and Channing Tatum respectively is pretty intriguing (maybe we’ll finally see a decent merman on the big screen for once). The Rocketeer seems like it’s more of a sequel than anything else, and the idea of a Cold War female Rocketeer taking up the mantle of the original doesn’t seem like a bad idea. The only issue I have is with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels which, from the limited details available, doesn’t seem like it needs to be a reboot at all. It could just as easily be a new concept entirely.
These four films might not seem as grandiose as a Ghostbusters reboot, because they’re a lot safer than what Paul Feig attempted. I doubt you’re going to have Splash fans launch a twitter campaign to destroy the movie before it even comes out. But at the same time these are movies that are going to put a lot more women in starring roles. Honestly, I would rather see new and original ideas for strong women, then again Hollywood’s recent love affair with reboots has left me desperate for new and original ideas in general. If they’re going to be rebooting everything right and left anyways, they might as well gender-bend some old roles because modernizing a film means embracing modern times and today women deserve good roles.
If you’re trying to add a fresh new take to something, gender bending is an incredibly effective way of doing that, especially because demand is rising to see more women in starring roles that don’t involve them being eye candy hanging on the arm of a male lead. However, I think it is crucial to keep in mind that gender-bending a character is not the only ingredient when it comes to the recipe for success. Like anything else, it’s a tool for effective storytelling, and one that should be wielded with taste and caution (bear in mind I’m referring to gender bending and not casting female leads in general).
Since gender bending and reboots go hand in hand (it’s kind of hard to gender-bend a completely original character, since the concept is essentially a re-imagining), I’ll say the same thing that I would about reboots in general, Hollywood needs to be extremely careful with what properties they reboot, and needs to know when to reboot, when to do a sequel, and when to leave well enough alone.