With cinematic studios producing gender-swapped remakes such as Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Eleven, it generates a discussion on whether this is a positive way to progress women in film or if it the potential hindrance to them is too risky. There is no doubt that even if there are strong and exciting elements to the highly anticipated remake of Ocean’s Eleven, it will not escape the harsh criticism when placed alongside the original with an all-male cast.
“We have seen and celebrated the huge success of Wonder Woman made by DC, however, there is no denying the sense of nervousness that women around the world collectively felt.”
It seems that gender-swapped roles in recent times have generated discussion about the margin of available big roles there are for actresses. These roles provide inspiration for young girls, while demonstrating to producers and Hollywood that women at the centre can – and do – succeed in the film industry. However, I argue that such roles do not either progress women in film nor hinder them. The roles do not help them stand separately. Instead, it appears possibly more beneficial for actresses to have personal stand-alone protagonists (rather than ones previously acted by a man) and powerful action characters.
“It was a deciding moment that would see whether it would be the start of more films like this”
This stance is supported by the fact that there is a widespread feeling that remakes are generally poor; no one openly wants a remake of their favourite hit-film. We have seen and celebrated the huge success of Wonder Woman made by DC, however, there is no denying the sense of nervousness that women around the world collectively felt. This was because this was not yet another Spiderman whereby if it flopped it would not really matter. No, this was a pivotal moment in which Wonder Woman did not have the luxury to flop. It was bearing a heavy responsibility for whether more films with a strong and authoritative female lead would be given the green light. It was a deciding moment that would see whether it would be the start of more films like this or if such films would disappear from screens altogether. There is no question that the industry should not work this way, yet it does. This is why gender-swapping roles need not be, since is seems to be a lacklustre solution for getting more roles for women whereas the solution should be getting new scripts with female leads in a similar way to Wonder Woman.
Gender-swapping new scripts or (even better) having new scripts with a female lead in mind, would be a vast improvement on the way studios currently approach the gender discussion. By only swapping old scripts, it automatically sets up female-led films to fail and is therefore an unfair ‘solution’. It is evident that gender-swapping is not the main issue here; instead it is the remake factor that causes confusion. Of course, we need more roles for women but whilst there is a shortage of scripted female-leads, we need more producers to take on new films but say they are gender-swapping it from the outset.
One of the most prominent examples of leading female roles is that of Sigourney Weaver’s in the 1979 film Alien which was initially written for a man, but is now one of the most remembered female cinematic heroines. This are the kind of roles we need to have, not remakes of James Bond with the eponymous character being gender-swapped. Whilst it may be interesting to see a great spy film with a female lead, this does not mean we have to use an established male character to help fill this role – especially as this character was written by Ian Fleming to be a man. The background and story must be considered before characters are swapped.
“The recent buzz about remaking the Lord of the Flies with the children as girls and not boys just does not work”
If pressed to answer whether the risk is worth taking, I would hesitantly say yes however, it would be better to go about this differently and have studios produce new films with female leads. If gender-swapped roles are to continue before big-studios realise that people do want to see new female-led films, they have to ensure this change is relevant. For example, the recent buzz about remaking the Lord of the Flies with the children as girls and not boys just does not work. The entire premise is that public schoolboys of that era were raised in a way that would result in the events of the novel and this just would not have happened with girls. Therefore gender-swapping in films is a road that needs to be carefully treaded.