Monday, July 27, 2015

My Latest Imaginary Career

The new Ghostbuster reboot has been in the news for a while now, and while I'm definitely intrigued, it's not quite what I was hoping for. Because when I first heard that they were doing a new Ghostbusters movie with an all-female cast, what popped into my head was not a reboot, but a remake of the original film with a completely genderswapped cast. Everyone playing the same characters, from Venkman to Egon and so forth, but with actors of the opposite genders in the roles. I thought it would be a fascinating chance to see how different actors interpret the same roles, how scenes play differently based on how gender expectations play into our understanding of the tropes of filmed drama, and it would give a lot of talented women a chance to do bigger parts (and give some men a chance to play against type for a change).

And ever since I got it into my head, I haven't been able to get it out. I want to see Maggie Gyllenhall playing Quint to Jennifer Garner's Brody in a genderswapped Jaws remake. I want to see a version of 'Star Wars' where Lucy Skywalker destroys the Death Star, followed by a sequel where Hanna Solo flirts shamelessly with Prince Lee while he mumbles about how dirty his hands are. I want to see a 'Raiders' remake where Belloq forces Mario to wear a dress for her and it changes the whole meaning of the scene. I want to see all of Hollywood's blockbusters redone with female leads and male supporting cast members, if only because all the people who insist it's not a big deal when the women are reduced to bystanders at the climax of every film might understand the problem a little bit better when the guy screams for help and the woman saves him. I feel, very strongly, that this would be awesome and would make all movies better, not just the reboots but the movies that would be made by screenwriters and directors who saw the genderswapped versions and paid a little more attention to the characters they put in their own movies.

So yeah, all I need is a few hundred million dollars and the rights to Hollywood's biggest hits. Anyone wanna help me out on that?


Eric Qel-Droma said...

This is a great idea. I've argued this same basic idea about several different properties in conversations with my friends, but never on that scale. Well said (as always).

Anonymous said...

This is a terrible idea, but not because the idea itself is terrible.

I have long hated gender-switched remakes because, in most cases, the remakes present female characters which are even more stereotypically sexist and offensive than usual; these formerly male characters suddenly fail the five criteria you have periodically posted for Strong Female Characters, while the men who are "damsels in distress" are often so cartoonish that their cartoonishness actually reinforces the idea that only women can be helpless.

For an easy example, in the original Ghostbusters, part of the humor is the fact that none of the male leads is particularly handsome or sexualized and yet two of them are objects of attraction for female characters. In contrast, take a look at the poster for the remake, in which even the allegedly less attractive Ghostbuster (due to her being overweight) is still in actuality quite attractive. Similarly, the charismatic but not particularly attractive Sherlock Holmes (except in Cumberbatch's hands) becomes overtly attractive Lucy Liu when genderswitched, and frumpy Prospero becomes handsome Helen Mirren in the genderswitched version of Shakespeare's The Tempest. This sort of thing only reinforces the idea that only men are allowed to be ordinary looking in Hollywood.

Similarly, many of them depict the genderswitched women as strong only by surrounding them with inept or corrupt male characters, so that every male character in the picture is either a fool or a villian. The problem with this is that it reinforces the stereotype that women are capable of being strong ONLY when the men around them are weak and suggests that no woman can be strong in the presence of equally strong men -- a particularly hideous implication!

So while it would be awesome to see some well done genderswitched characters, the efforts almost always make things worse. The only well done genderswitched character I can think of off the top of my head is Dame Judith Dench's run as M.