Print Edition - 2018-06-06  |  Life & Style

Hollywood’s rush of gender-swap remakes


Jun 6, 2018-

From the polarising Ghostbusters remake to the controversy over female versions of James Bond and Doctor Who, Hollywood’s proclivity for gender-swapped retreads is among its most enduring and contentious.

The trend—seen as empowering or annoying, depending on who you ask—is getting fresh attention with Ocean’s 8 due for release on Friday, Overboard still in theatres and What Men Want coming out in January.

There’s nothing new in Hollywood, and gender-swapping has been popular since Howard Hawks cast Rosalind Russell for His Girl Friday (1940) in a part played by a man in the source movie, The Front Page (1931).

A slew of female-led remakes followed—from The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) and The Next Karate Kid (1994) to American Psycho II: All American Girl (2002) but were largely seen as pale imitations.

Ghostbusters (2016) could well be studied in future film history classes for the bizarre backlash it received from the legion of ‘ghostbros’ who swore lifelong loyalty to the 1984 original. Much of the criticism was grounded in straightforward misogyny—with a certain kind of male moviegoer scandalised both by the presumption of a remake and by the very idea of women trying to be funny.

With two months to go until its release, its trailer had become the ninth most-disliked YouTube video in history, with over one million users down-voting it into oblivion.

Various entertainment media estimated the eventual losses for Sony and its partners at somewhere in the $55-75 million region, despite the film garnering mainly positive reviews.

The fact that these movies keep coming out despite the missteps is a sign of progress and a “minor miracle,” according to Kelly Konda, of the We Minored in Film entertainment blog. “This used to be a one-and-done ordeal... However, with ‘Ghostbusters,’ Hollywood took a big swing on a female-led project, and didn’t overreact to its failure,” he wrote. Some Hollywood watchers have argued that while female-flipping may seem progressive, in reality it militates against those really fighting pay inequality, harassment and other forms of sexism.

“Even though I can get excited for a movie like ‘Ocean’s 8’... at the end of the day it still seems to signify that women’s movies still need some sort of male appeal to get made,” said Hazel Cills of female-focused pop culture website Jezebel.

“A gender-swapped movie implies that women aren’t important enough to get their own, original stories, and thus must piggy-back on franchises helmed by men that have already proven to be successful.”

It was an issue that came up when Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and the rest of the Ocean’s 8 cast hosted a news conference at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art earlier this month.

Bullock admitted that initially she “honestly didn’t think it would work, or get made” while Blanchett agreed that, a few short years ago, such a project would have been out of the question.

Published: 06-06-2018 07:33

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