Originally published on Heart of Trends at: heartoftrends.com/2016/08/18/hollywood-gender-swapping-faux-feminism/
Trends in Hollywood are inevitable. I don’t mean all the directors starting a juice cleanse as they all embrace their inner Gwyneth Paltrow, but about the sort of movies that are being produced.
The ghost-busters reboot welcomed in the age of gender-swapping. The remake had female leads cast in the parts that were played by men in the original. This move was hailed by many as a great step for feminism. Then with an all-female reboot of ‘Oceans Eleven’ in the pipeline, with a big cast supposedly including Rihanna and Anne Hathaway, it seems this trend is continuing. Yet does this move really mark the dawn of equality in Hollywood?
I would love to clap my hands, nod my head and put away my ‘fighting for feminism’ badge, saying that we are now equal and all is good in the world. But I just can’t escape the nagging voice in my head telling me that gender-swapping roles in reboots is just lazy filmmaking. More importantly, it’s also lazy feminism. Slapping on a woman’s face on what was a male role is a straightforward answer to a complex problem. It’s more dangerous for Hollywood to make original films with female protagonists as there’s no fan-base already tied in. However if you’re remaking a ghostbuster film, you know ghostbuster fans are already there to go and see it.
You can see this anxiety about original female-fronted films in the superhero world. Black Widow seems to be the only main Avenger without her own stand-alone film, though Marvel are apparently “most committing” “creatively and emotionally” to sorting out this problem. (Sounds like a pretty convincing response there.) Though the wariness of making a female-led film seems nonsensical, considering that movies with female leads were found to make more money than those with male leads.
According to the top 250 films of 2014, roughly 90% of produced screenplays are written by men, which is worrying as male writers were found to be considerably less likely to have female protagonists. In fact, 2014 figures indicate just 12% of lead roles in major films were female. We need to invest off-camera rather than simply gender-swapping roles on camera. We need women writing and telling women’s stories. The problem is that Hollywood can use simply having more female faces on camera (even just in lazy reboots) to give them the excuse to get away with not really changing anything about the film industry in terms of it’s gender-balance and ingrained sexism.
One of the many issues with gender-swapping is that if the film with the all-new female cast is a box office bomb, who do you think will get blame? The director? The editor? Or the female cast? Ghost Busters received several negative reviews, and those internet misogynists we love so much jumped on their keyboards to declare that this was all the fault of having a female cast. We should have stuck with the men. When in fact, what critics actually seemed to agree on was how great the comedic actresses were. It was other things that let the film down. However, when you make a reboot in this style, if it goes wrong, what will get blamed is the all-female casting, making it harder to convince big wig industry types to cast women as the leads. So maybe gender-swapping in reboots is a bit of faux-feminism rather than the answer to all of our gender-equality prayers. Tackling the gender-balance off screen has to come first to truly make a change in an industry where sexism has long been ingrained.