Catherine Otero - Teen Aspect - May 30th, 2022
Hollywood has definitely advanced from black and white films that depict women continuously being diminished to housewives or victims. We have female superheroes now! We have female-led films! On a surface level, these concepts sound immensely progressive that have the capacity to instill hope into any little girl wishing for representation in her favorite film. Yet, some directors and producers may be going about this concept the wrong way.
As stated in my last article, the harmful impact of traditionalist views in modern-day society was mentioned and that same ideology can be provided when discussing how Hollywood becoming “woke” towards feminism has gone wrong.
A strategy that Hollywood has been recently using to invoke the idea that they are “pro-feminism” is the concept of gender-swapping. Gender-swapping in Hollywood is the idea in which roles originally meant for men, or played in their original movies by men, are being rewritten for female actors to play.1 This brings about the question as to how screenwriters create this switch from male to female for their beloved characters. In the film As Good as it Gets, the main character – Melvin Udall (played by Jack Nicholson) is asked how he writes female characters so well, his character immediately responds with: “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.”2 A universal worry among female movie fans has developed because of quotes such as these, in which these fans cannot help but think that the foundation of a female character is… a man? A lack of authenticity in female characters that are the face of these gender-swapped films is prominent. A popular example of this is the film Ocean’s 8. This film is, evidently, inspired by its predecessor, Ocean’s 11, whose main character is Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney). In this rendition of an old, beloved film – Sandra Bullock plays Danny’s sister, Debbie Ocean. So far, the film seems harmless, yet the film moves on to make the plot revolve around the initial male characters that are now replaced by these female characters. In the first scene, the dialogue is entirely about Danny Ocean, rather than Debbie. Debbie mentions her brother is dead, but this paves the way for the audience to hope for a cameo from Clooney’s character throughout the film since no one in Hollywood is really dead until it is confirmed. Even when Debbie is on screen, Danny is in the back of our minds. And even when a Hollywood franchise is retooled around women, it still revolves around men — the storylines they wrote, the characters they created, the worlds they built.3 It is vital that actresses are given the opportunity to play original characters with original plotlines.
The dictionary definition of feminism is — the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.4 It is impossible for Hollywood to state that they are a feminist industry when men have the spotlight, even when they are not present; there is nothing “equal” about that.
Another more extreme example of the case of gender-swapping is the Ghostbusters remake.
This female-led reboot of the beloved, classic film – Ghostbusters – received terrible ratings at the box office immediately after its release. With a 3.6/10 rating on IMDB and a loss of millions of dollars, it is clear that fans of the original Ghostbusters film were not pleased with the reboot, but how come? Well, it’s mainly because their favorite characters are now replaced with women. Currently, the 2016 Ghostbusters trailer has 1 million downvotes, with only 320,000 liking the official trailer. Others believed it would be another feminist movie denouncing men and powering up women. Whatever the reason was, Ghostbusters got unnecessary hate.5 In a society so convinced that we are moving forwards, it is evident that we are afraid of change. A majority of male movie fans still believe that women cannot possibly bring them the same level of entertainment as a man could, a troubling issue. Blockbusters are paying the price of low ratings and revenue solely because their main cast is women. The “feminism” in Hollywood that is masked by misogyny is only making the industry’s economic situation worse. It is time that the film industry ends its gender-swapping trend and starts giving its female characters authentic plotlines. After all, is requiring an actress to play the part of a male character truly feminist? It simply reinforces the idea of women consistently being in the shadow of men.
1 Kiang, J. (2015, November 2). Examining Hollywood's gender swap trend and where it needs to go next. IndieWire. Retrieved May 28, 2022, from https://www.indiewire.com/2015/11/examining-hollywoods-gender-swap-trend-and-where-it-needs-to-go-next-107826/
2 Kiang, J. (2015, November 2). Examining Hollywood's gender swap trend and where it needs to go next. IndieWire. Retrieved May 28, 2022, from https://www.indiewire.com/2015/11/examining-hollywoods-gender-swap-trend-and-where-it-needs-to-go-next-107826/
3 Hess, A. (2018, June 12). The trouble with Hollywood's gender flips. The New York Times. Retrieved May 28, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/12/movies/oceans-8-gender-swap.html
4 Oxford languages and google - english. Oxford Languages. (2022). Retrieved May 28, 2022, from https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/
5 Bowie Jr., J. (2021, October 8). Why the female-led ghostbusters reboot failed at the Box Office. TVOvermind. Retrieved May 28, 2022, from https://tvovermind.com/why-the-ghostbusters-reboot-failed-at-the-box-office-failed/