Is Gender-Swapping Film Roles The Answer?


With the box office failure of the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, the future of the franchise is in question. However, all eyes now seem to be on Ocean's Eight, a reboot of the Ocean's Eleven franchise which is following suit with an all-female cast. If gender-swapping Ghostbusters didn't work, why should Ocean's Eight?

When news broke back in October 2015 that a female reboot of Ocean's Eleven was being developed, people's responses were mixed. Not only did the film have Sandra Bullock as the lead, but Ocean's Eight also has the potential to be a great female-centric film. On August 10th, Deadline reported that a potential cast was lined up for the reboot, making the film much closer to being a reality. This diverse cast had a list of some great women in the industry including Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonhham Carter, and even YouTube rapper Awkwafina. With a diverse list of talented actresses, people would pay good money for this, but not everybody is so easily convinced. So why isn't everyone thrilled about this?

There has been so much inequality on women in the Hollywood industry for a long time now. Not only has actresses end up not having equal pay as the actors, but female-driven stories and characters have barely been given the same recognition as male ones. A lot of actresses spoke up on this matter going from Patricia Arquette to Robin Wright. Even box office numbers prove that when the Ghostbusters reboot couldn't even muster the same numbers as a superhero or action film. Ghostbusters did prove to be a fun and entertaining film with a great female cast, but for some reason it wasn't enough to bring in a lot of money to call it a hit.

Despite all of that, it seems like just gender-swapping the roles in classic films may not be the answer. Even though I am excited that Ocean's Eight is having an all-diverse female cast, I have a bad feeling that actresses are now being subjected to redo these roles that their male counterparts have done rather than just giving them an original story to work with. To me, it appears that this is Hollywood's way of trying to gain the attention of the female audience. After having female plots, characters, and stars not getting the same attention as male movies, these all-female reboots may be Hollywood's laziest effort at progression. Having a rebooted Ghostbusters may be the right step, but it seems like females are only getting the sloppy seconds instead of something fresh. So why is it that women can only get a blockbuster as long as the story and characters come from successful ones by males?

If you think about it, an all-female reboot might be slightly discourteous. If a studio wants to have an all-female cast, shouldn't they allow the filmmaker and writers to tell an original tale and portray the women as characters that aren't just based on men? Not giving women any originality in a film leaves audiences with the notion that male stories are always worth the money. Which has come to why working from scratch is the obvious solution to such a big problem.

Hollywood still a long way to go to really step up and give women the roles that they deserve. Ocean's Eight is still early in its development, so there's still time to surprise people with a plot that will work so it doesn't just copy the male performances while keeping the spirit of the original in tact. All they have to do is avoid using the same plot device with the female characters that was used on the male ones. What the studio should focus on is creating a story that addresses female problems while celebrating their experiences. What most of these female reboots are going for is the human condition rather than with gender-based problems. It's still a great angle to tackle, but it deprives the women of telling their own stories. It doesn't give female viewers the satisfaction that their own experiences are worth something or just as interesting as the males. What these films need to do is give the ladies a chance to be characterized equally in the plot.

If the studio goes with an all-female cast for Ocean's Eight, they should make it without tying it to the Ocean's Eleven franchise. There seems to be this whole idea that audiences probably won't be interested in an all-female heist film without affiliating themselves with the male cast. How can the studio know that without even trying? Women-centric films don't need the safety net of an already popular male franchise to become a success. Instead, they should market it on their own terms and allow them to stand on their own as great stories about women. Hopefully the film offers a lot more than just the brand and gives the females their own personalities that don't mirror the males. If Hollywood can do that, then that is a step in the right direction.