After The Favourite’s recent surprise loss at the Oscars - bar Olivia Coleman’s tear-jerking victory - the issue of female roles in film has once again arisen in Hollywood. With incredibly original scripts like The Favourite in existence, why are women continually reduced to starring in reboots of male-driven films?
Back in 2011, Bridesmaids delighted audiences as an original script, starring a cast of diverse and talented women. The film quickly broke records by becoming the number one grossing female-oriented R-rated comedy of all time; but what followed was years of Hollywood producers attempting to regain that popularity by shoehorning female ensembles into already established franchises. Hollywood’s obsession with these all-female reboots may seem like a step in the right direction (at least there’s some form of female representation going on), but in 2019 we can no longer be taking baby-steps towards equality.
"It is an insult to throw women a bone in the form of second hand scripts previously performed by male counterparts"
It is an insult to throw women a bone in the form of second hand scripts previously performed by male counterparts, when women have repeatedly proven that they are capable of creating and starring in original pieces. It has already been established that female-centric films can be both critically and financially successful; Pitch Perfect, Wonder Woman and Whip It are just a few of many examples of women dominating the screen in new and exciting roles.
Reboots in general are not the problem. Mad Max, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Star Trek all proved to be just as good as, if not better than their originals (if you believe the reviews). The issue is that the only new element being brought to these female reboots is the presence of a woman. Gender should not be used as a gimmick; the only thing new about films such as Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 is that, shocker, women can do what men can do.
"While some of these reboots may inject fresh ideas into what would have been a stale remake, that does not by default make them good films"
While some of these reboots may inject fresh ideas into what would have been a stale remake, that does not by default make them good films. For example, What Men Want, released in Ireland just this March, swaps the misogynistic male lead played by Mel Gibson with acclaimed comedic and dramatic actress Taraji P. Henson. Replacing a notoriously sexist character with a woman of colour is a new move for these reboots, but this is not to say that this is a better idea than simply writing a new role for the often under-appreciated Henson. Similarly, 2018’s Overboard also added a new diversity to the premise, with the spoiled millionaire, formerly portrayed by Goldie Hawn, being played by Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez, and his overworked partner now being played by Anna Faris.
Despite the numerous critical and financial failures of these reboots, Hollywood isn’t slowing down. The latest of these reboots to surface is The Hustle, starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway with an extremely questionable British accent. The Hustle, set for release this summer, is a female remake of cult classic, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Talks of gender-swapped reboots for The Rocketeer and Splash are also circulating, with Channing Tatum supposedly playing the iconic mermaid.
Audiences have already formed connections and memories to the roles that these actresses are being forced into. Ghostbusters, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the Ocean’s franchise were not in need of updating, hence the immediately backlash from their announcement. While some of these movies, namely Ocean’s 8, were individually enjoyable films, there was no need to attach it to the Ocean’s franchise in the first place.
"It is not enough to simply recast men as women and hope that this fixes the gender inequality in the film industry"
It is not enough to simply recast men as women and hope that this fixes the gender inequality in the film industry. A woman should not be required to don a suit and assume a masculine persona or character to be taken seriously, just as a woman does not need a man’s role in order to be considered funny. Not only are these reboots not enough, but they are fooling people into thinking that this is what audiences want. Once they churn out another female-led reboot, the all-male Hollywood producers are likely patting themselves on the back for securing a female audience; Ocean’s 8 reportedly made $41 million its opening weekend alone.
While it’s comforting to know that Hollywood is acknowledging that women are not box-office poison, it is time for them to give these female actors the material they deserve. What seems in theory to be a step forward is actually stasis; the gender gap in film is an ongoing issue both on and off-screen. According to the Independent, among the top 100 grossing films of 2017, women represented only 8% of directors; 10% of writers; 2% of cinematographers; 24% of producers and 14% of editors. It is easy to ignore these statistics when the cinema listings are full of female names, but it cannot become a question of quantity over quality.