Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8, and “Gender Flipping”

Ocean's 8

Promotional poster for the 2018 film, “Ocean’s 8”.

I think I may have seen the 1960 film Ocean’s 11 at some point decades past, or at least parts of it. It had an all-star cast which included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford. The sole primary actress featured was Angie Dickinson, and the movie (as I understand it) set the bar for all big-time heist movies.

It’s been remade and “sequelized” (if that’s a word) numerous times in the early 21st century as you can read here. Those movies also had an all-star cast which included George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Don Cheadle. Catherine Zeta-Jones seems to be the primary female lead in these films.

I think I’ve seen parts of some of them years ago when one or the other of my kids were still at home and watching them, but I didn’t have an interest in viewing any of them.

But why am I telling you all this and why should you care?

I just found out there’s another remake or reboot or sequel to this series coming out called Ocean’s 8. Again, it has an all-star cast, but they are all women instead of all men. They include Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Mindy Kaling. I don’t know anything about Kaling, but the cast also includes Rihanna who I’ve at least heard of.

Does this sound familiar?

What about the 2016 Ghostbusters remake where we encountered the same thing, a studio taking a successful and well-loved film franchise and recasting the leads from all males to all females?

The real catalyst for me crafting today’s wee essay was an article I read at MEL Magazine called Roundtable: What Do Women Think of Hollywood’s New Gender-Flip Movies?. Writer Tim Grierson took the opportunity to ask many of his female colleagues what they think of “gender-flip” movies.

I didn’t read all of the responses, but from what I sampled, they thankfully said that this practice seems a bit of a rip off or a scam, and that the better route to increasing the number of female-driven films would be to create totally original movies that put women in action roles.

Fine and dandy. I agree. It seems more exploitative of women to put famous actresses in movie franchises that were originally made popular by men, and then have the studio depend on the franchise’s appeal to pull in audiences. If it’s a success, they make a ton of money. If not, they can blame audiences (and Donald Trump) for being sexist (J.J. Abrams blamed criticism of The Last Jedi on sexist audiences, so there you go). Either way, it’s a win-win, money or virtue signaling (or maybe both).

The article even mentioned that actresses Rachel Weisz and Rosamund Pike have gone on record as opposing the creation of a female “James Bond.” Frankly, I don’t even know how you’d do that, since Bond is traditionally such a womanizing pig (Don’t get me wrong, I love the James Bond franchise, but I can’t see a woman acting toward men the way Bond behaves toward women…it doesn’t reverse).

So make movies, write stories, create comic books, that are female driven, but make them all original. No turning Thor into a female (which Marvel has already done) or otherwise “gender flipping” well-established characters and franchises. Going the Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 bit is cheap, uncreative, and in its own way, sexist.

Or maybe Warner Bros. is afraid that a totally original, all-female cast film wouldn’t be profitable. Isn’t that sexist, too?

One more thing. I absolutely cannot understand why Leslie Jones, one of the actresses who played in the Ghostbusters remake, was subjected to so much online harassment. It makes zero sense.

I mean, if you don’t like the movie, say so, or don’t go to see it in the first place, but why harass the people involved in the film’s creation? It’s psychotic.

I don’t intend to see the Hans Solo movie in the theater, and may not even decide to watch The Last Jedi when it comes out on DVD, but that’s because I think Disney has trashed the franchise, primarily because they don’t understand it. However, it would be ludicrous to threaten the director, producer, or stars of these movies for that or any other reason.

I just wanted to make that clear.

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6 thoughts on “Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8, and “Gender Flipping”

  1. most things in contemporary Hollywood is not original and virtual every big screen movie is a remake. The true original movies was during the silent movie era and the 1920’s. For every hit move made I can find the original on some silent movie reel. Even blockbuster movie like Ghost Busters was not an original theme or concept. It was based on the 1970’s kid’s show The Ghost Busters, it’s ironic the stars of that show were the stars of the 1950’s series F-Troop.
    Don’t agree to change the gender or ethnicity of established characters; it tarnishes the image….

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    • You’re right. I’d completely forgotten about the 1975 TV show. I don’t think I ever watched it, but when I Googled it, the images seemed familiar.

      Yes, I know that really there are no new stories, just more or less interesting ways of telling them. That said, I think film writers, directors, and producers, could put a little more effort in crafting compelling vehicles for women-driven movies if that’s their goal. The movie “Wonder Woman” starring Gal Gadot was pretty good and I thought Gadot’s performance knocked it out of the park, so to speak.

      African-American science fiction writer Steven Barnes said that the difference between how the fictional nation of Wakanda was depicted in “The Black Panther” vs. “Avengers: The Infinity Wars” movies was a matter of the former having an African-American director and the latter not having one. In his opinion, having a lived African-American experience gave the “Panther” film’s director insights into personal and social dynamics that another director would lack, and it shows in the films.

      I know that “Wonder Woman” had a female director and I’m not saying that all women-driven movies must be directed or written by women, but I think having that sort of input on some level might open up new vistas in filmmaking. You can’t just take an actress and cast her in a traditional “male role” and have it work, in my opinion. One of the things that made Gadot’s performance so good is that she successfully communicated the culture shock between being brought up in a women only society and then encountering early 20th century England and Europe.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think Hollywood needs to get back to the idea of telling a good story first and worrying about tickling the ears of a progressive audience second. That doesn’t mean you can’t have specific social goals for films, but good writing, directing, and acting is what makes great entertainment.

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