Gender-swapped movies are Hollywood’s new favorite trend. It started with last summer’s all-female reboot of “Ghostbusters” and continued with the announcement of a spinoff of “Ocean’s Eleven” starring Sandra Bullock, as well as gender-swapped versions of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “The Rocketeer,” and “Splash.” I watched all of these announcements with a sense of mild apprehension that I did my best to squash. After all, the need for more women in Hollywood is something I’ve been complaining about for years. And more importantly, I never wanted to join the backlash against these films because the backlash has always been so profoundly sexist.
Whenever any movie about women is announced, an army of mouth-breathing man-children inevitably appears to complain about the despicable feminists ruining their androcentric paradise, and if—god forbid—this movie is a reboot of a story that used to be about men, their ire is even stronger. When the “Ghostbusters” trailer first came out, the men of the internet lost their collective minds, offended beyond belief at the idea of … female scientists, I guess. Let me be clear: I have no interest in these fragile men and their fragile egos, and I am glad to see women slowly but surely gaining the influence they deserve in film and television.
Last week, Scott McGehee and David Siegel announced their intentions to write and produce a gender-swapped remake of William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” and I finally reached my limit. For the first—and hopefully the last—time, I am forced to join the side of the MRAs, and admit that I hate gender-swapped reboots, and I hope I never have to watch another one in my life.
To be sure, an all-female “Lord of the Flies” is a uniquely absurd idea. Golding’s famous allegorical novel is a compelling—and very masculine—portrayal of violence and savagery. Any ninth grade English student can tell you that. SparkNotes can tell you that. That’s not to say that women have no capacity for violence, but it’s hard to imagine a group of shipwrecked schoolgirls turning to murder and pig sacrifice as quickly as the novel’s original characters. Generally speaking, women tend not to interact with each other the way men do or fight with each other the way men do. And young girls certainly are not socialized to solve conflicts through physical aggression the way young boys are.
It’s not just “Lord of the Flies,” though. Sure, gender might not be as relevant to a heist movie like “Ocean’s Eleven” or a supernatural comedy like “Ghostbusters” as it is to an allegorical contemplation of the nature of violence, but remaking these movies with female stars is just as useless. It feels like progress, but in reality, it’s a meaningless gesture. The film industry’s propensity for endless and unnecessary sequels and reboots of established franchises—which generally gets mocked by moviegoers—somehow gets a free pass when those reboots feature women. As much as I love the idea of a heist movie featuring Sandra Bullock, Helena Bonham Carter, and Rihanna in the same room, I have to wonder if a movie like that would have gotten the green light were it not tied to another successful heist movie about men. Is it too much to ask that we stop recycling content in the name of gender equality and start focusing on the stories that have not yet been told?
Even more concerning, the rise of female-led reboots serves to solidify the idea that movies have to be “for men” or “for women.” Much like a toiletries company packaging two identical products in blue and pink and marketing them to different genders, making new versions of old movies to appeal to women perpetuates a kind of “separate but equal” philosophy about entertainment, as if no one could possibly be expected to enjoy a movie about any gender but their own. This, more than anything, is what frustrates me about these movies. Women need our stories told, but we do not need to be pandered to.
Tara Joy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org