The Modern Gender Swap
Look, who doesn’t like a good gender swap? It breaks down the gender boundary and expands representation, and sometimes it reinvigorates the narrative and creative process. However, there are times where the gender swap just doesn’t work and muddles the once already loved franchise.
With Ocean’s 8 release in theaters and its empowering female ensemble, the reception is mixed as there is a clash with the old fans and the new generation. The Guardian posted a review calling it a “criminal waste,” and states that “it just blandly settles a note of sentimental self-congratulation and unruffled triumph.” On the other hand, a Forbes review compliments Ocean’s 8 “unruffled triumph,” and enjoys the lack of tension and stakes. The article states that the appeal is not the cast (which I disagree), but “it’s a light, breezy, downright relaxing comedy,” and because of its “unapologetic escapist fantasy.” The point is that gender swapping will always be a mix bag. Similar to the remake of Ghostbusters, starring Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, and Kristen Wiig, the reactions to the announcement were mixed.
However, the reception of the 2016 Ghostbusters remake was especially clear once the official trailer was released on Sony Pictures Entertainment channel. The trailer currently has about one million dislikes on Youtube, and is probably the most disliked trailer on the site (a bulk of it was most likely old fans and probably bandwagoners). Dislikes on the trailer most likely went down even further as a result of the critiques and reception after its theatrical release. While the concept of gender swapping Ghostbusters was intriguing, the remake failed to rise from the shadows of its predecessor just like most reboots do. And even though the movie was probably going for a female empowerment angle, the remake failed to actually empower.
Creating more leading roles for women that have already been played by men is not necessarily empowering women representation, nor is it allowing for actresses to play original, new, and captivating roles. Gender swaps, depending on the direction of the reboot, binds the actors into a specific role that studios and audiences expect them to match the character in the original movie. Furthermore, the criticism on gender swapping movies also is rooted in how the entertainment industry has been male-dominated. You only see gender swapping of male characters for female characters, and you never really see an all-female cast movie being replaced by an all-male cast.
Even if there were to be a swap of female characters for male characters, audiences will most likely eat it up and say it’s breaking boundaries, and critics would probably focus more on the cinematics than just the social implications of the gender reversal. What if there was a gender swap for Charlie’s Angels? There wouldn’t be as much of a discourse because it would essentially be an action packed movie starring all men… What’s new? However, let’s say if there was a Men in Black (which I would totally be all for) gender swap, or maybe a Hangover gender swap, then that’s when the critics start steamrolling before pre-production even starts.
Good intentions to push for representation is certainly there when it comes to gender swapping, but they never are executed correctly or effectively. Hollywood needs to create more original movies with heroic and strong female characters— roles that weren’t already written for men. Although, if you stop analyzing films and stop comparing them to any versions before them, then you have to admit that these gender swapping movies can be entertaining. If you still don’t enjoy the movie and you’re not a sexist, then that comes down to preference and most likely bad filmmaking.
Ocean’s 8 is out in theaters now. Does the A-list cast make it worth it (i.e. Rhiannon, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, etc.)? Does it lack the tension of what a heist should be? Does it live up to the Ocean franchise? Or is it just another bad remake? Whatever the consensus is, we all know Incredibles 2 will be the real action in the theaters this summer.