The female remake: cash grabbing scheme or feminist statement?

Harriet Metcalfe takes a look at the female remakes of established franchises, asking whether this is an effective way of diversifying the film industry.

Harriet Metcalfe
28th May 2020
Cinema is pretty much dominated by men, on and off-screen. In fact, according to one study in 2017, females made up only 24% of protagonists - meaning audiences were twice as likely to see male characters as female characters. I'd say that's fairly problematic. But are all these remakes really necessary? And are they actually any good?

The first female remake I was properly looking forward to was Ocean's 8 (2018). It had an epic poster and an even epic-er (totally a word) cast. They had Rihanna for gods sake. What could go wrong? Well, a fair bit, apparently. Whilst the film divided audiences and critics - it just fell flat for me. The stakes didn't feel high enough, so the tension was hardly there. I would've happily popped it on the telly for hungover, Sunday morning viewing. But to make a purposeful cinema trip? Eh...

Image Credit: IMDb

That does make me sound like I don't support female remakes - which isn't actually true. I bloody love them. The plot of Oceans Eight might not have been for me - which is fair enough - but the concept 100% was. A group of women getting together to kick-ass? Sign me right up. Sure, I might have preferred it if a woman directed it instead of Gary Ross - but that's a whole other article. However, I was glad that it was even made in the first place, after the reaction to a certain other film.

*Ahem*, back in 2016, when the female reboot of Ghostbusters was released - the fanboys of Twitter went wild. How dare us women ruin their childhood? Gheez. I think they learnt their lesson after that - their response to Oceans Eight was more minimal - but there's more than gender when it comes to talking about the Ghostbusters reboot. There's the age factor to consider here; the original film was released in 1984, and whilst the graphics might have been considered pretty revolutionary back then, I think it's fair to say that, in today's terms, they're not the best. A reboot gives them the chance to fix this, in turn encouraging younger audiences to give it a watch - who might not know that the 'original' ghostbusters were actually all male.

Cash grabbing scheme and feminist statement? Everybody wins.

But why should a film be remade for a female cast when we could just have original and new content? It's a tricky question. There needs to be a balance - it's impossible to go back and gender-swap every classic film, just as much as it's impossible for studios to fund every female led indie film they see. Sure, studios are bound to make a fair bit of money out of these remakes - but I'd like to think they're making them for moral reasons as well. At the very least, it's an acknowledgement that they've messed up.

Personally, I've grown up watching a lot of films with male roles saving the female damsel in distress; Indiana Jones, a fair few Marvel films and a lot of Disney films. The female remake/reboot gives a chance to right cinematic wrongs against women, and the importance of that can't be underestimated. All these films do, in some shape or form, have a female heroine - but her name is rarely the title of the movie. If I had seen Captain Marvel (2019) when I was younger, or seen Jane (Natalie Portman) take Mjölnir in Thor: The Dark World (2013), I might not have been the shy kid who ran off when her crush told her that "girls couldn't play football" (being the eight year old feminist I was, I stopped liking him after that).

Films influence people in all sorts of different ways. The remake helps to do that. But so does original content with female protagonists and crew members. Both, in the eyes of the studios, are probably seen as financial risks. These "risks" need to be taken, and more often. Cash grabbing scheme and feminist statement? Everybody wins.

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AUTHOR: Harriet Metcalfe
English Literature BA student. Loves film, TV, books and coffee. Thinks "Thor: The Dark World" gets too much hate. Twitter: @hattiemetcalfe

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