Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8, Lord of the Flies… The list of all-female reboots is growing every year. But a movement that on the surface is fighting for equality may be unintentionally holding women in Hollywood back from making real progress.
It’s clear that over the past half a decade Hollywood has made a visible effort to cast women in leading roles. Star Wars is perhaps the biggest household name to fly the banner, but the films which garner the most media coverage for doing so and the films which are also generating the most negative reaction on social media, are the films which reboot well-known and loved films, but re-cast all female roles.
This, in my opinion, is the wrong approach to empowering women in Hollywood.
Instead of taking well known properties and re-casting with females leads, Hollywood should instead be taking a broader and more meaningful approach to film-making. Rather than saying “Look everyone, women can do this film just as well as men!” producers and film studios at large should instead be crafting scripts and plot whereby the lead can be portrayed by either sex. Allow women to audition for roles that may have initially been planned for a male character, allow fluidity to occur where before there was none. So long as you hire the best person for the job off the back of said auditions it should help to diversify films no end.
Where script-writers usually craft characters with certain genders or even certain actors in mind, this fresh approach should see scripts become less restrictive and easier to cast after completion. If the Star Wars: The Force Awakens had been written with a male lead in mind, but Daisey Ridley had come along and taken everyone’s breath away with her audition, does it really make sense for the producers to turn around and say “No, sorry, we’re looking for a man”. Of course it doesn’t.
Furthermore, the trend of rebooting films with all female casts is only going to serve to cause division among movie-goers. Some will call them great strides in female equality, others will point out the continued failings of actors from ethnic backgrounds and others will point out that it all feels very forced. A more natural approach to diversity is what Hollywood sorely needs, one that doesn’t reek of a PR stunt, one that won’t drive away a lot of the audience before the film has even been released.
Despite having a respectable 74% rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, Ghostbusters (2016) scored a weak 52% among audience members and was a disappointment at the box office. Regardless of what you thought of the film, pushing an all-female cast so hard in the media, whilst potentially coming from good will, put far too much pressure on 1.) The film as a whole and 2.) The actors. Despite releasing in more than twice as many theatres as the original, the rebooted Ghostbusters drew in over $100m less than the 1984 original. This isn’t evidence of an incapable cast, it is evidence of an audience reaction against both reboots of beloved films and a forced PR campaign.
So I argue that from here on out, Hollywood should reconsider its approach to creating true diversity. Don’t green-light reboots for the sake of a new cast, don’t pat itself on the back for finding another film or series which was male dominated and replacing them with women. Pat yourselves on the back when it doesn’t matter who shows up at the audition, pat yourselves on the back when Meryl Streep and Ian Mckellen can audition for the same role, because you truly want the person who is best suited to portray your characters. Pat yourselves on the back when the job is actually done and diversity has been achieved, rather than the faux diversity you’re creating today.