Is Hollywood Approaching Female Equality The Wrong Way?

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.

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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.

 

Women in Hollywood

What has been wonderful about the films that have come out in 2016 has been the women of Hollywood. We have seen a rise of female protagonists in cinema and people love it. This trend of female leads has continued to 2017. With the gender gap for pay being more acknowledged in Hollywood, could this be a sign of a change for more female protagonists instead of a damsel in distress?

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After The Theory of Everything, Felicity Jones’ career took off with Oscar-nominated performance as Jane Hawking. We now see her in the latest Star Wars story Rogue One where she plays Jyn Erso and plans to steal the Death Star. Even though the film has had mixed reviews, Jones has been praised as A.O. Scott says in The New York Times “Jones is a fine addition to the “Star Wars” tradition of tough-minded quick-thinking heroines”. Having the hero as a female shows a dramatic change to the typical sci-fi film with an intelligent female lead.

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Like most people, I fell immediately in love with Octavia Spencer in The Help with her charming but sassy character. The film moved me to tears, I knew I was not alone in thinking this, even my most unemotional friends have admitted they were truly touched by the film. Now Spencer has gone to star in Hidden Figures, a wonderful film telling the tale of three female mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA in the early years of the space programme. The film has been nominated for three Oscars this year with Spencer included for her performance. The film is finally being made about these amazing women and critics are loving it Aaron B. Peterson said in ‘The Hollywood Outsider’ “Hidden Figures tells a story of genuine heroes that have been shelved for far too long”. It has been called an inspiration for girls everywhere to follow their dreams, could this be a hit at the Oscars? Time will tell.

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Personally, I cannot wait to see Ocean’s Eight come out in 2018, the trend of female protagonists will continue with this twist on a classic trilogy. The fantastic line-up of Hollywood’s finest actresses consisting of Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter what’s not to love? We know very little about the plot, but George Clooney has been thought to reprise his role as Danny Ocean playing Sandra Bullock’s brother in the film. Let’s hope it brings as much humour and witty remarks as the original films.

What are your thoughts on women in Hollywood? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter @WeAreNiche