On the Hollywood Trend of Woman-Centered Remakes

Whitney Hubbell | July 3, 2018

Whitney Hubbell image

Ocean’s 8 has just hit theaters and so far has unsurprisingly received mixed reviews. The film definitely has appeal: it boasts an undeniably great cast – Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Sandra Bullock, Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway, even Rihanna – and an intriguing concept, being an all-women heist film. However, the film’s title and the name of Sandra Bullock’s character (Debbie Ocean) reveals that it’s basically just a rehashing of the earlier Ocean’s films starring George Clooney as Danny Ocean. But Ocean’s 8 is just the latest in a growing trend of Hollywood remakes in which the formerly male cast is replaced with women.

In the case of Ocean’s 8, it’s more of a sequel than a remake. Debbie Ocean is not the female version of Danny but rather his sister, and this heist takes place in New York with a crew of eight, as opposed to Las Vegas with a crew of eleven like Ocean’s Eleven. The connection could also be a simple marketing strategy: the studio probably thought that they’d garner a bigger audience (and therefore more money) by connecting an all-women heist film to the George Clooney films. However, the first major film of this trend, the Ghostbusters remake from 2016, was exactly that, a remake, in which each individual character was substituted for another: the Ghostbusters were women, and their secretary was a man (and Thor, no less). Since then, the productions of several films of this kind have been announced, including an all-female Lord of the Flies film. (One could also argue that the first of the latest Star Wars films, The Force Awakens, was basically a rehashing of the original Star Wars with a female protagonist, but I digress). Additionally, I’ve seen various lists online like one on Bustle entitled “11 Classic Movies That Need Female Stars For The Remake.”

Some view this growing trend as a positive step towards female empowerment in a still male-dominated Hollywood. Others aren’t as convinced, a main reason being that these remakes are all directed by men, which is strange for films that are supposed to be “feminist,” especially since male directors outnumber female directors 24 to 1 (Ovenden). Not that men shouldn’t be allowed to direct any of these films, but the fact that they’re all directed by men raises the question of whether they’re really for the benefit of female empowerment. As Olivia Ovenden put it in her Esquire article, “erasing men from films does nothing for genuine representation, especially when the strings are all still being pulled by men out of sight.” There are other issues, too. Ghostbusters did little to update the original, and it remained that the three white Ghostbusters are all scientists while the only black one is merely a subway worker. And an all-girl Lord of the Flies is, well, illogical because, as feminist writer Roxane Gay put it (and William Golding himself implied), “the plot of [the] book wouldn’t happen with girls.”

Of course, this trend is just one strand of Hollywood’s broader problem regarding originality (it’s worth noting that the George Clooney Ocean’s Eleven is a remake of the 1960 Ocean’s 11 starring Frank Sinatra). But in my honest opinion, I think it’s a particularly irritating one. Hollywood’s representation issue is real, but though this should include greater representation of women and people of colour, it doesn’t have to mean that we remake everything that originally included (mostly) white men. It doesn’t seem productive to take material created by men and remake it with women because women’s experiences are unique and don’t have to be based off those of men. I’d rather go see original woman-centered films like Hidden Figures and Lady Bird than woman-centered remakes of films I already liked with the mostly male cast. It was the originality of the 1984 Ghostbusters that made it so appealing and the remake so unappealing. Instead of emulating men’s stories, woman-centered films should simply be original. I’m still intrigued by Ocean’s 8 but I suppose, like so many more who shake their fists at Hollywood and its neverending procession of remakes and Marvel movies, I just want something woman-centered and original to enjoy.

About Whitney

Whitney is currently completing her MSc in Comparative Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She previously received her Bachelor’s in German from the University of Michigan and taught English in Austria. Her research interests include postmodernism and historical fiction. She also has a travel blog and likes dessert.

Contact: s1761105@ed.ac.uk


Works Cited

Atkinson, S. “11 Classic Movies That Need Female Stars For The Remake.” Bustle, 7 Dec. 2017. Web. 17 June 2018.

Ovenden, Olivia. “Women-Only Remakes Aren’t Empowering Anyone Except Male-Dominated Studios.” Esquire Hearst Magazines, 31 Aug. 2017. Web. 17 June 2018.

Kingsbridge College. “William Golding on Lord of the Flies.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 June 2018.

Edited by June Laurenson, Dhanya Baird and Gina Maya.

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