There’s nothing Hollywood won’t take advantage of when it comes to turning a buck. Studio execs were paying attention when the #MeTo movement started and they keenly noted the reaction of the average cinema goer. Most of us were disgusted that females in the movie trade were being taken advantage of just because they wanted to further their career. And in turn we were keen to see Hollywood’s female contingent get a fair deal.
The studios were happy to oblige, at least on the face of it. Their direct response was to get more female faces up on the big screen. But rather than write some actual quality scripts for them, the quick and easy route was to remake movies that had all male ensemble casts, but this time with an all lady cast.
Despite the public’s positive reaction to #MeTo, Hollywood’s first ‘olive branch’ drew an avalanche of ire. When it was announced that Ghostbusters (1984) would be remade with women the internet trolls started marching. Much of the criticism was sexist bile from keyboard warriors who didn’t have to back up their abuse by putting their real name to it. But there was also some genuine concern amongst the pre-release feedback; the film’s trailer didn’t help much. Still, those of us that were fair minded hoped that the Ghostbusters remake would be a worthwhile watch, to stick it to the trolls and to continue the success of the illustrious Ghostbusters franchise.
Alas Ghostbusters (2016) was horrendous. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t scary, the villain was terrible, the cameos were badly written, and the finale was a cinematic CGI bowel movement. None of this was down to the fact that the lead quartet were all female; the result would have been just as bad with a new all male cast. The film failed to make back its budget, whilst critics were tight-lipped, tip-toeing around the movie, afraid to point out its flaws for fear of validating the internet trolls.
Next up was Ocean’s Eleven (2001), another masterpiece of popular cinema. Once again the male cast were swapped for a female all-star line-up. Though not as bad as Ghostbusters (2016) the newly named Ocean’s Eight (2018) was another failed movie. Starting on the downer that George Clooney’s happy-go-lucky Danny Ocean is now in the grave, the film had to then inspire people with a brand new gang. Despite being smaller in number the group couldn’t replicate the quirky chemistry of Clooney’s crew, not helped by rushed introductory scenes that failed to offer little more than the cliché (the hipster computer expert, the sticky-fingered Asian, the naïve Indian, the cosy homemaker). There was also zero tension in Sandra ‘Debbie Ocean’ Bullock’s caper; not once do you feel her quest to steal a necklace will fail. The misplaced John Frazier as played by the miscast James Corden is a late addition to the plot and a failed attempt to add some jeopardy to a film that by this point has become ho-hum.
Reportedly up next is The ExpendaBelles, an all-female take on The Expendables (2010). Being as the original film reunited those male movie legends who got the high octane sub-genre rolling in the eighties, you’d think that the ‘ExpendaBelles’ would see the likes of Cynthia Rothrock, Brigitte Nielsen, Jenette Goldstein, Michelle Yeoh, and Sigourney Weaver called forward for one more blast of the bazooka (though the straight-to-dvd Mercenaries (2014) already cashed on this concept). But those tapped up for inclusion so far include modern Hollywood A-listers such as Meryl Streep, Cameron Diaz, and Milla Jovovich. After two failed Hollywood female remakes it doesn’t inspire much confidence.
What Hollywood seems to want is to replicate blockbuster success but this time for a female-hungry audience. But what they’ve somehow forgotten is that previous blockbuster films were successful because they had amazing scripts behind them; whether the cast had penises or not was a moot point. The long line of failed movie remakes, from Psycho (1998) and Godzilla (1998) to Clash of the Titans (2010) and Total Recall (2012), also seems to have slipped from Hollywood’s memory. If film studios were really invested in pushing females forward they’d green-light some scripts that deliver all new female-led plots.
The truth for the average film goer is that, despite the obvious injustice that some actresses have suffered, we don’t really care what the sex of the lead cast is. Male or female, providing the film is a good movie, we don’t mind. Most of us don’t have much spare time or cash in our lives; if we’re going to pay the ever-escalating cinema prices we want to see good films on the big screen. The one thing more frustrating than lack of representation in cinema is lack of quality. And equal representation, regardless of talent, is going to lead to a dip in quality.
Work both in front of the camera and behind it should be awarded on the basis of one thing only, talent. Cinematic work should be given to the best people for the job, regardless of sex, religion, race or whatever other demographic is the current cause celebre. Frantically green-lighting all-female remakes just to cash in on the #MeTo movement is going to do no one any favours, especially female actresses struggling for work and cash-strapped cinema-goers who don't have the time or money to waste on another Ghostbusters remake calamity. And it’s not like us paying customers won’t stump up our hard-earned for female led films; if Hollywood needs a reminder of how to do it they would do well to rewatch Black Swan (2010), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Gravity (2013), Wild (2014), Room (2015), The Shape of Water (2017), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2017), and Wonder Woman (2017). No doubt they’ll just wait for the next money-spinning bandwagon instead.