February 24, 2020

Women Are Not Gimmicks

“When the noxious fanboys who howl about movies being too “PC” and “woke” inevitably revved up after the recent announcements of a female Thor and a potential female 007, I did what I always do: roll my eyes. There will always be an element of toxic fandom that will whine about the dreaded womanliness being foisted upon their beloved male heroes.

But on another level, I found myself agreeing — not that such movies are “too woke,” but that perhaps it would be best if they didn’t exist at all. Just as it’s important to call out the backwards fans who don’t want to see any leading women on screen, it’s also important to call out the self-congratulatory pander that fuels many studios’ gender-swap projects, too. Rather than invest in new stories about women, Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder and a forthcoming Bond film appear to cautiously tie new female-fronted stories to already established male-led stories. It’s a decision that makes the gender swap element of the plots not only cowardly, but insultingly lazy.

Gender-swap stories have long been a staple of theater and film, but recently ratcheted up in Hollywood, from the female-fronted Ghostbusters in 2016 to Ocean’s 8 in 2018, and Men in Black: International and What Men Want this year. Many similar projects are also in the works, with the CW launching a Batwoman TV series this fall and Channing Tatum and Jillian Bell starring in reversed roles in a remake of the mermaid (merman?) film Splash, “happening soon.” Most recently and egregiously, though, Marvel announced that Natalie Portman will be “the female Thor” in a film set for release in 2021. Likewise, while the forthcoming untitled Bond 25 will still star Daniel Craig as the Martini-drinking British spy, The Daily Mail leaked as-of-yet unconfirmed rumors that in the movie, James Bond will retire and a character played by actress Lashana Lynch will be given Bond’s codename, 007, potentially opening up Ian Fleming’s universe to female-fronted spin-offs.”

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