“How do you write women so well?”
“I think of a man and take away reason and accountability.”
Jack Nicholson’s iconic line from the brilliant As Good as It Gets is clearly meant to be a barb, and to highlight his views on women, but actually, he makes a good point.
What happens if you remove reason and accountability? Do you get a more interesting product? Whether it be a character or a film?
I’ve often decried the issues with writing strong female characters. So often to make a woman strong there are several go-to tropes.
1) Their father wanted a son
2) They were surrounded by brothers
3) They know how to fix an engine and don’t mind getting some dirt on them
4) They are a heartless bitch.
And it is perfectly possible to be a strong woman who was loved by their father, who grew up with sisters, who knows nothing about engines, and is kind and caring. Take my own mother, for example.
But this is an issue I will look at more closely in the future.
For now, I want to talk about a movie trend that I think, like the stereotypes above, needs to be phased out.
In the last few years, we have seen the trend to reboot male led films with female-fronted versions. And this has inspired in me one of my famous theories. Other theories include: ‘DC should only make Batman and Wonder Woman movies’, ‘The Rise of Skywalker is just as bad as The Phantom Menace’ and ‘Once Upon a time in Hollywood wasted my life for 3 hours’.
So here is my theory – The Female Reboot must stop. It was a nice idea to begin with but in my opinion, there is a clear reason it falls down and I’ll do my best to explain why by using the example of Ocean’s 8.
Ocean’s 8 was a reboot/sequel to the George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh movies of the early 2000s, which themselves were a remake of the 60s caper starring The Rat Pack. Ocean’s Eleven, in my opinion, is one of the great heist films there is. Slick, cool, clever and funny, it is one of the most rewatchable movies I have come across.
The all-female reboot had plenty of promise and at times is enjoyable. Acting talent included Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham-Carter, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson and Sandra Bullock, one of the most underrated comic actors of her generation. But anyone who has seen the film, for all of its promise, would be hard-pressed to say the overall film leaves you feeling anything but flat. And after seeing it once, I have no intention to watch it again.
I feel that while calling this an Ocean’s film gave it some legitimacy, it also burdened them with an impossible legacy to which they had to live up (See also the issues with Ghostbuster (2016)). Both films felt like they valued the money made from nostalgia rather than trying to create an actually well thought-out franchise of their own.
But what if they had just made a heist film, with eight ladies and not called it Ocean’s? What if they had removed the cameo from James Corden? Of course the film would still be compared to Ocean’s movies, but maybe it wouldn’t have had the burden of living up to the original trilogy. They also could’ve got creative with the plot. It felt a little bit forced that it was women stealing a nice necklace. Do women not like antiques? Or money? Or art? The story instead decided to travel down the road of women who steal jewellery. Why not have them steal something that is inherently masculine? Maybe to the sexist authorities in the film, women couldn’t be considered because “Women don’t like such a such” it’s not great, but at least there is a plot device that could deceive everyone including the audience.
So for me, this goes back to the original quote from Jack Nicholson. What if we removed ‘Reason’ (to cash in on franchise favour) and ’Accountability’ (using the franchise name) and just let women make movies with women for women, unencumbered by the previous success of men, creating original characters and trust that if the film is good, then the audience will come.
And if the audience comes who want to see original characters and movies, the cis Het Fuckboys will stay away and the world will be better for that. [Editor’s Note: His words, not mine.]
Maybe I’m wrong and I’m just another man telling women what I think they should do, but I would be interested to know what you think.
This post was authored by Flicks.