This week saw the announcement of a Lord of the Flies remake with an all-female cast. Alongside the usual more sexist remarks about why this is a poor idea, it seems something else was missing from the conversation – it just feels lazy.
In a time when remakes, reboots, re-imaginings and endless sequels are criticised as Hollywood’s reluctance or inability to come up with new and interesting ideas, recasting already existing stories but with purely female leads to replace the males seems to be left out of the conversation. Maybe it is because the sexism conversation becomes overbearing and crowds the dialogue but rather than show innovation and equality, this demonstrates a wider issue with the lack of creativity the recasting is supposedly meant to offer.
Lord of the Flies is a key example of this. The original book was about a group of private school boys who find themselves stranded on an island and forced to set-up their own society. It is a social commentary on hierarchy, survival of the fittest and how, when left to their own devices, even children can resort to violence and terror to control and influence.
The fact that they are boys definitely plays into this so the idea of replacing them with girls is an interesting one but not if you are just “remaking” Lord of the Flies. The idea is supposedly to show how girls would react and act differently, how their society and the construct of their hierarchy would work in a different way. If that is the case, then you aren’t actually remaking Lord of the Flies but creating a brand-new story which you’ve just labelled as such for easy marketing.
Or maybe this film is supposed to be a complete, faithful remake of Lord of the Flies with girls replacing the boys. In that case, the exercise is pointless. It is “stunt-casting” and offering a hook as meaningless as “Lord of the Flies… in space” or “Lord of the Flies… with dinosaurs.” If the story doesn’t alter considerably because the cast are girls, then there is no reason to do it. It is lazy.
This isn’t the only case of female “stunt-casting.” Paul Feig’s recent reboot of Ghostbusters was marred with unnecessary criticism because it cast an all-female team. A lot of the comments were sexist and ignorant but the real issue should have been that Feig set-out with female Ghostbusters in mind, instead of writing four strong characters and deciding that they would work better as women rather than men. His hook was to make the Ghostbusters women and this isn’t innovative but more a cheap marketing gimmick. It paid off because his casting was so good but if he had stated from the beginning that the characters fit these women better then men, maybe his reasoning would have been accepted easier. (Although I doubt it).
It is continuing further. Oceans 11 is being remade/rebooted with an all female team. This could be lauded as equal or innovative but again, it is just lazy and a marketing gimmick. Rather than take a male-centric concept and recast the roles with woman, why not create a brand-new movie franchise that has a full female cast from scratch. You shouldn’t have to piggyback on the success of an already established franchise to get the “female version” off the ground. The Sandra Bullock led movie could be called “Heist” featuring a team of well-known female thieves and although it will draw comparisons with the Ocean’s franchise, it would at least stand on it’s own feet rather than falling into the trap of “[Insert movie here] but with woman.”
It is a step forward for female acceptance and equality that woman are taking centre-stage and being cast not only as the lead but as the driving force behind the whole cast in these movies but the issue is that it isn’t creating new franchises but recycling old ones with gimmick casting. The real conversation shouldn’t be whether we need to a female-version of Lord of the Flies but rather do we need another version of Lord of the Flies at all.
Overall, change the conversation when looking at “female-versions” of established franchises. Rather than proclaiming that it will be “rubbish with girls” instead ask yourself if it needs to be a remake at all or could and should it be a whole new product that is actually driven by the female-led cast rather than just piggybacking on an already (male-dominated) franchise or story.