The was a great article in the Post today about how going to see the new Ghostbusters has become a political act. Basically, all the backlash against the all-female lead team has lead people into taking sides like this is Civil War. I’m not saying that movies and such can’t or shouldn’t be political, but a movie about busting ghosts probably isn’t meant to be. However, considering that we have people saying that it’s the worst movie ever before it’s even hit theaters, and between the terrible trailers and everything that happened with the Angry Video Game Nerd the other week, there’s obviously something that was lost in translation. It’s not just with Ghostbusters, Rouge One has experienced some similar backlash. To say that there are certain genres where the same groups of people are generally underrepresented, and that said representation leads to situations like we have now with these movies is the most delicate way that I can put it (and someone will still find offence in it.) If you read my post on remakes, I’m not inherently opposed to the concept of remakes, especially if it adds to the conversation or ultimately makes a better project than the original. I’m not saying Ghostbusters will, but they struck on an idea that could be used to help our current cultural climate, because the only way to fix this is to normalize the presence of women (both white and woc) in our media.
There are several pieces of media that could use such an update. What the new Ghostbusters movie has done is what is known in internet parlance as “Rule 63”– the concept of taking a piece of media and swapping out one gender for another. It’s along the lines of “What if Sam and Dean Winchester were Samantha and Deanna? How would that effect the work?” Or, like what Ghostbusters seems to be doing, simply telling a new story with some or all of the characters as women. People were recently campaigning for Gillian Anderson to be Jane Bond, and within the franchise, Judi Dench was one of the best “M”s put to screen. Skyfall wouldn’t have been the same movie if Ralph Fiennes had replaced her right at the beginning. It could also breathe new life into a franchise that needs updating or revamping.
Here are five pieces that I think deserve such consideration.
(M*A*S*H is distributed by 20th Century Fox)
We need M*A*S*H back. M*A*S*H was great. It was one of the first real TV dramadies and dealt with a lot of issues that were really important, and still are. My argument for bringing M*A*S*H back for a modern audience with a female cast would be to set it in during the initial NATO actions in Afghanistan, with a cast mixed from several different armies. Hawkeye and Trapper Joanne (or BJ) would be reservists instead of draftees. Julie Andrews as an incredibly British Colonel Shirley T. Potter. Dr. Charlotte Emily Winchester (of the Boston Winchesters) who is only in the Army because they paid for her medical school after her parents refused to, constantly in conflict with Maj. Margaret Houlihan, the Army brat who hasn’t known anything else. Bringing it up to the 2000’s allows for more technical advances to be made which can bring plots with it. Things like long lines at a computer to read emails, or a little later, the frustration of using Skype internationally would replace the 4077’s mail, for instance. Being set in Afghanistan would lend itself to plots about Islamophobia and the post-9/11 anti-Arabic sentiments that many felt. There would also be many episodes dealing with women in the military, obviously. One of M*A*S*H‘s strengths was that it was able to talk about serious problems from an incredibly human perspective, and that’s something we desperately need right now, no matter who is saying it.
4. Henry V
All-female Shakespeare is a fantastic thing to watch, especially when it’s the comedies that involve cross-dressing. It’s hilarious. This is just one of many plays that needs to be brought to the screen with an all girl cast, but one of the more important ones. While Shakespeare is known for writing interesting female characters (Lady Macbeth, Rosalind, Viola, etc), by far the most complex ones are his male leads, and King Hal is a great example. Built up from a short mention at the end of Richard II, to this play, where he leads England into war with France (because it was Tuesday, or something). You’re never really certain of his character– does he want the crown? Will he be the same king his father was? Where it gains a layer with a female actor is how it would become a much-needed deconstructed version of the “Strong, Independent Woman” trope. “And what have kings that privates have not too,/Save ceremony, save general ceremony?” (Henry V, IV.iv.220-221). There’s a phrase that I’ve heard several times in respects to representation in media– “you can’t be what you can’t see”. The amazing thing is, many Shakespeare plays pass the Bechdel Test easily. It was quite progressive for his day, taming of Shrews notwithstanding. But often the roles that his women do get are mothers, wives, love interests, or nurses. They might be fun and complex, but there’s more out there than just that.
(Happy 20th anniversary, Takahashi.)
Yes, the card game anime with the increasingly bizarre hair choices (yeah, you see Atem up there? It gets worse.) And don’t get me wrong, there’s some great shōjo anime (anime targeted towards girls) out there– Sailor Moon is a classic, I’m still waiting for the second season of Ouran— but as we’ve seen on this side of the Pacific, boys don’t care if Korra is a girl, “They just said she was awesome” (Brian Konietzko). And the lessons learned in Yu-Gi-Oh! aren’t exactly boy-specific, they’re things like friendship, teamwork, and believing in oneself/the heart of the cards. Shōnen manga (manga targeted towards boys) with female leads tend to edge towards the seinen (anime/manga targeted towards adult men) genres, and so a show with a younger target demographic would reduce some of the more ridiculous tropes of female anime characters. And with the high profile that Yu-Gi-Oh! still has, it would be a breakthrough point for more girl leads in general. She doesn’t even need to be a Korra or Usagi clone either, just a girl with the standard shōnen protagonist personality (as stated by Pokémon, wanting to be the very best, like no one ever was) would be enough.
Hamilton, do not throw away your shot. Between these two Tony winners (like Hamilton isn’t going to win something this year), there are plenty of Founding Fathers to go around. It’s not a question of if, sir, but which one? 1776 is classic Broadway flavor, with the infamous 45 min stretch of no music while debating whether or not to even declare independence. It would be interesting to see Phillipa Soo (Eliza Schuyler Hamilton) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler Church) play their counterparts (Hamilton and Arron Burr, respectively) in Hamilton. Broadway has no shortage of fantastic female characters, but much like Shakespeare, they are limited in range. The range here being vocal. King George III and John Adams are far more comfortable for me than Elphaba or Meg Giry. Burr’s a bit of a stretch, but if I had the vocal training these people did, I could do it. And even if they have to transpose the scores, that shouldn’t make casting directors hesitate. Many parts are low enough that a soprano can easily take it up an octave (which would require no transposting at all, btw).
“And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, Imma compel him to include women in the sequel!” –Angelica Schuyler (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton)
1. Star Trek
We’re getting a new Star Trek show. I still can’t believe it myself. Any bets on who’s boldly going and where? I know she’s got a show, but I kinda want Ming-Na Wen as a Captain. It’s high time for a new female captain anyways, and filling out more of the crew with women would be great. Maybe stick a guy in communications. Star Trek has always reached for as much representation as they could be allowed. Through Nichelle Nichols, we got Whoopi Goldberg (who, in turn, inspired Oprah), in a powerful story of representation inspiring others. The idea of “you can’t be what you can’t see” is in full force here. Star Trek has always had great female characters, from Nurse Chapel and Lt. Uhura, to Jadzia Dax, B’Elanna Torres, and Lt. Sato. Characters like these are great because you see women in almost every function of the ship. The new show needs women in Engineering and in the Medical Bay and in Science and in Command Gold. Because Star Trek is being brought to this next generation of girls that want to go to space, they should be able to see themselves out there.
Any classic franchise you want to see with more female leads? Disagree with me and think I’m trying to steal your childhood with my “SJW” crap? Let me know in the comments.