The Female Reboot

Women are the best. We know this. It’s 2015. So it makes sense then that the issue of female roles in TV and film has become normal dinner table discussion. Hollywood’s answer to that discussion lately has been pretty simple: do a female reboot.

It was recently announced that there will be an “Ocean’s 11” remake, but this time the plot twist isn’t Matt Damon’s nose; it’s that all the roles will be occupied by women! It’s truly entertaining considering the Clooney/Pitt/Damon version of “Ocean’s 11” was already a remake. But my sarcasm aside, the female reboot of classic film and television characters has been hotly debated in the last year and I find myself seeing both sides of the argument.

On one hand, I’m stoked about the all-female “Gostbusters” film coming in July. One, Paul Feig is directing it. He’s been the master behind “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” “Spy,” and some really great “Arrested Development” episodes. He knows how to step aside and let his funny female stars inhabit roles. Two, that cast. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones? If you’re looking for girl power “Ghostbusters” has it. Three, yeah it’s a remake, and yeah, those are always going to be tricky, but it’s remaking something created by Dan Aykroyd aka the nicest/coolest dude ever. He’s letting this remake happen, even talking about how he always imagined making more movies. “Ghostbusters” was his baby and you don’t just leave your baby in someone else’s hands unless you really trust them.

Four, and this is the most important thing to me, the original “Ghostbusters” movies left plenty of room to grow. Seriously. I recently watched them again and they aren’t as great as I remember them as a kid. Sure, they’re fun, but they are outdated and have a lot of plot holes. Not that those are always reasons for a reboot, but I think there’s some seriously good potential that the story this time around will be kick-ass. The original movies could give anyone a million ideas of how to continue the story. And let’s throw in a number five for safe measure; it’s comedy people. Let’s all lighten up, shall we? At the end of the day it’s a comedy about buds hanging out, facing their fears, and playing with ghosts. It’s not supposed to be a Best Picture Oscar contender. Whether it’s women or men in the leads, it’s just supposed to be fun entertainment.

But, again, I get it. I see the danger of the female reboot. I see it and fear it. What many have commented on is the fact that women can’t seem to find good roles in Hollywood. But they’re being handed roles that previously belonged to men because Hollywood is being lazy and not giving the ladies any good, original material. Why can’t a woman play a man’s role? Of course she can! But why does she have to have a recycled role? Why not one of her very own?

We’re probably asking questions of problems that can never really be solved. And although the female reboot makes another argument for women still taking the passenger seat to men (in any type of job), it also makes me wonder about the thing people in the entertainment industry probably don’t like talking about. Are they running out of ideas?

Nostalgia is making old things shinny and new again and we’ve kind of just accepted it. But isn’t that also what we’ve been asking for? How many times have you heard someone complain that “they just don’t make movies like the used to.” Well you’re getting your wish people. Now they’re making movies exactly like they used to, but it upsets us just as much. Let’s not even get started on the TV show rebooting. I want to see the DJ Tanner version of “Full House,” “Fuller House,” so bad but I also know that it will be horrible and will more than likely ruin the entire original show for me. And unless Aaron Sorkin wakes up tomorrow and finally decides that we need more episodes of “The West Wing,” the TV reboot idea makes no sense to me.

Re-invisioning a film, though, is a little different. There’s more of a confined space you’re allowed to use. There’s less room to screw up and more room to perfect it, although we hardly ever see that happen. OK. It actually did happen once.

The Coen Brother’s remake of “True Grit” is way better than the original. I know. I’m sorry John Wayne fans, but my heart belongs to a different Rooster. Wayne was never a good actor. Don’t get me wrong, he was beloved and cherished and is an American cinema icon, but his acting wasn’t some untouched force of genius. He was a star, not necessarily an acting great. I mean, we can talk about typecast all day with him. And that’s probably why the Wayne led version of “True Grit” seems to fall a little flat. It wasn’t even his best movie (even though he won the Oscar for it) and certainly not the greatest American Western film.

So how then did a remake manage to fix what Wayne’s “Grit” lacked? The second round of “True Grit” was better in every way because it got the original story right by, gasp, making the film about the girl. Both movies are based on a 1960s book of the same name that actually focuses on the young girl, Mattie Ross, who goes after her father’s killer, not Wayne’s famous eyepatch-wearing U.S. Marshall. Wayne’s character is a huge part of the plot and, of course, the other lead in the film, but in the Coen version Jeff Bridges’ performance (which ironically was used largely in the advertising of the film) takes the passenger seat to Hailee Steinfeld’s rogue Ross character. The film makes more sense focusing on a young girl’s revenge story instead of a crabby drunk. Perhaps, then, this proves that some reboots with females moved to center stage can and do actually work.

We can complain around that dinner table about the message a female reboot can send, but I wouldn’t totally dismiss it. It has the potential to work like “True Grit,” but only if the women who take on those roles are given every opportunity to exceed expectations and make the role their own. And that’s just the sort of thing that the badass women of 2015 are totally capable of.

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