Reel Women: Can a Gender-Swapped ‘Ghostbusters 3′ Lead to More Female-Centric Geek Films?
With a female-led 'Ghostbusters' reboot in the works and the recent announcement that Marvel has turned Thor into a woman, it seems that taking male characters and gender-swapping them could become the latest trend. While it's great to show audiences that it shouldn't matter if their heroes are male or female, it would also be great to see more women taking the lead in their own franchises or original properties. But maybe gender-swapping is the gateway drug; maybe this is the way to train audiences to accept women in leading cinematic roles.
The idea of gender-swapping isn't new: comic books have done it for decades, and fans have been cosplaying as gender-swapped versions of their favorite characters for a long time now, showing us that, yes, it would be cool if the Ghostbusters were women. Some have criticized female versions of these characters as being little more than gimmicks, intended to stir up more interest and cash in on a trend. Is it a trend to give more women leading roles? Is it a gimmick to show us that women are equal to men and can play the same parts? It is not the gender of these characters that defines them -- it's the things they do.
Look, a studio is going to make decisions that will attract more audiences and ultimately make more money, but the truth is that women make up half of the population and half of the movie-going public. Women made up 44% of the audience for 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' proving that we are interested in superhero films, especially ones featuring prominent female characters. And yet we still don't have a solo female superhero film ... yet! While we don't know which character Sony will be highlighting in its female-driven 'Spider-Man' spinoff and a solo Wonder Woman film has yet to be announced, we are likely getting an all-woman 'Ghostbusters' reboot, which is a step in the right direction. Marvel is turning Thor into a woman in the comic books, but the cinematic world still won't announce a Captain Marvel or Black Widow solo film. What are they waiting for?
Marvel Studio's Kevin Feige keeps skirting the issue in interviews, telling us that they just have too many franchises to juggle right now:
I hope we do it sooner rather than later. But we find ourselves in the very strange position of managing more franchises than most people have -- which is a very, very good thing and we don't take for granted, but is a challenging thing. You may notice from those release dates, we have three for 2017. And that's because just the timing worked on what was sort of gearing up. But it does mean you have to put one franchise on hold for three or four years in order to introduce a new one? I don't know.
Feige has all the power to make a Captain Marvel or Black Widow movie happen, and Captain Marvel is even rumored to make an appearance in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron.' So why introduce the character if you're just going to put her alongside Black Widow, forever working with the male heroes and proving herself to be equally badass, but never giving her a film in which to truly shine? This is the guy who can make a female superhero movie happen in the Marvel universe, and he concedes that female-driven films like 'The Hunger Games,' 'Frozen,' 'Kill Bill' and even the 'Alien' franchise all prove that people -- not just women -- enjoy watching movies with women in strong, leading roles. Feige's response, however, is basically, "Sorry, ladies, but we have too many male superhero franchises going on right now. It would be too difficult to delay one for a few months just so you can have your own film." Back of the line, sisters.
But maybe projects like the new lady-centric 'Ghostbusters' and a female Thor are the gateways to what we really want. Perhaps by showing general audiences that women can inhabit these traditionally male roles, they will be conditioned to accept that women can lead their own geek properties and superhero franchises, and that Black Widow can exist in a movie all on her own and take on some big bad guys without the help of her fellow Avengers (that doesn't mean we wouldn't like to see them make some cameo appearances). The studios know that these films will be wildly successful, or else they wouldn't make them. Audiences have proven that they will show up for female-driven films, and that, given the right people both in front of and behind the scenes, these movies can make huge bank.
Perhaps it's not a matter of conditioning your audience to accept what they clearly already want and enjoy. And if we're getting lady-dominated 'Ghostbusters' and 'Spider-Man' movies, and a female Thor comic book, it's obviously not a matter of testing the waters. We want more awesome stories like these. The movie studios know they're profitable, so what's the delay in giving women their own solo superhero film, one that isn't a "female version" or a spinoff of an existing male character?