Following the fiasco of the Ghostbusters all-female reboot, one could have been forgiven for thinking Hollywood would never tread down this mistaken path again. Yet, here we are, faced with news of a reboot of the classic bank heist trilogy Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13 – the all-female Ocean’s 8.
The choice of eight females to comprise the team may spring from many reasons; perhaps this is a tongue in cheek statement that women can do just as good a job, if not better, than men, with less people, or perhaps this is a reference to the illusory gender pay gap where women earn 72% of men’s earnings, such that 72% of the original eleven-man team is now eight women. Regardless of the reasoning behind choice of number, the reboot is undeniably a defiant statement that women deserve equal treatment and representation in the film industry and in celebrity culture. On paper the collection of female superstars like Anne Hathaway and Sandra Bullock seems a strong call to arms for female empowerment, but in reality this proves wholly counter-productive.
Firstly, creating an all-female reboot of Ocean’s 11 is a clear protest at the original films’ male dominance. This protest is misguided. A screenwriter has freedom to write whatever story they see fit, and cast characters and construct the plot as they see fit. Films are produced all the time, each with their unique casts and gender distributions. One cannot simply pick on a movie where the cast happened to be all male, in line with the entire plot, and say the script is sexist against women. This is akin to complaining Mean Girls is sexist against men as it does not feature a male main character, and demanding a Hollywood reboot, Mean Boys.
In fact, looking across the entire labour market will reveal that there are rarely any industries with equal gender representation. This is due to the distribution of skills and the nature of work involved. For example in the UK, one in three males work in production industries compared to only one in ten women working in those industries. Caring and leisure services on the other hand are female dominated, with 83% of all workers being female.
The next question arises: why does this film have to be a reboot of the original, highly successful box office hit? Why not simply write a completely new and original story of women teaming up for a bank heist job, under a new name? This reeks of certain females/people living in the past and trying to nitpick all the ways in which society has slighted them, to the extent where it is all-consuming and preventing them from moving on and living in the present, pursuing constructive paths for their demographics.
The obsession with the perception of being slighted and treated unfairly actually facilitates this downwards cycle. The reaction to supposed unfair female representation has been to lash out at the established films and seek exact and reciprocal treatment. This creates and draws extra attention to the perceived notion that women need extra help and extra allowances in order to achieve equality and be in blockbuster films. This creates the notion that without an artificial mimicking of Ocean’s 11, women would never independently be capable of creating and participating in successful productions.
Mollycoddling and giving step-ups simply does not promote an image of equality, but instead promotes the image that women are incapable of achieving without a hand up from society.
The issue of promoting equality of treatment across society is a complex and controversial one. In the film industry specifically, though, perhaps the way forward is to include blind auditions for non-gender specific roles, but be careful to never criticise or intervene in the freedom and ability of a screenwriter to cast certain roles for certain genders.