This is a topic that has crossed my mind here and there, most often while watching a reboot TV show or movie. There are times it bothers me seeing a favorite character turned female (or vice versa). That’s a statement that can start a war of words online these days, but hear me out a little.
The issue for me has never been that they have made the change, buy why they made the change. What is the purpose of making this change? Just because? Or because it hasn’t been done before? It is they typical “just because,” that can become a bit tedious.
Remaking a classic movie or show and switching the characters gender or sex around but not changing the story at all does justice for no one. I guess one could argue that these give representation where it hadn’t been given before.
But is that argument good enough? I don’t think it is. They have basically told you, “Here, we’re going to remake your favorite movie. But this time the lead will be the opposite sex and they’ll go through the same shenanigans as previous.” You’re not worthy of your own story. That is what they have told you. It’s not worth their time to create something just for you.
How It’s Not Enough
I’ll use an example of a show I was super excited about while simultaneously wary of what they were likely to do. Growing up with the original, hearing about the reboot of Magnum P.i. hit all the nostalgia feels for me. One of the first things I heard was they were rewriting Higgins. Jonathan and Juliet Higgens are quite similar, with a few differences. Juliet is far more bad ass than Jonathan ever was in the original series, but she is also younger at the time of their respected series.
This all sounds pretty good, right? It did for me and I had no problem with Juliet at all. However, I told my wife and eldest (11 y.o.) at the time, the moment the writers get lazy and start putting sexual tension in to the point that they eventually “hookup,” I was out. The last season of Magnum was a bit annoying as they continued to play the sexual tension between the two of them, but as nothing was truly coming of it I stuck it out. So finally, as the season is winding down CBS cancels the show. And what did the lazy writers for Magnum do? Had them declare their love and kiss in the final episode. Barf!
I’m sorry, but if Thomas Magnum never kissed, hooked-up, or dated Jonathan Higgins, the new Thomas should never do so with Juliet, for one simple reason. By doing this they have negated the entire purpose of creating Juliet in the first place. The character itself simply becomes an excuse to create tension where it wasn’t needed. Juliet, the ex-Mi6 bad ass agent that could take down the worst “bad guy” alone has been relegated to a notch in the lead characters belt and nothing more.
Magnum P.I. is set to return in 2023 on NBC, but they’ll be doing so without me. They’ve lost me, with perhaps the off chance they have new writers that aren’t lazy and cast the final scene of the CBS version as a dream and they never truly kissed. I don’t see that happening. Laziness is not something easily overcome in today’s writing market.
Making it Better
There has been a lot of talk surrounding James Bond and how it was time for there to be a female Bond. Rewriting the character as female would have just been lazy once again. Rather than creating a new character and making Bond female just to make her female would have rang hollow.
Instead, with 2021’s No Time to DIe the writers showed they weren’t as lazy as those above. Rather than change the character to female, they instead created an entirely new agent with her own backstory and her own experiences to take over the 007 alias.
This is how you create representation in a way that stays true to character and is harder to be called pandering.
There are many instances of rewrites and reboots with a sex/gender change to a primary character. Some of the are well done, many not so much. I encourage you to examine instances in your own consumption of media where changes have been made and question it. Why did this make this change? Did they do it just to appease those calling for more inclusion? Or, far better, did they do it to create inclusion? The latter will be far better in the long-run.