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BBC Works Around the Gender Problem of Reboots By Turning Some Male Characters Female

by Inkoo Kang
July 7, 2014 4:12 PM
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"Danger Mouse"
"Danger Mouse"

Here's the gender (and race and queerness) problem with our current reboot culture: The products of yore that Hollywood is currently refashioning into new but familiar entertainment commodities are largely from decades past, when writers, directors, and toy designers cared a lot less than even today about inclusion and equality. 

The ongoing superhero trend is but the most obvious example: Superman and Batman were born of the Great Depression, while relatively young whipper-snapper Spider-Man emerged during the Swinging Sixties. Given the eras they were created in, it's no surprise all three are straight white men. Unfortunately, the recycling of characters from eons ago, combined with Hollywood's lack of imagination and risk-taking, has largely led to the tacit reproduction of those eras' values. 

There are exceptions, of course, most prominently Battlestar Galactica's hotshot pilot Starbuck (played by actress Katee Sackhoff in 2004 reboot) and the exceptionally talented Michael B. Jordan's casting as the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. Sadly, they remain exceptions, not the rule.  

Which is why news that the BBC's 2015 revival of the 1982 animated Bond spoof will turn some male characters female is so encouraging. Since the original cartoon featured so few female characters, the channel has opted for a gender swap per its goal of featuring more female characters in children's programming. 

“Characters that might have been male in the past will now be female characters,” announced CBBC controller Cheryl Taylor. “We felt that the redesign stayed truthful both to the essence of Danger Mouse as we knew and loved him, but also brought something new for the youth of today. ... Having seen the scripts, which are really whizz-bang, they’ve managed to retain that fantastic rather old-fashioned British humour as well as bringing something fresh.”

The BBC's tack is actually quite similar to the prescription Geena Davis recently laid out for including more female characters at the movies: "Go through the projects you're already working on and change a bunch of the characters' first names to women's names. With one stroke you've created some colorful, unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they've had a gender switch."

So congrats to the BBC for doing reboots the right way.

[via THR]

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More: Animation, Danger Mouse

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  • dM | July 9, 2014 1:49 PMReply

    Ok but making pinfold a girl will be as bad as making Watson a woman, I'm sorry but men and women can't be friends, the whole buddy mentality instantly fails when you try and make them opposite genders as well as being extremely unrealistic. I have no issue with the rest of the cast though, as long as DM and Penfold keep their Holmes and Watson buddy relationship.

  • Cripes! | July 9, 2014 3:09 PM

    Just because you don't have any friends of a different gender, doesn't mean the rest of us don't. I assure you, lots of men have female friends. Lots of women have male friends. The fact you think that's 'extremely unrealistic' says more about you than anything else.

  • Olyle | July 8, 2014 3:06 AMReply

    I have to disagree here. Changing the sex of the male characters to female just sounds lazy. I also find it kind of disrespectful towards women. Giving women the personalities of a character that was male just doesn't sound right. I would have preferred if they created entirely new female characters for the show and giving them their own voices.

  • OLYLE | July 9, 2014 8:54 AM

    I wouldn't know how to answer that question since I'm not a woman.

    I would disagree with you on those two examples. I think those two characters were big success mostly because of the performances by both actresses. Yes both characters were originally written to be male. But it was Sigorney Weaver and Katee Sackhoff that made the characters their own and created something wholly original in the process. I still consider it lazy especially in the case of this Danger Mouse reboot because it doesn't sound to me the writers are putting in the effort to make a complete character that is a female. I'm all all for more female characters. But I think it should be done with some bit of effort.

  • AnthonyHJ | July 9, 2014 5:51 AM

    And how precisely do women differ from men at a fundamental level? Kara Thrace (Starbuck) worked because, at its root, Starbuck's personality was not inherently male or female. Ellen Ripley in Alien was a male character switched to female at the last minute, but it worked because there is almost nothing (short of urinating against trees and getting pregnant) that is so unique to one gender that it's not just a tendency rather than a rule.

    Yes, Starbuck's personality was what we traditionally think of as male, but there was nothing 'lazy' or implausible about a woman who swears, smokes, drinks and is an amazing fighter-pilot. Lazy is when you fail to challenge these expectations and traditions or when you create a new character just so you don't have to fight those same expectations and traditions...

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