Last week I ran across an article or seven talking about director Steven Spielberg "hinting" at the option of casting a female as Indiana Jones (and possibly changing the name to "Indiana Joan") once Harrison Ford decides to give up the fedora.
I decided to give this a few days in case it turns out A) This was an April Fools' Day joke, B) he was just trying to distract us from the fact Robert Zemeckis might have done a better job sticking to the source material for the Ready Player One movie adaptation, or C) changing the last name of a character just because you change their gender is both unnecessary and embarrassingly hokey. Really, I know women whose last name is Jones.
Well, none of these things happened to my knowledge, so the usual Internet arguments ensued about the need for female role models and diversity, as well as to the evils of fanboys hanging on their old characters.
Every time I hear a writer or director talk about turning yet another well-established male character into a female I can’t help, as a woman, wonder two things:
One: Why do directors think women would rather see other women than hunky men in action?
Two: Why is creating entirely new and original characters such a hard concept for Hollywood to grasp?
As far as my first point, I completely understand wanting to see women role models in movies and television. I like these to be women that were created as women, and not some sloppy second of a male character. DC’s Wonder Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter and Jessica Jones, Game of Thrones’ Brienne of Tarth, Walking Dead’s Michonne are some of my current favorites. These women rock.
However, I like my favorite male characters to stay men because I also like men. I’ve never been too upset with men wanting to see attractive women on screen, because I like to see attractive and manly men in fist fights, stomping around in jungles, and swaggering around in fitted tuxedos. That’s one of the great things about being a modern woman. We don’t have to be puritans, and can admit we like hot men, like say, I don’t know…Indiana Jones?
Secondly, and this is something I feel I have said again and again, if you want to have more characters that represent any demographic, create new ones. There are many talented writers out there ready to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) and whip up a few new worlds featuring strong female characters. In addition, there are also some great and untapped source materials already out there featuring female characters. Danger Girl and Scarlet Couture comics are primed for some adaptations in the spy world. Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, for some reason, just can’t catch on in movie form, but might do better as a television series. Either way, I think audiences of all types will respond better to any character if they are new and fresh, or true to the original source material.
If Harrison Ford no longer wants to be Indiana Jones, let the legacy remain with him, and gracefully say goodbye to the Dr. Jones. Then, give us something and someone new. It’s an insult to men to castrate every one their characters, and an insult to women to think you can’t create female heroes unless they are based on male ones.
Don’t worry. We’ll wait.