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Why Do Female-led Reboots Always Flop?

Upon hearing that the cult classic film Ghostbusters was getting an all-female reboot in 2016, one disgruntled Twitter user complained: “This is the worst news I’ve ever gotten, and I lived through testicular cancer.” He was not alone in this sentiment. A number of people expressed their disapproval of the new Ghostbusters movie, with many seeming to believe that an all-female cast would ruin the franchise. Much of the backlash against the movie was founded on thinly-veiled tenets of sexism, like the idea that women aren’t as funny as men, or that certain tasks will always be performed better by a man than a woman.

When the Ghostbusters movie did finally come out in July 2016, it received a mixed critical response and grossed just $128.3 million domestically against a $144 million budget.

Of course, women are just as capable as men of being good directors, screenwriters, and actors. To believe anything to the contrary is not only sexist, but also patently false. For every Tarantino or Kubrick, there’s a Bigelow or a Gerwig, whose work, despite its relative lack of recognition from the creative community, is no less excellent. My question though, is why. Why should female actresses, directors, and screenwriters be relegated to merely recreating the works of men?

The problem with all-female reboots, and likely the root of their lackluster financial and critical performance, is the source material, not the women who direct or act in them. Simply put, the movies these reboots are based on are not very good. The original Ghostbusters movie was not some groundbreaking work of cinematic genius. Neither was Ocean’s 11, which also got an all-female cast reboot in the form of 2018’s Ocean’s 8. Women don’t have much to gain from re-doing movies like Ghostbusters that were just average in the first place.

It’s understandable, though, why female directors and actresses would want to redo popular, high-grossing movies rather than risk creating original ones that might flop, especially given the mentality that female-acted or directed flops are “proof” that women don’t belong in the film industry. Commercial success is often perceived as the only way for outsiders, like women, to make it into the Hollywood inside. Movies like Black Panther are seen as success stories because they showed that there is a market for movies about underrepresented groups such as Black people.

The problem with all-female reboots … is the source material, not the women who direct or act in them.

While commercial success is important to gain a foothold in the film industry, it shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all, and women shouldn’t sacrifice creativity and originality for the unguaranteed chance that their films will be financially successful. 

The unfortunate reality is that no matter what a woman does, she will be criticized, whether she shows her body or covers it, whether she pursues a competitive career or decides to stay home to raise children. 

So why should female directors bother trying to win the unattainable approval of the majority male fans of the original Ghostbusters or Ocean’s 11? Why not forget the mediocre films of the past and create something entirely new? Why not take a risk, and make a movie that isn’t for men at all? After all, it’s not like women have anything to lose.