With the polarizing presence of 2016’s Ghostbusters, the upcoming Oceans 8, and news of possible female movie remakes like Lord of the Flies, The Nice Guys, and The Expendables (tentatively titled The Expendabelles, ugh), gender-swapped movie remakes are currently a Hollywood hot button issue. Despite all of the “hot takes” being given on the subject, remakes starring women in place of the original's male cast are nothing new. In fact, they’re pretty much a Hollywood tradition at this point.
It’s easy to see why reboots of this nature would pop up so frequently throughout film and television history. After all, both industries have traditionally been dominated by men, which has had the effect of making the majority of western film and television rather male-centric. Now that society is significantly more enlightened to the realities of gender inequality, and in particular the impact on popular culture from this disparity, audiences should expect to see more lady-led remakes in the future.
But for those who think this wave of female-driven remakes is new, here's just a few of the lady-led do-overs you may have overlooked.
A 1921 silent and German production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet could be considered the first feminized film remake in history. The titular character is normally portrayed as a man and, at least in Shakespeare’s day, all of the roles would have been filled by males. However, in this re-imagining, Asta Nielsen played a female Hamlet who masquerades as a boy to maintain a shot at the throne. The film was generally well-received, despite its seemingly radical themes.
Twelve Angry Men was a highly successful original TV movie that made its debut in 1954 and was then a theatrical film in 1957. The film centered around an all-male jury because, at the time, women were still not allowed to serve on most kinds of juries. However, within two years, the teleplay was adapted for the stage as Twelve Angry Women featuring a female cast. This would make Twelve Angry Women the first instance of an all-woman reboot, a full sixty years before Ghostbusters did the same thing. The play was first performed on Long Island in 1956.
In 1977, Marlo Thomas and Cloris Leachman starred in It Happened One Christmas¸an ABC made-for-TV holiday film. The movie was a remake of It’s a Wonderful Life, the Jimmy Stewart classic from 1946. This time around, Thomas played the suicidal individual who is approached by Leachman, her guardian angel, and taken on a holiday-themed exploration of her importance to the world. This was the first time a popular American male character had been recast as a woman. The movie even included a small role for Hollywood legend Orson Welles.
The Bionic Woman was technically a spinoff of The Six Million Dollar Man, and the two crossed over on multiple occasions, but that doesn’t change the fact that its protagonist, Jaime Summers, has an origin that is virtually indistinguishable from her masculine predecessor. The two shows exist in the same universe, but The Bionic Woman definitely qualifies as a retelling of Steve Austin’s character's story, but from a female perspective.