Marvel has announced that its Asgardian demi-god Thor will now be a woman. Of course, there are mixed reactions to this news, but it might just be a refreshing change to have a strong, feminist minded depiction of a female superhero in a mainstream comic book series for girls and women to enjoy. If the popularity of genderbending fanfiction and cosplay is any indication, women in the geek community desperately need a representative. The paltry selection of female characters in comics, television, and film – and many of those so backwardly written that they can’t reasonably be claimed by women as a viable mascot of feminism – has women appropriating their favorite male characters and making them female. Some of the more recent reboots of classic shows are doing the same thing, providing a varied collection of interesting, dynamic, and strong female characters for women to identify with, relate to, and be inspired by. Here are a few attempts that explore the possibilities of genderbent entertainment.
6. BBC Danger Mouse (2015)
So this show is still in production, but BBC is planning to reboot the spy spoof cartoon from the 1980s. The only problem with rebooting things from any significant time ago is that gender dynamics have changed and that an all male cast of characters in the same vein as the original show is not really viable or relevant in today’s world. So the BBC, very wisely, decided to change some of the leading characters from male to female. Since this is a cartoon, of course, and is partly aimed at children, that means that young girls will have strong female mice to look up to and emulate as they grow older. After all, what could be cooler or more empowering than a badass female mouse spy?
5. Elementary (2012)
As an old school Holmesian, I’m not sure I completely agree with the choice to make Watson a woman – which is a common enough impulse in film (They Might Be Giants, 1971 ) and television (1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, CBS 1994) – because I firmly believe that the stories are as much about the dynamics of a close male relationship between Holmes and Watson as it is about the mystery. However, I understand the desire to investigate a possible intimate or romantic relationship between Holmes and Watson in a safely conventional way. To be fair, Lucy Liu is one badass and classy lady and in a vacuum I think she’s probably one of the best and most capable Watson’s ever conceived or performed. And supposing the Holmes/Watson relationship never takes a turn into the romantic, it is also a testament to the capability of men and women to work together professionally without expectation of an eventual physical relationship.
4. Ran (1985)
This is one of the few examples bent the other way around. Ran is Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. Its set in feudal Japan, so it makes perfect sense that Lear’s three daughters would be changed into three sons. Of course, it doesn’t actually change much about the story that Lear’s children are sons rather than daughters. In fact, in the original play, there was something ballsy and defiant about Lear’s daughter refusing to pledge her obedience to him. Ran is perhaps most well known for the epic battle scene in which Kurosawa had a castle build just to burn down in the course of the battle.
3. Battlestar Galactica (2004)
There are many, many reasons to love Battlestar Galactica, and one of them is Katee Sackoff’s performance as Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace. In the original Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck was played by Dirk Benedict along with a largely male flight crew. Ronald D. Moore’s reboot changed the gender dynamics in a lot of ways, but most prominently with the strong willed, stubborn, card playing, hard drinking, cigar smoking, fist fighting Kara Thrace. She is flawed and damaged, but incredibly unique, gifted, and complex. She is a force to reckon with and no one ever questions her authority or expertise because she is a woman.
2. Adventure Time (2o10)
Adventure Time may be a cartoon about a boy and his adopted dog brother going on adventures and growing up together, but there is an alternate reality in which Finn the Human is a girl named Fiona, and Jake the Dog is her adopted cat sister named Cake. Together, Fiona and Cake go on adventures and save the day. Fiona is as hard fighting, adventure loving, and heroic as her male counterpart, and has to face the same perils of growing up. At the same time, the science loving and ancient princess Bubblegum is transposed into the charming Prince Gumball, keeping with the hetero-normative dynamics of adolescent self-discovery and budding sexuality. The other, more meta aspect of this is that Fiona and Cake are genderbent characters in the Ice King’s personal fanfiction about Finn and Jake, mirroring the best and worst of fandom creativity and genderbending adaptations.
1. Hannibal (2013)
Hannibal is one of the coolest, most surreal, most disturbing and equally as funny shows out there today. It takes so much of what we love about the Hannibal novels and movie adaptations and gives us its own enchanting and terrifying twist on it. One of many changes showrunner Bryan Fuller made to the story is the gender of some of the characters. While there have yet to be any previously female characters who are now male, there are at least two characters who were male in the books and films and are now represented by female actors. Slimy tabloid journalist Freddie Lounds – previous portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in Red Dragon and Stephen Lang in Manhunter – is now portrayed by the beautiful and cold Lara Jean Chorostecki. Will Graham’s colleague and love interest Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) was previously Dr. Sidney Bloom (Paul Perri) in Manhunter. It evens up the playing field and makes for a more interesting dynamic between characters, opening up storytelling possibilities and plot lines.