There’s a lot of noise going around about the planned all-female Lord of the Flies remake, and it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s also a lot of backlash surrounding the potential film, as well as the fact that two men are behind the project. But just like much of the criticism heaped upon other all-female remakes and reboots, it isn’t warranted, and such a remake just might be what William Golding’s 63-year-old story needs for today’s times.
So far, there have been two movie adaptations of the 1954 William Golding novel Lord of the Flies, one released in 1963 with a mostly British cast, and one released in 1990, with Americans replacing the British schoolboys depicted in the book and in the first movie. As noted by the New York Times, the preteen boys in the story are stranded on an island without any adults around, and while they try to work together at first, the boys begin to distrust each other, with violence ensuing as main protagonist Ralph’s allies abandon him one by one, leaving to join antagonist Jack’s group of hunters.
According to Deadline, which first broke the story of the all-female Lord of the Flies remake, the planned film is the brainchild of Scott McGehee and David Siegel, who reportedly signed a deal with Warner Bros to write and direct the new version. While the two men plan to stay true to what Golding wrote more than six decades ago, they wanted to give their project a “contemporized” take on the novel, albeit with girls instead of boys stranded on the island. Siegel also told Deadline that one reason why he and McGehee are working on a remake is the thought that Lord of the Flies is still very relevant to today’s readers, as “interpersonal conflict and bullying” are among the main themes included in the novel.
But why write an all-female take on Lord of the Flies? Scott McGehee was quoted by Deadline as saying that it could “shift things in a way that might help people see the story anew.”
“It breaks away from some of the conventions, the ways we think of boys and aggression. People still talk about the movie and the book from the standpoint of pure storytelling.”
Those are all valid points, but people still took to social media after the news broke out, saying that the scenarios depicted in William Golding’s book won’t happen if girls or women were the ones who were stranded. According to The Guardian, others were critical of the fact that the potential remake is being helmed by two men, who might not know how to write female characters properly. There were also those who argued that Lord of the Flies had already been interpreted in a female-centric setting before, specifically in the films Heathers and Mean Girls.
Talking about the first argument against the all-female Lord of the Flies, how sure are we that young girls wouldn’t become barbaric while on an island without adults, unless we look at them with the same old tired stereotype of women being “the fairer sex”? Yes, we can get the idea of “toxic masculinity,” which a lot of Twitter users brought up, and a lot of us are surrounded in our day-to-day lives by unpleasant walking caricatures of machismo. Still, we have to admit that a lot of people in general, regardless of gender, may have personalities that become toxic in certain situations.
Moving on to the argument that the remake shouldn’t be written and directed by two men, we shouldn’t assume, based on previous history, that male writers cannot write nuanced female characters, or might make them look bad. And while I agree that women are a better authority when it comes to writing female characters, that doesn’t mean the men can’t, or shouldn’t, do the same. In other words, don’t knock it until you’ve seen it.
The last argument doesn’t hold water either – Mean Girls, at least for this writer, is as much a gender-flipped interpretation of Lord of the Flies as 10 Things I Hate About You is a hip and trendy remake of The Taming of the Shrew. McGehee and Siegel are planning a contemporary version that appears to honor the book’s “stranded on an island” premise, which is different from bringing classic novels and stories to a modern-day American high school setting.
While Scott McGehee and David Siegel appear to have come up with an unprecedented plan for an all-female Lord of the Flies remake, theirs won’t be the only one to veer from the all-male boarding school backgrounds of the story’s characters. The 1975 Filipino film Alkitrang Dugo (“Asphalt Blood”) featured a mix of male and female preteens in the cast, and while the dialogue is often cheesy, especially for someone like myself who was born a few years after the movie was released, it largely stayed faithful to Golding’s original story. Yet it didn’t stereotype the girls as being more civilized and rational than their male equivalents, as the villainous hunters were made up of a mix of boys and girls.
At the moment, we don’t know when, or even if, the all-female version of Lord of the Flies will be released. A lot of things could happen – the film could get released on schedule, it could languish in “development hell,” or it might not even see the light of day. But Scott McGehee and David Siegel deserve kudos for thinking out of the box, and for coming up with an idea that doesn’t just make an old story new and hip, but also flips the gender to explore how young girls might react to being lost in the middle of nowhere, with no adults around to set the rules.
[Featured Image by Angela Weiss/Getty Images]