The recreation of “Ghostbusters” with a cast of female leads was supposed to signify feminist progress. It looked to me more like a vapid (and money-losing) gesture than a worthwhile endeavor. Gender meant little to the original film, so why exploit its framework this way, if not as a cynical ploy to make a superficial signal of progressive virtue (mission accomplished) and make some money (no such luck)?
On Wednesday, it was announced that an older story is set to receive the gender-swap treatment — this time William Golding’s classic novel, “Lord of the Flies,” which has already twice been adapted for the big screen since its publication in 1954.
Unlike “Ghostbusters,” gender meant a great deal to “Lord of the Flies,” which focuses on a group of young boys who wind up stranded on an island and rapidly devolve into savages. Golding, by his own account, said his decision to write the book about boys and not girls was deliberate, because “a group of little boys are more like scaled down society than a group of little girls will be.” Masculinity also plays an important role in the book.
You may groan at what looks like another meaningless gesture intended only to make progressives feel good about themselves. And feminists, for their part, did not applaud the news, instead expressing annoyance that the film is set to be written by two men.
But conservatives should consider that gender-swap experiments in stories can and might make for interesting work in some contexts. Sure, they can be obnoxious in the wrong hands, but they can also illuminate the notion that men and women are different, a reality that is often denied by the same people who applauded “Ghostbusters.”
Placed in the same scenario, men and women might well behave differently. There is nothing inherently wrong with exploring that, so long as those explorations treat sexual differences as more than mere artificial social constructions. If laudable male and female characters were not different in…