Female-centric reboots are all the rage right now—Ghostbusters! Ocean’s Eight! The Picture of Dorian Gray!—but some gender-flipped reboots are more complicated than others. Deadline reports that Scott McGehee and David Siegel will write and direct an all-female version of Lord of the Flies, based on the novel by William Golding, in which a group of schoolboys become stranded on an island and establish their own increasingly savage social order. “We want to do a very faithful but contemporized adaptation of the book, but our idea was to do it with all girls rather than boys,” Siegel told Deadline.
Unlike most other all-female remakes, however, the gender-bent Lord of the Flies is taking a beating online, and not in the usual MRA circles:
An all women remake of Lord of the Flies makes no sense because... the plot of that book wouldn't happen with all women.— roxane gay (@rgay) August 31, 2017
uhm lord of the flies is about the replication of systemic masculine toxicity— froy (@froynextdoor) August 31, 2017
every 9th grader knows this
u can read about it on sparknotes https://t.co/EQFyuSA3MV
imagine having such little interest in seeking out original stories about girlhood by women that you remake LORD OF THE FLIES with girls— JamesHurleyVEVO (@soalexgoes) August 30, 2017
A female lord of the flies where everything goes fine and they create a society on a secret island wait this is the start of wonder woman— TechnicallyRon (@TechnicallyRon) August 31, 2017
Golding himself explained his reasons for filling the island with all boys in the novel, saying that “they are more like a scaled-down version of society than a group of little girls would be” on the grounds that women are “far superior to men.” Obviously, this kind of thinking errs on the side of reductive—an all-girls cast doesn't automatically make for a conflict-free story, by any means—but it’s true that gender plays an integral role in how the boys of Lord of the Flies adapt to their surroundings, and a gender-swapped version would have to take that into consideration: as I pointed out when St. Vincent announced that her version of The Picture of Dorian Gray would star a female protagonist, it’s not enough to simply make your character a woman and call it a day.
All of this criticism is premature, though, since Siegel and McGehee haven’t actually written a script yet, and both men have directed notable movies with female protagonists in the past (though Bee Season and What Maisie Knew were written by female screenwriters). What’s far more troubling about all of this is that McGehee and Siegel seem to be unaware of the fact that they are hardly the first artists to ask, “What if Lord of the Flies, but with girls, in a contemporary setting?”
McGehee told Deadline that swapping genders in the film would be an “opportunity to tell it in a way it hasn’t been told before,” and that “... it shifts 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.” But that story has very much been told before: To use just one example, Libba Bray's 2011 novel Beauty Queens has essentially the exact same premise as McGehee and Siegel’s film, as she pointed out on Twitter:
Gosh. I wonder why no woman thought of that. pic.twitter.com/OSlAXOIPt4— Libba Bray (@libbabray) August 31, 2017
Thanks for all the #BeautyQueens love, y'all. ❤️— Libba Bray (@libbabray) August 31, 2017
Someday, when I get my dick back from the cleaners, I'ma take Hollywood by storm.
In Bray’s version, 50 teenage beauty contestants are wrecked on an island and create their own society. Sounds kind of familiar, huh? It’s not necessarily a bad thing that two men are writing and directing a movie that tries to unpack the psyche of teenage girls, but it is a bit strange that they apparently didn’t google “female Lord of the Flies” before embarking on the project. Even Mean Girls, about the jungle-like heirarchy of young women in high school, has some Lord of the Flies baked into its formula. With her good intentions and shattered glasses, Mrs. Norbury (Tina Fey) is the female version of Piggy we already know and love.