Representation is important — even in mediocre Hollywood blockbusters
From the moment the casting news first dropped of an “Ocean's 8” reboot with an all-woman cast, I was intrigued.
The “Ocean's Eleven” movies may have dwindled in quality with each sequel, but I still loved the original film, especially the style, the wit and the almost superhero-like special ability of each character. We knew who the bona fide stars were, but there somehow seemed to be a balance of screen time given.
They were also all men, with the largest differential between them being age. (Only three of the 11 were non-white.) Women were never included in the actual heist, save for the terrible fourth wall attempt in “Ocean's Thirteen” when Julia Roberts' character needed to pass for someone who resembled … Julia Roberts. Women were the love interests, the foil or the mark, but rarely the person who set a plan in motion and executed it to the audience's delight.
The “Ocean's” movies didn't need a reboot, but if one had to happen, it very much had to be this version. In concept, at least.
By now the reviews are out for “Ocean's 8,” and I'm sure the cumulative response is, “Fun, at times, but often middling and unfulfilling.” Well, at least that's my review. My fear is that because the movie isn't great, that it opens the film up to the criticisms from those who felt it was a dumb idea in the first place; a failed attempt to make a “feminist version” of a movie they once liked.
This is what is tough about art and media and the scrutiny that comes with highlighting underrepresented voices and narratives. If camp A is threatened by the diversification of some long-held property, and that property turns out to not be revolutionary in the same way as the original, then the diversification of it becomes the easy scapegoat for its shortcomings.
When we witness “Star Wars” actress Kelly Marie Tran get bullied off of Instagram by supposed Jedi fanboys, or Jodie Whittaker absorb hate-fueled trolling for simply being the first woman Doctor Who, it reinforces the idea that not only should movies like “Ocean's 8” exist, but we should probably double down on these casting choices — lest the misogynists get their way.
Ultimately, I didn't love “Ocean's 8” and, in a vacuum, I would be hard pressed to recommend it. But there are a thousand uninspiring, big-budget movies we bear witness to each year that feature A-list stars and minimal meaty roles for women. Those movies aren't slowing down any time soon, so neither should the ones actually trying to widen the field and bring everyone under the tent.