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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

question of the day: How can we update archetypal stories and characters (such as Sherlock Holmes) to be more gender equitable?

low gender warning Elementary Lucy Liu Jonny Lee Miller

I love this (via The Sociological Cinema). The alert box reads:

Low Gender Warning

Casting a female actor in a supportive role does not update the ‘Holmes’ concept. A main female lead is suggested. Would you like to diversify?

Elementary has lots of problems, but one of the big ones is that the gender swap for Watson, making the character female, is accompanied by a change in her relationship with Holmes: she’s not a sidekick and a documentarian, and she’s not a decorated military doctor; she’s a disgraced civilian doctor, and she’s his babysitter, there to make sure he doesn’t backslide into substance abuse. Why not just call her “Mommy”?

So, if a genuinely fair updating of the Holmes concept might require a female Holmes, or at least a female Watson who is a war veteran and not Holmes’ nurse, what changes would other familiar stories demand?

How can we update archetypal stories and characters to be more gender equitable? Are there cases where it wouldn’t make the most sense to leave an entire story intact and simply change the protagonist’s gender? Would a better updating be retelling classic stories from the perspective of female characters who would have been on the periphery? (For example, a Victorian Sherlock Holmes told from the perspective of Mrs. Hudson — maybe she wasn’t an old lady, and maybe she wasn’t merely a housekeeper? — could highlight gender issues both of the time and still present today.) Which classic stories would you like to see updated with a female protagonist, and how would you do it?
(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)


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