How Would Some Characters Appear If Their Gender Were Reversed?
Even in the 21st century men and women are judged differently. This article uses 2 classical TV sitcoms and a movie and a movie series to illustrate how the characters might be judged if their genders were reversed. The sitcoms are “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched”. In both these sitcoms the woman is immortal with almost limitless magical powers and the man is mortal with no magical powers.[i] The movie is “Titanic” which broke box office records and made over 2 billion dollars.[ii] “Kill Bill” is the movie series. This movie series, Volume 1 & 2, is a tale of vengeance. This article contains spoilers.
[i] In reality Jin are genderless beings.
[ii] According to Box Office Mojo, http://www.boxofficemojo.com/alltime/world/, Titanic’s worldwide gross is 2,186,900,000, last accessed 12/2/2017.
I Dream of Jeannie
This sitcom ran from 1965-1970. The premise is astronaut Captain Anthony Nelson (Larry Hagman) splashes down from a space mission and is on an island. He finds a magic lamp, complete with a Genie (Barbara Eden). She summons a rescue helicopter and he sets her free. She doesn’t want to be free and stays on as Captain, later Major, Nelson’s Genie.
Nelson calls her Jeannie and doesn’t want her to use her magic. Though careless words on his part sometimes causes Jeannie to put him in a bad situation that requires Jeannie to use her powers to get him out of trouble. Jeannie has an immediate love for Nelson. Nelson’s love for Jeannie slowly grows and they marry in the final season of the series.
Nelson’s friend is Captain, later Major, Roger Healey (Bill Daily). Healey is eventually let in on the secret that Jeannie is a Genie. He would like to be in Nelson’s position because he would have no trouble asking her to summon all the material things he ever wanted. He often asks if Jeannie could summon some things for him.
Dr. Alfred Bellows (Hayden Rorke) is a colonel and NASA psychiatrist. He, and sometimes his wife Amanda (Emmaline Henry), are often suspicious of what is happening around Major Nelson.
How would this appear if the characters’ genders were reversed? During the series run there were no women astronauts.[i] There was much talk on television shows about NASA putting women in space so it would have not been such a stretch, especially in a show where its universe included Genies. Would Captain Nelson be praised for wanting to do things on her own? Would she be viewed as being stubborn? Would the Genie’s jealously be viewed as psychotic and frightening? Would a female Captain Healey’s materialism be judged more harshly than the male Captain Healey? It would seem the Dr. Bellows character would flow well with such a change. The female Dr. Bellows could be jealous of the opportunities these younger women are afforded. She could watch them closely to make sure they are appropriate representatives of womanhood.
[i] There were women in the Soviet cosmonaut program. The Soviet Union dissolved its women’s cosmonaut program in 1969.
Would a gender reversed I Dream of Jeannie series have worked?
This sitcom ran from 1964-1972. The premise is Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and Darrin (Dick York[i]) meet, fall in love, and get married in a normal way. After they marry Samantha tells Darrin she is a witch. Darrin sets a rule she can’t use her witchcraft. Samantha’s mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead) disapproves of Darrin and often casts spells on him. Endora sometimes casts spells on Darrin to show Samantha how pathetic Darrin is. This often means Samantha has to use her witchcraft as damage control until she manages to talk her mother into reversing the spell. Darren isn’t afraid of talking back to his mother-in-law.
Samantha sometimes uses her magic to perform simple tasks from time to time. In one episode she speeded herself up to get herself ready in time to leave for a party. Darren caught her and made a snide remark about getting a broom instead of the car.
How would this appear if the characters’ genders were reversed? Would Samantha as an advertising executive and Darren, a witch who never worked a day in his life, trying to keep a job have worked in 1964. Would this premise work today? Would the mortal Samantha’s insistence Darren not use magic be considered as demeaning him? Would Samantha’s talking back to her father-in-law be considered empowering or stupid? Would her father-in-law casting spells on her be considered funny or sadistic?
[i] Dick Sargent took over the role in 1969.
It was the highest grossing 20th century movie. “Avatar” broke the “Titanic” record in 2009. The large box office was largely from teenage girls. The story is told in flashback from a centenarian Titanic survivor, Rose (Gloria Stuart). When Rose (Kate Winslet) boarded the Titanic with her mother (Francis Fisher) she was engaged to marry Cal Hockley (Billy Zane). Rose is going to marry Cal for his money. She meets Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), an artist, on the Titanic. They fall in love. Rose asks Jack to make a drawing of her where she would only wear a necklace. They consummate their love then go on the ship’s deck. The Titanic hits the iceberg. Rose knows ½ of those on board will die. She leaves her seat on a lifeboat to be with Jack. They go down with the ship. When they surface they swim to a piece of floating wood. Rose is on the raft and Jack, who doesn’t have a lifejacket, stays in the water. Jack freezes to death and sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic. When a lifeboat comes near Rose leaves the raft and swims to a frozen officer who has a whistle. She blows the whistle and is rescued.
In present time[i] a research crew is looking for the necklace. That is the purpose of the operation and they had Rose come aboard because they hoped she could give them some clues to where on the Titanic they might find the necklace. Rose had the necklace with her all the time. At night she throws the necklace overboard. Then she dies in her sleep. In the afterlife she joins Jack and the rest of the Titanic’s passengers and crew.
It is a story of romance and a young woman growing into a strong woman. How would Rose be judged if she were a man? A man is going to marry a woman for her money. He meets a woman who is an artist and pays her to draw a picture of him naked. He has a “one-night stand” with her. His hugging and kissing on the deck distract the men on iceberg watch. This causes the ship to hit an iceberg and sink. He knows there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. He leaves his seat on the lifeboat too late for anyone else to use it.[ii] He marries and becomes a widower. He and his niece are brought aboard a research ship to help find a necklace. He doesn’t tell anyone he has the necklace. Rather than giving the necklace to his niece or another sensible choice he throws the necklace overboard. In death he joins the woman he spent a night with instead of his wife.
[ii] We will overlook Rose’s behavior while she is in the water because certain behavior is expected of a man.
What would you think of a Rose had she been a man?
Other movies where someone throws a significant object into the water.
The Dark Knight Rises
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
A Medal of Honor
The Paper Chase
final test score
From Russia With Love
Iron Man 3
In many ways this movie series is a gender reversal. The movie begins with The Bride[i] (Uma Thurman), who is pregnant, shot and left for dead. She is in a coma for 4 years. When she wakes up she believes her baby is dead. She embarks on a quest for vengeance. Almost all of the significant one-on-one fights were woman vs woman. The final sword fight between Bill (David Carradine) and The Bride is almost anti-climactic. The Bride and Bill stay seated throughout the fight. The Bride makes no attempt to dispose of her enemies in a stereotypical feminine way. Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) attempts to kill The Bride by poisoning her while The Bride is comatose. Bill orders Elle not to kill her while she is in a coma.
While almost all of the series is similar such vengeance tales with a man as the protagonist there are some differences. Bill and his “Deadly Viper Gang”[ii] murder The Bride’s spouse to be (Christopher Allen Nelson), some people who befriended her, and other innocent people. The Bride cares nothing for these innocents. Her only care, and reason for seeking vengeance, was what was done to her and her unborn child. The Bride meets Bill near the end of Volume II and learns her daughter, B.B. (Perla Hany-Jardine) is alive and being treated well by her father Bill. The Bride has the option of walking away or culminating her vengeance quest. She kills Bill and takes her daughter.
How would this appear if the main protagonist was The Groom? He plans to marry a woman out of convenience. He cared nothing about the woman he was going to marry, the people who took him as their friend, and the other dead innocents. He sees his child is being well cared for by the mother yet kills the mother and makes off with the child.
[i] The Bride was known by many aliases but the movie didn’t reveal her real name. Her marriage certificate had the name Arlene Machiavelli which the detectives dismissed as a fake name. She had the code name “Black Mumba”. She was most commonly referred to as “Beatrice Kiddo”. The name was a gag name for “Be a Trix kiddo”. It’s from an old Trix cereal commercial.
[ii] The members of his gang of assassins have poisonous snakes for code names.
© 2017 Robert Sacchi