How Hollywood Can Remake Classics With a Queer Twist

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In 2012, the Lifetime channel did something interesting: it remade the Southern classic Steel Magnolias. Not rebooted or re-imagined, but remade it. Originally a play written in 1987, Steel Magnolias was turned into a movie in 1989 starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Julia Roberts. The movie honors the bonds between Southern women even in adversity while making light-hearted fun of the “eccentric” (aren’t we all?) main characters. Add in a dash of affable Dolly and Shirley McLaine’s dour Ouiser and it’s a sincerely good movie. It was already a good candidate to be remade, but when Lifetime did so, it did something a little different: it used almost the exact same script, but all the previously white characters were made black. Now the made-for-TV movie starred Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard and Jill Scott. And the remake worked just fine.    

Right now, Hollywood has a glaring creativity problem. Since the early 2010s, studios have turned to mining comic books and preexisting movie franchises for preexisting characters rather than developing new characters and stories. In the next two years, moviegoers can look forward to no fewer than 43 “unoriginal” action/super hero movies, including, The Wolverine 3, Power Rangers, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Wonder Woman, Transformers 5, Spiderman: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League Part One, Avengers: Infinity War Part I, Transformers: Bumblebee, and Aquaman. The absence of new storylines is so bad that around 2010-2012, studios were gobbling up the movie rights to old board games and kid’s toys, which is how Battleship (2012) and The Lego Movie (2014) came about. Adam Sandler was set to star in an “operatic, King Lear-like Candy Land movie (also billed as “Lord of the Rings with edibles”) that only stalled due to a property rights lawsuit, and in 2012, a film studio was working on Hungry Hungry Hippos: The Movie.

Major studios seem to have decided that it’s easier to produce movies like Fast 8, due out in 2017, than invest resources in untested plots and characters that might not resonate with viewers. The success of Captain America: Civil War, which just surpassed Deadpool as the highest grossing R movie ever to date, only confirms this perception (even though it’s worth noting that these blockbusters also consume massive production budgets). Yet while Hollywood likes to “reboot” franchises—restart them using new lead actors to fill the parts of pre-existing characters in new plots, for example with Spiderman (next year’s Spiderman: Homecoming will see Tom Holland as the third Peter Parker after Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield), the Fantastic Four, Batman, etc.—true remakes like Steel Magnolias, Ocean’s Eleven, The Parent Trap, or True Grit are much more rare.   

We at AfterEllen have tracked dozens of potential remakes in the last decade (we even covered the Steel Magnolias remake!), but most never get made. Rosanne, I Dream of Jeannie, Clue, My Fair Lady, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie version) are just some of the movies and TV shows whose remakes have been discussed over the years. Why do so few manage to make it out of the gate? After all, the lesson of Steel Magnolias seems clear: a good story and a good script stand by themselves. When both work, some characteristics of the characters, such as their race, are fungible. (The 2014 remake of Annie, in which the titular red-headed orphan is replaced by Quvenzhané Wallis, was, unfortunately, critically panned, although the acting was well-reviewed.) For the queer community, this fungibility opens a door for some interesting remakes. If Hollywood is uninterested in new, original stories, then we present the following remakes of classic movies, with a queer twist. No script changes are necessary, only a pronoun tweak and a name change, just like Lifetime’s upcoming lesbian vampire version of Mother May I Sleep With Danger.

Film strip and canistervia Getty

The Notebook: In 1940s South Carolina, mill worker Noelle Calhoun and upper-class Allie are desperately in love, but her parents don’t approve. When Noelle leaves to support US troops deployed overseas in World War II, it seems to mark the end of their love affair. In the interim, Allie becomes involved with another woman, Lena. But when Noelle returns to their small town years later, it soon becomes clear that their romance is anything but over.

The Princess Bride: A grandfather reads The Princess Bride to his sick granddaughter. The story centers on Buttercup, a former farm girl who is engaged to the odious Prince Humperdinck. Buttercup doesn’t love him; she still pines for her one true love, Wendy, who died years ago. Wendy was a hired milkmaid on Buttercup’s family farm, but went away to sea, where she was killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. While out riding, Buttercup is kidnapped by a band of bandits. The Dread Pirate Roberts himself then begins chasing them, and chasing them all is Humperdinck. It is up to Wendy (who is passing as the Dread Pirate Roberts, now retired) to save Buttercup. 

Sleepless in Seattle: After the death of her wife, Sam Baldwin moves to Seattle with her son, Jonah. When Jonah calls in to a talk-radio program to find a new wife for his mother, Sam grudgingly gets on the line to discuss her feelings. Annie Reed, a reporter in Baltimore, hears Sam speak and falls for her, even though she is engaged. Unsure where it will lead, she writes Sam a letter asking her to meet her at the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.

Titanic: After winning a trip on the RMS Titanic during a dockside card game, American Jackie Dawson encounters socialite Rose DeWitt Bukater, who is on her way to Philadelphia to marry her rich fiancé Caledon Hockley. Jackie woos Rose over in the course of several nights as the ocean liner transits the Atlantic, but soon the ship hits an iceberg and Rose must give up Jackie so soon after meeting her.

Raiders of the Lost Ark: Renowned archeologist and expert in the occult Dr. India Jones is hired by the government to find the Ark of the Covenant. Unfortunately, Hitler’s minions are also after the Ark. India and her ex-flame Marion escape from various close scrapes in a quest that takes them from Nepal to Cairo.

Inception: Dominique (Dom) Cobb has developed the ability to enter people’s dreams and steal their secrets from their subconscious. Her skill has made her valuable in the world of corporate espionage, but has also cost her everything she loves: her wife and children. Now she must complete one last act of inception if she ever wants to see her children again.

Die Hard: New York City policewoman Jane McClane is visiting her estranged wife and two daughters on Christmas Eve. McClane joins her wife at a holiday party in her employer’s building, but a group of terrorists take over the high-rise and hold everyone in it hostage. McClane realizes that there’s no one to save the hostages but her.

The ease of transitioning these stories from heterosexual to queer, like the effortless switch from white characters in Steel Magnolias to black, speaks to the universality of the themes found in these movies. A good story is a good story, regardless of whether Rose is in love with Jack or Jackie. With so many great movies and plays in the world, why shouldn’t Hollywood be more creative about remaking them? It’s already done frequently with Shakespeare (10 Things I Hate About You, She’s the Man, O, and very interestingly, Bollywood’s Omkara). And speaking of Shakespeare, why can’t Olivia end up with Viola in Twelfth Night? What if Olivia knew all along that Cesario was Olivia? Hollywood seems set on rebooting and retreading old ground for the foreseeable future, so let’s get some more queer story lines in!  

What do you think? What movie would you like to see remade with a queer twist?  

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