The Gender Flipped Character in Elysium

Elysium Movie Commentary

A couple of comments I added to the article at The Mary Sue “Add Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt To The List Of Characters Written For Men And Played By Women“:

The Entertainment weekly quote from that article:

Her role was created as Secretary Rhodes, who was male. But then Blomkamp woke up one morning and it suddenly occurred to him the character could be a woman. He and one of his producers, Simon Kinberg, drew up a list of potential actresses, and Foster’s name was on it, but the director thought she would never do it. “I thought, ‘That would be f—ing awesome, but there’s just no way,” he says.

And the commentary from the Mary Sue:

It’s great that, as a young male director whose debut feature gave him a lot of Hollywood leeway to do whatever he wants next, Blomkamp decided that one of the things he’d do is put at least one prominent lady in his next blockbuster sci-fi flick. I mean, in a perfect world, it’d also be great if the movie had enough female characters that I didn’t have to go check a trailer to make sure there were any other non-minor women in the film other than Jodie Foster (there’s at least one). Either way, Elysium still has the potential to live up to the standard Blomkamp set when District 9 left me speechless.

My comments to that, specifically because of the Entertainment Weekly article identifying the movie as being Real Life commentary on the 2008 economic crash, with some links to the content I quoted:

I’m glad that they’re casting women in roles originally written for men, but it would be nice if they just wrote them for women in the first place, given that women play less than 30% of the roles onscreen. 51% of the population, but consistently less than 30% of on-screen roles, and when Annenberg calculates the amount of screen time that the female characters get, the numbers get even worse. And given that Foster’s character is basically a class-warfare oppressing villain, is it really all that great that the role was given to a woman? Women are not historically the oppressive forces when it comes to class warfare, and women represent over 70% of the world’s poor, disproportionally specifically because of sexism leading to lack of opportunities for women in poverty. So doesn’t making Foster the villain distort the picture quite a bit? Especially when the protagonist of the piece is a white guy, who would probably not be part of a future poverty-stricken class. If they’d flipped the genders and made the protagonist a woman of color and a white guy they oppressor, I would have been TRULY impressed by their chutzpah.

And someone commented:

I agree that more roles should be originally written for women from the get go. But I also think women should be villains as much as heroes. They should be given a chance to play all kinds of roles.

My response (because she was pretty much missing the point):

Normally I’d agree with that – but in this particular instance, the role is problematic specifically because of the subject matter. They’re openly trying to make a movie about the 2008 economic crash and wage gap and the difference between the haves and the have-nots in our country – which is awesome and much needed. But if they’re trying to make commentary on that real-life issue, they CAN’T ignore where gender plays a role in that in real life, where women were massively disproportionally affected by that event in a way that men weren’t, around the globe, and where the wealthy and well-off who benefited from the crash were, in real life, disproportionally more men. The villains of the IRL story are very much men, and flipping the gender and make the villain a woman changes the IRL story they are trying to tell in a way that does a massive disservice to women.

And in general, women are not under-represented as villains on film and television. I’ll have to poke around and look at those numbers, but I’d say that women are probably represented as the bad guy pretty damned often.

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