'Lord of the Flies': Has Hollywood's gender-bending trend jumped the shark?

Despite having few details known about the project, immediate criticism met the news that Warner Bros. is developing an all-female adaptation of Lord of the Flies, William Golding's 1954 novel. 

The concern lay in the fact that the project would be written and directed by two men, Scott McGehee and David Siegel, who have said the movie would be a faithful adaptation of the novel, about a group of boys stranded on an island after a plane crash.

Lord of the Flies is a book about toxic masculinity and what happens when that is left unchecked, even at a young age. It could prove difficult, if not impossible, to be both faithful to the source material and also to the psychology of the young women the film would be about — particularly without the input of female creative talent at the top levels of the project.

“You aren’t even tapping the talent pool that will help you achieve market success,” contends Dr. Stacy Smith, who works on USC’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative. The university's most recent study found that just 34 out of the 900 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2016 were directed by women.

Of the films currently in production at Warner Bros., none are being directed by women, though the studio delivered one of the biggest box office successes of 2017 with Wonder Woman, which has earned more than $800 million, and had Patty Jenkins at the helm of the female-driven film starring Gal Gadot as the Amazon princess Diana. Observers of Wonder Woman's success note that the film likely rang true because of the female voices in the mix in the creative process.

“One of the reasons the recent Wonder Woman film worked so well was because Diana was not just a male character dressed up in women's clothing,” says Dr. Martha Lauzen, the executive director at SDSU’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, which is responsible for the annual Celluloid Ceiling report.

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QUITO, ECUADOR: Miss Israel Gal Gadot waves to photographers 13 May 2004 in Quito. The Miss Universe 2004 contest will take place 01 June 2004. AFP PHOTO/Martin BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
QUITO, ECUADOR: Miss Peru Liesel Holler and Miss Israel Gal Gadot pose for the photographers 17 May 2004, in Quito City, Ecuador, during the First session of interviews. The Miss Universe 2004 contest will take place 01 June 2004. AFP PHOTO/Martin BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
QUITO, ECUADOR: Miss Israel Gal Gadot smiles as she holds some bananas, 20 May 2004, in Quito. The Miss Universe 2004 contest will be held next 01 June in Ecuador. AFP PHOTO/Martin BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
QUITO, ECUADOR: Miss Serbia&Montenegro Dragana Dujovic, Miss Canada Vennesa Fisher and Miss Israel Gal Gadot dance on the stage during the first official presentation with the panel of judges in Quito, 27 May 2004. The Miss Universe 2004 contest will take place on 01 June. AFP PHOTO/Martin BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
QUITO, ECUADOR: Miss Israel Gal Gadot smiles during the Miss Universe final show in Quito, Ecuador, 01 June 2004. AFP PHOTO/MARTIN BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 19: 2004 Miss Israel winner Gal Gadot attends Maxim's 'Women of the Israeli Defense Forces' Celebration at Marquee June 19, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/Getty Images)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - MARCH 12: Actress Gal Gadot arrives at the premiere Universal's 'Fast & Furious' held at Universal CityWalk Theaters on March 12, 2009 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 12: Gal Gadot attends the CW Network celebration of its new series 'The Beautiful Life: TBL' at the Simyone Lounge on September 12, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage for The CW Network)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Gal Gadot attends the World Premiere of 'Fast & Furious 6' at Empire Leicester Square on May 7, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn McCormack/WireImage)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - MAY 21: Gal Gadot arrives at the 'Fast & The Furious 6' - Los Angeles Premiere at Gibson Amphitheatre on May 21, 2013 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 11: Actress Gal Gadot attends the Max Mara and W Magazine cocktail party to honor the Women In Film Max Mara Face of the Future Awards recipient Hailee Steinfeld at Beverly Hills Hotel on June 11, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - AUGUST 28: Actress Gal Gadot attends the premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Riddick' at the Mann Village Theatre on August 28, 2013 in Westwood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26: (L-R) Actors Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck attend the Warner Bros. Pictures panel and presentation during Comic-Con International 2014 at San Diego Convention Center on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 11: Actress Gal Gadot from 'Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice' walks onstage at the Warner Bros. presentation during Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 13: Actress Gal Gadot is seen walking in Soho on July 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: Actress Gal Gadot is seen walking in Soho on July 14, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19: Gal Gadot attends the UK Premiere of 'The Last Witch Hunter' at Empire Leicester Square on October 19, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 15: Gal Gadot is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on March 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MARCH 19: Actress Gal Gadot attends 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Mexico City photo call at St Regis Hotel on March 19, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Victor Chavez/WireImage)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MARCH 19: Actress Gal Gadot attends the 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' world premiere Mexico City at Auditorio Nacional on March 19, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Victor Chavez/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 20: Actress Gal Gadot attends the 'Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice' New York Premiere at Radio City Music Hall on March 20, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22: Gal Gadot attends the European Premiere of 'Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice' at Odeon Leicester Square on March 22, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Gal Gadot attends the UK Premiere of 'Criminal' at The Curzon Mayfair on April 7, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 07: Actress/model Gal Gadot attends the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on May 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08: Actress Gal Gadot attends premiere of 20th Century Fox's 'Keeping up with the Joneses' at Fox Studios on October 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - OCTOBER 08: Gal Gadot at the 'Keeping Up with the Joneses' Press Conference at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel on October 8, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 13: Actress Gal Gadot celebrates the unveiling of the renovated Tiffinay & Co. Beverly Hills store at Tiffany & Co. on October 13, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: Gal Gadot seen at Jimmy Kimmel Live on October 19, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 20: Gal Gadot attends the Ford Warriors in Pink and The Moms host a mamarazzi event and screening for 'Keeping Up With The Joneses' at The London Hotel on October 20, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 21: Actress Gal Gadot attends the Wonder Woman UN Ambassador Ceremony at United Nations on October 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: 74th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: Actress Gal Gadot arrives to the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 07: Actor Gal Gadot attends the 2017 MTV Movie And TV Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on May 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI, CHINA - MAY 15: Israeli actress Gal Gadot attends the press conference for film 'Wonder Woman (2017)' on May 15, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: Actress Gal Gadot is seen walking into 'Good Morning America' on May 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: Actress Gal Gadot is seen arriving at Aol Live in Soho on May 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: Gal Gadot visits Build Presents discussing 'Wonder Woman' at Build Studio on May 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/FilmMagic)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0681 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actress Gal Gadot during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on May 23, 2017 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: Gal Gadot seen out in Manhattan on May 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 25: Actor Gal Gadot attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Wonder Woman' at the Pantages Theatre on May 25, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MAY 27: Actress Gal Gadot attends the 'Wonder Woman' Mexico City premiere at Parque Toreo on May 27, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Victor Chavez/WireImage)
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Only 31.4 percent of speaking roles in the top 100 grossing movies in 2016 were women, according to Smith's study. With such little onscreen representation, a question that's being raised about the all-female Lord of the Flies is whether or not the industry and audiences should welcome any female-fronted studio movie, no matter who is behind the camera. 

"That really complicates things because you don’t want to say in this industry that men can’t make stories about women," says Kirsten Schaffer, the executive director of Women In Film.

Lord of the Flies is just the latest in a trend of Hollywood gender-bending — and many of the projects have women in top roles. There is a Splash remake (from screenwriter Marja-Lewis Ryan), where Jillian Bell will play the Tom Hanks role and Channing Tatum will have the tail as a merman, and a Dirty Rotten Scoundrels redo, titled Nasty Women (also written by a woman, screenwriter Jac Schaeffer). There’s a role-swapping Overboard in production with Anna Farris and a Rocketeer movie in development with the protagonist being re-imagined as a young African-American girl. And, of course, there is that all-female Ocean’s Eleven spinoff, Ocean’s Eight, that has produced set images with Rihanna, Cate Blanchett and Sarah Paulson in a variety of fall outerwear.

In a post-Wonder Woman Hollywood, having female stories may no longer be enough. It is a matter of who is telling those stories. 

“It’s a question of what is driving the appetite to put women in front of the camera. Is it just a business opportunity?” asks Dr. Katherine Pieper, a colleague of Smith’s. “Do the people greenlighting these stories want an authentic female representation of these characters? If they do, then I think we would see women telling these stories.”

While both Lauzen and Smith's research has shown that films with female directors have higher numbers of women producers, cinematographers, editors and other women in below-the-line roles, all say that the prospective Lord of the Flies production should look to hire women in key gate keeping roles. "Or take on a female mentee or an apprentice," offers Schaffer. "A woman who has directed feature but not at this budget level, as a way to help women rise.”

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