“Five Years, Eight Months, And 12 Days” Is About How Long I’m Willing To Wait Until Female Narratives Become More Than Just “Female Versions”: Musings On Ocean’s 8

By Annie Jonas

The Ocean’s trilogy is kind of like Kim Kardashian’s kids. The first one arrived and you were completely thrown for a loop, utterly flabbergasted. It was as if you had been swept away (pun intended–– that was an ocean joke, FYI). Then, the second one arrived and you couldn’t stop wondering if a better name could have been used. By the third, you were just as exhausted and frustrated as Kim’s surrogate must have been after going through a long labor and still not getting invited to the baby shower. The trilogy, like many other film series, has its pros and cons that give it a rich and robust arena for praise and criticism.

Ocean’s 8, like the trilogy, also has its pros and its cons. The film received drastically polarized views from Ocean’s and non-Ocean’s fans alike. Two areas of debate which frequented many tweets and news articles concerned the film’s originality and intersectionality–– or lack thereof. These two categories piqued my interest, and they have inspired the following musings:

#1: Sandra Bullock described the film as a “parallel story” to the Ocean’s trilogy in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. I wonder, however, what is lost when we make “female versions” or “parallel stories” of films instead of creating entirely new narratives for women? While an all-female cast is enticing to a world that is dominated by men in both cinematic and social senses, the idea of a “female version,” “parallel story,” or “spin-off,” etc. places the female narrative as the male narrative’s shadow, as always existing within the silhouette of a masculine cinematic history. A “female version” places the all-male cast as the default and the all-female cast as the exception. Furthermore, Ocean’s 8 does not give women the breadth of complexity that female narratives need in cinema. Instead of creating a “spin-off,” why not create an entirely new heroine, one with a new trajectory, one who does not live in her brother’s shadow?

#2: The theatrical release poster features all 8 women standing fiercely against a bright red background looking off to the distance. Some have praised the poster for its badassery, while others have noted its racial placement of characters. Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter are larger than Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina, who are squished and much smaller than their white counterparts. Sarah Paulson is placed between Rihanna and Mindy Kaling to “make-up” for the clear racial divide.

Similarly, another photo release reveals the same racial placement.

Overall, Ocean’s 8 is a film that poses many important questions that are necessary to think about in an age of female resistance against sexism and androcentrism in Hollywood and beyond. I am intrigued to see the film and eagerly aw8 its release in June.

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