Just browsing what’s available on Netflix this week, something caught my eye, a new show called Van Helsing. While it doesn’t interest me to watch it, I was surprised I hadn’t heard about this adaptation of the famous literary character, so I looked at the description at which point I realised the big ‘new’ angle. The Syfy show is not about Dracula’s famous nemesis, instead, it’s about his descendant Vanessa!
This is not the only example of feminine reworking of (often the descendants of) a classic character. There’s also a show ‘Wynonna Earp’, again, not interesting me to watch it while interesting in its existence. One example that I do watch and actually quite like is Joan Watson in ‘Elementary’ being a reinvention of Sherlock Holmes’ friend John, a change that actually works well as somehow they’ve resisted giving them any romantic complications. The big screen hasn’t avoided this trend either with the most recent and clear example being that the mummy in the new ‘the Mummy’ is now a female mummy.
So who’s next to be reimagined in this way? What folk or literary hero is set to be the next adapted heroine? Surely Vanessa Helsing could team up with Victoria Frankenstein! Possibly breathe new life into some American icons such as Davina Crockett, Jenny Appleseed or Aunty Sam? How about presidential descendants Abi Lincoln or Georgina Washington? Maybe we could enjoy some swashbuckling lady pirates like Blu Beard and Long Jean Silver? Why not reinvent action with Jane Bond?
Is it sounding silly yet? Good!
Can you imagine the response if things were going the other way? What would people say if famous female characters such as Calamity Jane were now Calamity Jake, or if John of Arc saved France from invasion? How about even more modern characters, would anyone want to follow the adventures of a tomb raiding Larry Croft? There would be an outcry and rightly so! Is there a double standard? Should there be? Why?
I don’t know if it’s fully a ‘trend’ yet, though I expect there will be a fair few more instances of this happening in the near future, but as with anything in film and television adaptation, doing something just for the sake of ‘girl power’ is not a good enough reason. Handling these beloved figures should always be careful, with changes made to service conveying the story and a better understanding of the character. If that’s what’s motivating female-led reworkings, then great, if not, hopefully, the quality of these adaptations will speak for themselves and those that don’t do justice to the sources will end swiftly.