Oceans 8 (2018): In a world without men

The Ocean’s franchise is venerable and well-established. First there was the original Rat Pack movie in 1960. Then came the 2001 reboot, which established the modern style: slick, understated comedy, which didn’t waste too much time explaining the heist. You get to watch the characters muddle about and mess things up with insouciance; then you see the double-speed replay where you realize that, actually, they were in charge of the situation all along.

And the formula worked for two whole sequels, until it started to run out of steam. So the big Hollywood directors sat down and thought about how to regenerate the franchise once more.

In the 21st century, there are only two ways to reboot a movie and make the big bucks:

  1. noir origin story
  2. replace the original cast with more diverse choices

Now don’t get me wrong – I love noir film and diverse casting. I’m just saying that when these two strategies are used so repetitively and on such an industrial scale, one begins to suspect that Harvey Weinstein and chums are less interested in gripping drama and social equality, and more invested in bottom lines and box-checking.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Ocean’s 8 is a fairly run-of-the-mill reboot. They kept the witty asides, slick camera work and unfeasible schemes. They assembled a high-powered cast to recharge the sixty-year-old franchise’s batteries. And in the process of reproducing the Ocean’s formula so precisely, they…

Forgot to include the usual clichés. Or to reverse the gender politics.

In most standard action movies, there are no women. I mean, there’s a girlfriend. Or maybe a dumb mom, or a mean secretary. But she might as well be a prototype sex robot for all the brainpower and personality the director permits her to display. The only living, breathing, human people in most action movies are men.

Ocean’s 8 simply takes the script, flips it and reverses it. So now there are no men. Men feature – so far as I can even remember them – as 1 bimbo, 2-3 slow security guards, and 2 weed-smoking waiters. That’s it, those are their whole characters.

The Ghostbusters reboot went for something similar a few years ago, but they got a little more bogged down in clichés. I am both happy and astonished to report that Ocean’s 8 does not feature any of the following:

  • fat suits
  • weight jokes
  • lonely cat lady jokes

It does have one sad ice cream lady gag, though.

When the Ocean’s 8 screenwriters came up with their default-male first draft, they didn’t attempt anything more sophisticated than going through the document with “Find + Replace” for feminine pronouns. In doing so, they accidentally created a fantasy world where women rule and men wish they could just go to a nice party without getting drugged or robbed.

(Am I being unfair? Perhaps the writers did have some idea of what they were doing. After all, they resisted the temptation to feature too many cameos from the male troupe: Danny Ocean spends the entire movie six feet under, represented only by a small white marble plaque and a cocktail shaker.)

I’m pretty sure this was unintentional but it is, in fact, revolutionary. Ocean’s 8 gives a tantalizing glimpse of how much fun women could be having – on screen and in bank robberies – in a world without men.

3 thoughts on “Oceans 8 (2018): In a world without men

    1. I would recommend it. It neatly turns the franchise into a new lane. Not like Ghostbusters, which demolishes the crude, sexist original – come to think of it, just what Oceans 11 does to the Sinatra version – but a development that understands why the first films work

      Liked by 2 people

  1. It’s a fair question! I recommend it as a fun but fairly generic action movie – I got deep into the gender politics aspect of it because for me, that was the only really original part.

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