‘The Lost Boys’: The Original, The Series, and the Problem With Gender Swapping

     So, you’ll have to forgive me, but I love The Lost Boys so much that I just need to tell you five things that I love about it before I continue:

  1. Saxophone man
  2. Killer soundtrack
  3. “Death by stereo!”
  4. Nanook
  5. “All the damn vampires…”

     Okay, now that I have that off my chest, here goes!

     If you haven’t yet seen The Lost Boys, which makes me sad beyond words, I feel obligated to apologize for the list above, which won’t make any sense whatsoever to you.  So, I’ll give you a quick rundown on the awesomeness of this 80s classic.  Michael and Sam (Jason Patric and Corey Haim) are brothers who move to Santa Carla with their newly single mom (Dianne Wiest).  They move in with their kooky grandfather (Barnard Hughes), and she is determined to start fresh.  Older brother Michael is your usual teenaged dick, and the two clash a little bit.  One night on the boardwalk, Michael meets a pretty girl, Star (Jami Gertz).  She introduces him to a group of teenaged malcontents, led by David (Kiefer Sutherland), who also happen to be vampires.  Sam enlists the help of two comic book nerds and self-proclaimed vampire hunters, the Frog Brothers (Jamison Newlander and Corey Feldman), to try to save Michael from becoming a monster himself.

     The hair alone in this movie is so 80s that I am going to go ahead and call it magical.   I love that it is a movie about vampires with teenaged angst that still manages to produce good monster effects and a lot of humour.  Vampire tales are all about transformation, and the transition into adulthood is no exception.  Michael’s increasingly erratic behaviour is noted, but it is chalked up to the painful process of growing up and adjusting to life without a father.  The vampire world is shown as enticing and mysterious, but only to teenagers looking for trouble and adventure.  They don’t want the adults around, telling them what to do and getting them to stop harassing (and eating) people off of the boardwalk.

 

 

     Despite the fact that I am not a vampire fanatic, I love a vampire movie done right.   The Lost Boys is definitely that for me, and is the first movie that I think of when someone asks me to list some of my 80s favourites.

     Recently, the CW announced that they would be producing a pilot for a series based on the film.  Because of my love for the original movie, I was naturally skeptical.  The CW is not the fit that I picture for The Lost Boys, but, oddly enough, might work.  While The Lost Boys is a vampire tale and does have a few violent moments, there is surprisingly little blood.  It is a teen story, why not use a network that typically appeals to teens?  If the series focused its energy on some practical effects and a believable brotherly bond, maybe this could be done.

     Then it was announced that Catherine Hardwicke is on board to direct.  In case you aren’t familiar with her work, she directed Twilight.  My concern began to grow.  While both stories feature teenagers and vampires, the vibe in The Lost Boys is not that.  Sure, there is plenty of teen angst in both, but The Lost Boys is more an adventure and a quest to save souls than a love-lorn romance.  But, again, because I am an eternal optimist, I remained positive.  Catherine Hardwicke is an experienced director, after all, and while I am not a huge fan of the Twilight franchise, she did an amazing job with Thirteen.  It was raw and gritty, and above all, honest about the teenage experience and teen relationships with their parents.  Maybe this could work!

     But then I heard something that I am having a hard time moving past.

     Edgar and Allen Frog, the comic-loving, bumbling vampire hunters, are to be the Frog Sisters in the updated version.

     I have complicated feeling about gender swapped characters.  If handled properly, it can evoke conversation about why we expect certain types of heroes to be male or female.  It can be a subtle but effective way of showing how problems can be solved in different ways when approached from a different perspective.  And it can show that using gender tropes to accomplish certain things, such as fridging a character to elicit a response in a hero, can feel uncomfortable when the shoe is on the other foot.  In all of these cases, there is a clear purpose in changing an already established character’s gender: to evoke conversations of our expectations of female versus male heroes, and why we have them.

     If handled improperly, it is a gimmick.  As soon as it feels like a gimmick in order to drive viewership, it becomes seen as a result of the “feminist propaganda machine” and “PC warriors,” and the characters are not taken seriously.  This happens mostly because the reality is that gender swapped characters are usually swapping women in place of male characters.  I always resent it a little bit when this is mishandled because it feels like we are expected to like the swapped character because she has the exact same personality as the male version.  We are meant to like her because her character is defined by the traits that our beloved male character had, and she becomes the “female Edgar Frog” instead of having an actual name and identity.  This is my fear for The Lost Boys, especially since The CW has good intentions, and is clearly aiming to market at a new generation.  Unfortunately, with such a rabid, nostalgia-driven fanbase, they are almost guaranteed to fail the market that is most excited to watch.

     My biggest issue with gender swapping is that usually, it’s not necessary.  I love my classic characters, and my iconic performances.  I don’t feel the need to change any of them.  I enjoy watching remakes for a new perspective, but gender swaps usually don’t feel genuine to that vision for me.  In the case of something like The Lost Boys, I fear that it might spend a lot of time pointing out the difference, which could very easily feel cringy.  “Look!  I’m a GIRL and I like comics.  Just like the Frog Brothers.  Bur we’re SISTERS and we like comics, too!  Get it?”

     Rather than gender swapping established characters, I feel like most audiences that want to see more female representation on-screen would rather see new, original characters that are fully formed, three-dimensional, and define themselves.  Instead of making them the “female Frog Brothers,” why not make them daughters of the original brothers?  Start from scratch with a new set of siblings, new characters that don’t need to be carbon copies of Edgar and Alan Frog.  Or why not gender swap the leads and make them sisters, or a brother and a sister?  In the original, their relationship was the heart of the story, and it might actually be interesting to see that sibling bond portrayed through a different dynamic.  Edgar and Alan Frog, while an important part of the story, are not exactly characters of depth.  They are comic relief, and probably the most endearing of the characters, but do not have a backstory, or characteristics beyond their vampire hunting obsession.  Swapping their genders makes it feel like this choice is not based on a desire to explore the female perspective, but to create a novelty for fans of the original to talk about.

     But, as always, I will remain the eternal optimist!  My judgement will remain reserved for when I see it.  Until then, I’ll be here, fondly thinking of maggots whenever I eat noodles.

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