Let’s not beat around the bush: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a circle jerk of male geek culture sustained over a grueling 400 pages.
On March 26, we’ll see the release of the mega-budget blockbuster adaptation of this fanboy-favorite, courtesy of cinema’s own champion of male geek culture, Steven Spielberg. There’s nothing wrong with that — and early reviews have even been more positive than expected!
But that doesn’t negate the criticisms against what Ready Player One represents — or rather, who fanboy culture tends to leave out.
There is an untapped treasure trove of iconic girlhood nostalgia just waiting to be exploited for the big screen. Yet Hollywood is sleeping on all of it, to instead give us yet another $200 million remember-when-Geek-culture-was-for-just-for-dudes nostalgia trip.
But the books, shows, movies, cartoons, and toys of girlhood matter. Or, at the very least, they matter as much as Tron. We just don’t throw endless cash to make them pop culture staples.
A viral tweet perfectly summed up a lot of women’s frustrations with the inequalities exemplified by Ernest Cline’s work. Demonstrating the difference in how we treat the adored icons of fangirl vs fanboy culture, Twitter user Hatalie imagined “Ready Player One Except With Girl Culture.”
Question: Why does everything from Transformers to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles get treated with such CGI reverence, while the idea of a blockbuster live-action franchise around American Girl Dolls or The Powerpuff Girls sounds laughable?
At the end of the day, we’re honestly just bored.
There’s no problem with elevating the idols of young adulthood to Spielberg-levels of respectability. But after six Transformers movie, two live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a fucking Battleship (yes, the board game) movie, it’s time we mixed things up..
And, hey, there already signs of a shift. Hunger Games and the recent A Wrinkle in Time indicate that Hollywood is finally wising up to the fact that women will pay all the money for trips down memory lane, too. (Oh, and I guess the live-action Disney princess movies are a fine start as well.)
But we’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for, and a lot of suggestions for the icons of girl culture that deserve their own blockbuster treatment next.
1. An HBO The Baby-Sitters Club mini-series
Arguably the original #girlbosses, The Baby-Sitters Club is lowkey one of the most enduring feminist staples to come out of girlhood. Long before Time’s Up made pay equity a central cultural conversation, these young entrepreneurs were making business plans and getting fucking paid. Yes, there was a 1995 movie, but the time is right for a reboot (Hollywood loves those!). So we propose HBO takes this on to deliver a Big Little Lies for the younger generation.
2. A live-action Sailor Moon franchise
Sailor Moon was the ’90s kid Saturday morning cartoon blast in the face of lady power. Aside from being a radical school girl who could turn into a magical goddamn moon princess, she also taught us about the enduring power of female friendship. We’re envisioning something that’s Sucker Punch levels of extra — only without all the gross male gaze-y bullshit.
3. Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy
This Victorian-era fantasy trilogy is not only beautifully written, but one of the starkest YA portrayals of young girls navigating complicated relationships to power, patriarchy, and female friendship. We actually got close to seeing these made into movies, when Icon Productions licensed it in 2006. But then nothing happened… until the company recently relinquished the rights — leaving it totally open for grabs (are you listening, Warner Bros.?!)
4. A feminist reboot of Life-Size
Who could forget Trya Banks’ acting debut in 2000 as a Barbie brought to life. But while the original Disney movie played Eve’s inability to perform Barbie’s many jobs (doctor, astronaut, lawyer, etc) for laughs, there’s a real metaphor there. Just imagine the feminist reboot that would actually critique the cultural messages we send young girls through marketing and toys. And, yeah, we know: a sequel was actually announced. But we want less made-for-TV Life-Size 2, and more of a wide theatrical release for Life-Size: The Reckoning.
5. The Song of the Lioness series, or anything from the Tortall Universe
Wouldn’t you know it — here’s another beloved, classic female-oriented YA series that almost got made into a movie, and then didn’t. But for the love of god, if we can get an Eragon movie and two Percy Jackson movies made, then I think we can spare one measly Hollywood adaptation of Tamora Pierce’s classic series. This book follows the story of Alanna of Trebond, a noble girl that disguises herself as a boy so she can train to become a knight, in a Mulan meets King Arthur mashup.
6. A Daria movie that isn’t a joke
Do we even need to defend this? The fake College Humor trailer for a live-action Daria starring Aubrey Plaza basically did all the work for us. And it feels like a sin that no one’s taken up the task of turning the dream into a reality. I mean, we can all agree that Daria is an icon for apathetic millennials everywhere, regardless of gender — right?
7. Skip the Bright sequel, and make Tithe instead
Bright already felt pretty much like a really bad, racist knock-off of Tithe, a well-respected YA novel that brought fairies into cityscapes. Holly Black’s Tithe didn’t originate the gritty urban fairytale genre, but it grounded it in female experiences through protagonist Kaye Fierch. You can find Kaye struggling to reconcile with her musician mother’s unconventional lifestyle, while also dealing with hangovers from a night out partying with the faery folk in their (literal) underground bars. It’s like if Lord of the Rings was dropped into the Gossip Girl universe, only a lot less reductive.