In the upcoming movie version of Shakespeare’s fantasy epic The Tempest, Helen Mirren is playing the lead role of the sorceress Prospera. But as any fans of the Bard know, the part is actually supposed to be Propero, a male magician. Apparently, Mirren came to director Julie Taymor with the idea of playing this historically male role, and the rest is history.
While this will certainly be a different Tempest than we’ve seen before, the gender switch will be the only change made to the text (aside from a few cuts, which are necessary for all movie Shakespeare adaptations). But all it takes is that tiny tweak to completely change how the story fits together.
This got us thinking here at the offices of TheTorchOnline.com. There are many fantasy stories out there that would feel quite a bit different if the main characters were suddenly the opposite gender of what we’re used to. Here we take a look at five of the most interesting of these gender-bending possibilities.
Spoiler alert — Darth Vader is totally Luke’s dad. But think how interesting (and progressive) it would have been if the one person in all the universe to ultimately bring balance to The Force was a woman. And just picture it: “Luke … I am your mother.”
It certainly would have shifted our perception of the relationship between Vader and Palpatine if it was Anaka Skywalker eventually turning into Darth Mader, bringing a potential sexual overtone. And let’s be honest, Star Wars could use a few more powerful female characters.
Quick, how many female hobbits can you name? If you have more than Rosie Cotton and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, you’ve already got me, and I imagine many others, beat.
Much of the power of The Lord of the Rings stems from the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien created, as his hero, a lowly hobbit. But imagine if Tolkien had extended that sense of the underdog just a little further, and wound up with the natural conclusion: the hobbit that saved the world was female! That would certainly add a feminine touch to a massively male-dominated world, not to mention putting a new spin on the relationship between our new heroine and the ever-stalwart Sam.
Xena: Warrior Princess was a ground-breaking show for many reasons, but probably the primary one was that it took the rich world of Greek mythology and put a female action hero at the center of all the gods and monsters. So it probably wouldn’t be that great of an idea to switch up the gender of the main characters, especially considering the show was spun off from the inferior Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, which was set in the same universe but with a man as the main character. Besides, there’s always the risk it might turn out like this:
Oh, Buffy. The matriarch of the modern-day vampire crazy. The (formerly) one and only Slayer. Buffy Summers holds a special place in many a heart, largely due to her reluctant-savior routine. The running gag of the entire show was taking a stock character in horror films — the dumb valley girl — and turning her into the main hero, complete with epic powers.
But what if the Slayer had been born a guy? (Yes, I know, this doesn’t fit in with the mythos — this is just an experiment.) A surfer dude himbo or burn-out skater would fit equally well into the victim role in a horror movie, so how cool would it be to see a guy like that going stake-happy on all the vamps in Sunnydale?
And here it is: the big one.
Superman is, of course, the stuff of legend, the great-grandpappy of the modern day superhero. So what if the iconic man with the big S on his chest had a chest of a decidedly more feminine shape?
Honestly, the story wouldn’t change that much. Assuming this new Superwoman is heterosexual, she would probably end up falling for Jimmy Olsen instead of Lois Lane, but that’s about it, I’d imagine. An interesting storyline would be a rivalry/friendship with Wonder Woman, similar to Superman’s relationship with Batman.
Who knows? Maybe in the years to come, some rebellious storytellers will come around and re-imagine these stories with gender-switched leads. Until then, we can only speculate.