In what may well be the most unfortunate words to have been uttered on a red carpet all year, Sylvester Stallone has expanded upon his hopes for the planned extension to his Expendables franchise – The Expendabelles.
Chatting with the press at the premiere of The Expendables 3, Stallone expressed his wish for adding Sigourney Weaver to the cast of the ‘female-centric’ chapter, suggesting that he and the legendary actress could be seen to be going through a particularly messy divorce, during which, “she’d get the house, the kids and my mercenaries!” The project is still in development, however:
“With The Expendabelles, we’ve got a situation where we’re in uncharted waters. Do we put all women actresses together – would that really work? Or, do we have some women who are actually really known to be tough fighters?”
Well, there’s a question for the ages, and no mistake. Can it ever really work when you put all women actresses together? Don’t they tend to synchronize with the phases of the moon, or something, if you have too many onscreen at once? And we all know there’s no such thing as a woman actress who is also known to be a tough fighter. It’s just such a conundrum.
Producer of The Expendables franchise, Avi Lerner, gave more detail:
“We are writing the final lines of the script. We’ve got lots of ideas about who is going to be in it.”
Lerner himself has previously indicated a desire to see Meryl Streep in the lead role, in addition to adding names like Cameron Diaz, Zoe Bell and Milla Jovovich to the mix. There has been no official casting, however. Avi Lerner is apparently pushing for an early 2015 production start date, and the project itself has the creative team of Legally Blonde on board – with Robert Luketic directing a script by writers Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith.
Written by women, you say? Well, that’s got to count for something, right? Not necessarily. Let’s take a look at the plot synopsis that apparently did the rounds earlier this year:
“When America’s Navy SEALs are wiped out trying to penetrate the island lair of a deadly despot who has captured one of the world’s top nuclear scientists, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as the right man for the job, and that this is a mission so impossible, only women can handle it. The only way in: some of the world’s deadliest female operatives must pose as high-class call-girls, shipped in by private plane to satisfy a dictator – and instead save the scientist, and the day.”
Where to begin? If this is still the plot outline, clearly it is intended to be an ‘empowering’ story for women – along the lines of ‘if you want something done properly, ask a woman to do it.’ Unfortunately, it’s the exact opposite – and the fact that it’s packaged as ‘empowering’ highlights precisely the problem with female characterization in Hollywood today. The women only get a crack at the job after the male heroes have finished puffing out their chests. This is 2014 – and women do not need to be portrayed in film as rolling their eyes and swooping in to clear up after a bunch of men. Women need to be portrayed doing their thing their way – whether that’s eliminating deadly despots or running a bakery. Why does it need to be about how they compare to men?
Then, there’s the strategy. I’m fairly certain that, if somebody pitched a movie where a deadly female despot needed to be eliminated, and the only way to do it was to send in Stallone and his buddies disguised as male prostitutes – “high-class” or otherwise – that movie would not reach development. So, why is it acceptable for this to be the only strategy for these women who – according to the plot – are “the world’s deadliest female operatives?” Because, for the vast majority of Hollywood, it still holds true that we can “empower” women, as long as we are objectifying them at the same time. They might be the best in their field, but they can only get the job done if they do it in their underwear, marketing seduction. After all, women do like to multi-task, don’t they?
As for the title – The Expendabelles – it essentially broadcasts that the sexism is baked right in to this product, so the content should hardly be surprising. As far as casting goes – this creative team may have high hopes but, with all due respect, I’d suggest they might be punching above their weight on this one. Even if this material is churned out as a comedy/spoof/parody – it’s looking like a pretty poor attempt to bring a wider female audience into the tedious and worn-out Expendables viewing experience, while retaining the male section of the same. Of course, I could well be completely wrong, and this project might ultimately reveal itself to be a beacon of human equality and proper representation. What are the chances? Place your bets now.