(Wo)man Up: Female Representation in ‘Ocean’s Eight’

It doesn’t really happen all that often that we see many female characters in one production. That’s why it was such a crucial moment for female representation when Ocean’s Eight was announced. I mean, can you name any movie where there are this many women with an equal measure, for the most part, all carrying the whole thing together? –  Sarah Paulson stated while talking to Los Angeles Daily News. There are definitely not that many. If we cannot think of one, then it indicates a serious problem in Hollywood.

The film is a continuation of the Ocean’s franchise by George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell. However, this part was directed by Gary Ross and co-written by Olivia Milch, as well as the director. Ocean’s Eight was released on July 9th, 2018. Shockingly (or maybe not so much), the movie beat all the previous films from the Ocean’s franchise and set a new record – 41.5 million dollars in its opening weekend. As of today, the film has reached an accumulated box office of 297,718,711 dollars worldwide, according to IMDB – which is four times more than the original budget. Those numbers state something incredibly fundamental:women love to see other women on screen, with all their qualities and flaws. Especially women who plan to steal one of the most valuable diamonds in the world without any male help.

© Warner Brothers

 

The picture tells the story of Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), Danny Ocean’s sister, who, after spending five years, eight months and twelve days in prison for fraud, decides to steal a 150 million dollar Cartier necklace. All that while attending the Met Gala, one of the most luxurious events in New York. However, to do that, she needs someone to help her: old partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett) and Tammy (Sarah Paulson) who’s a fence (fence is an person – expert at moving/buying stolen goods). Additionally, Debbie hires Nine Ball (Rihanna) – hacker, Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) – a designer, Constance (Awkwafina) who’s an expert at stealing from people, Amita (Mindy Kaling) – jewelry expert and last, but not least: Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), the actress attending the Gala. Daphne is supposed to wear the above mentioned necklace, not really knowing it’s going to be a target.

The film is a regular crime comedy that one can watch on a lazy Sunday. Viewers s can appreciate the humor, dialogue,  action, and a whole team of powerful women.  The latter is the most important – females with a variety of qualities, knowledge, and sass.  The plot is similar to the one from earlier movies. Except for robbing a casino, these ladies pick the Met Gala – it’s time for something more glamorous. Every woman is an expert in something else, as mentioned above. Their unique skills are very crucial in this co-operation. It also portrays them as multi-dimensional, complete. Which takes us to one important question. Why did Ocean’s Eight earn way more money than previous pictures?

The answer may be more complicated, but first and foremost – strong, independent, confident women who support each other. Cate Blanchett in an interview for USA Today said: Often you walk on set, and until the hair and makeup people come in, you’re the only woman. So the ratio is 1 to 45? To have more female crew members would be great, but it was so great to have a fantastic, huge female cast [in Ocean’s Eight]. The actress portraying the role of Lou makes a good point. Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson agree with their co-star. Looking at the interviews done before and during the premiere, viewers could see their far-fetched bond – a female friendship that bled into their characters and gave each of the roles authenticity and depth. This component added more to the storyline, and that’s why people wanted to see Ocean’s Eight.

© Warner Brothers

However, as was mentioned above, the answer to the question about a bigger box office is more complicated. It has to do not only with the characters and genre, but also with society and gender indeed. According to Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and their research from February 25th, 2017, 85% of women agree that media, as well as culture, deny the fact that they stereotype women. Reading the research discussed above, it states that as many as 66% of women turned off the television or a film when they felt that the female characters were portrayed stereotypically.  That research can clarify the matter of the highest box office in the franchise.

Ocean’s Eight has all the qualities that female fans crave – all main characters are equal. They are respectful of one another and themselves. All of them make their own choices, that are not influenced by anyone. If they make a mistake – it’s their mistake to fix. Their roles are finally not someone’s girlfriends, wives, or sisters. They are full-fledged characters. They all have different personalities and pasts; however, some way or another they can work together, take care of business and have some good times. Olivia Milch, the writer of Ocean’s Eight, states in an interview with Indiewire, that that is much more the reality and the authentic experience of most young women, and in part that’s why I think audiences are responding to those kind of portrayals.

Debbie Ocean and her friends/coworkers are not only smart, but they also have a different specialty that is more crafted and developed while the film progresses. Organizing the heist, preparing for it and making it happen proves to viewers that women can get to  the top, even in so-called male professions (especially in society). There is a crucial line in the film that supports this issue. When Lou asks Debbie why she doesn’t want to consider a man for the team, Debbie replays, it’s because a man would be noticed. And we, for once, want to be ignored. Simple line, but speaks sad truth about the matter. Women often go unnoticed and are not considered. However, films like Ocean’s Eight change this for us.

© Warner Brothers

 

Ocean’s Eight truly is for everybody. It may not have unique camera angles or an original script, but that’s not an essential thing in this production. That’s the beauty of it – it’s universal. First and foremost, it’s about women who are multi-dimensional, smart, and  don’t need a man to save them. It’s instead the opposite – the man is their pawn in the heist game. Olivia Milch was a great addition to the script. She indeed highlighted the characters’ personalities and each woman’s primary task. Although the film is definitely for female audience, Anne Hathaway laughs that production is not the best suited for young girls (although Debbie Ocean disagrees – she claims somewhere there, there is a girl who dreams of being a criminal). However, we don’t want to give youngsters any bad examples. They can watch it once they’re grown, strong women.

Nevertheless, Ocean’s Eight portrays the strength of pure, unconditional female friendship that is so needed nowadays, without backstabbing or bullying each other. Just true female friendship.

Ocean’s Eight is currently available on HBO Go, HBO Now, Amazon Prime,YouTube and Vudu.

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