What if women cared about sport and men cared about celebrities?

Sometimes I like to test my comfort with the world and switch things around in my head to see how it looks from the other side. We get so used to seeing things in black and white that it appears normal until you flip to white and black and suddenly it is very, very different.

We recently watched the Tom Cruise movie Jack Reacher and I enjoyed imagining that all the male characters were women and all the female characters were men (this would mean approximately 20 women were in the movie and two of the characters were men). Jack Reacher would be played by a 51 year old woman – maybe Jodi Foster. She’s a drifter with nothing to lose (and she says so, in the movie, in actual dialogue, and isn’t trying to be funny) who was once some kind of elite soldier but is now holed up in a shack somewhere tropical shagging young men half her age who don’t like wearing clothes. She’s called back into duty by a (female) ex-colleague and starts hunting down (female) criminals responsible for a wave of crimes across the city. She’s still tough and can figure out a crime scene in 30 seconds and can fight people half her age! She meets a young lawyer 20 years her junior – maybe Sam Worthington. Their chemistry sizzles!! The lawyer has issues because his mother is the district attorney and they disagree over lots of things. Sam is the only man in a sea of crime-fighting, maybe-corrupt women but don’t worry he totally holds his own, because he’s smart and has been to law school. At the end of the movie Sam is being held hostage by the criminals (and some of the corrupt crime-fighting women) but Jodi rescues him just in time and they pash. But you know Jodi won’t hang around for long, because she’s a drifter with nothing to lose who enjoys hitchhiking and tropical shacks, and Sam will have to go back to his boring life and boring office and overbearing mother.

I did enjoy the movie but imagining it in this way made me realise how very ridiculous it was and how easily we accept that the elite soldier is a man and the suited lawyer is the woman (although I guess we’ve come a bit of a way for her to have a job at all?) and she’s the one held hostage and he’s the one who rescues her but also gets to piss off immediately because he’s a loner. Would it have been made if Jack Reacher was a woman and only 2 per cent of the characters were men? Of course not – they can’t even figure out how to make a Wonder Woman movie because apparently that female character is ‘tricky‘. I’m not sure why they think this, since years after Buffy proved that people will watch ‘tricky’ female characters in action plots, the Hunger Games focused on a female protagonist and it made shitloads of money.

Another ‘what if’ feminist game I like to play, as someone who has very little time for celebrities and even less time for sports, is watching the news on TV and imagining if celebrities and the various entertainment industries were the serious news that came before the weather and sports was the ‘fluff’. The ABC would barely touch the sports, usually only if someone important died. The commercial networks would have a fair bit of sports but if something big had happened in celebrity land that day, it would be pushed back to a few minutes right at the end. Being interested in sports would be a bit of a guilty pleasure – there’d be magazines in the kitchen at work or at the hairdresser’s but you wouldn’t want anyone to catch you really reading them. You could talk about it, but not as loudly as the people who talked about the latest Hollywood news.

And yes I know lots of women are interested in sports and sports news. And yes I know lots of women aren’t interested in celebrities or Hollywood gossip. But it’s still a fun game to play, as someone who considers most of what happens in the sports world to be as important and interesting as what happens in Hollywood. Which is to say: not very.

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