Robert B. Marks (garwulf) wrote,
Robert B. Marks

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the idea that was NOT well thought out

So, right after my wife and I watched Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (she hadn’t seen it), I came across this.

Wow.  It’s official: one of the next gender-flipped remakes is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which has got to be one of the stupidest things I’ve heard in entertainment in a while.

So, here’s the thing – this is one case where the producers in question REALLY didn’t think this one through.  There is next to no way that this story can be gender flipped without coming across as misogynist.

In a nutshell, the plot of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is this: two con artists (a classy Englishman named Lawrence, played by Michael Caine, and a rough-cut American named Freddie, played by Steve Martin), both of whom specialize in taking advantage of women, come into competition in the French Riviera.  They make a bet: whoever can fleece a wealthy heiress (played by Glenne Headly) of $50,000 first stays, and the other leaves.  Comedy ensues as both try to sabotage each other, inflict pain and humiliation and each other (and in some cases, themselves)...and then it turns out that the “Soap Queen” they have targeted is, in fact, a con artist known as the Jackal, who takes them both for $50,000 and demonstrates that she is far better at the art of the con than either of them.

It’s a great movie, and if you haven’t seen it, you should.  It’s even more satisfying when you know the twist is coming, and you get to see these two crooks get their comeuppance.

It is also, however, a fairly faithful remake of a 1964 movie titled Bedtime Story, starring David Niven and Marlon Brando.  The original has a different ending – rather than the mark (Shirley Jones) turning out to be a con artist herself, the American falls in love with her, goes straight, and ends up marrying her in a redemption arc.

So...if this is a faithful remake of either version, there are two ways this plot could go, both of which result in some very unfortunate implications.

If we go with the “mark is actually a better con artist” plot, we get a movie where a man shows a pair of women how it’s really done.  This was already becoming an uncomfortable trope back when Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was released back in 1988, and it isn’t any better today.

If we go with the “mark redeems the con artist to go straight” plot of the original, then we have a story where a good man makes a independent woman into a literally “honest woman.”  This trope has been various shades of uncomfortable since the 1970s.

What’s even worse is that this was not a movie that needed a gender-flipped remake.  The plot works fine.  The misogynist sexism of Lawrence and Freddie, who view women as little more than victims to be fleeced, get punished in the twist at the end.  The entire movie is an exercise in watching two very bad people get what is coming to them.  To do a gender flipped remake of this movie smacks of lazy thinking that gives little regard to whether the material would even work with the characters gender-flipped in the first place.

The only way that this can work is to get as far away from the plot of the two original movies as possible, and at that point, it’s no longer a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at all.  Not sure if that’s better, but at least it would run less of a risk of accidentally passing off misogyny as progressive filmmaking.
Tags: dirty rotten scoundrels, gender-flipped remakes, movies, stupidity

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