Do you remember reading "Lord of the Flies" for English class in middle school? I do. I loved the book, and can still recall my feeling of horror ratcheting up as Piggy was first pushed around, then out-and-out bullied, then lost his glasses, and finally that terrible end.
As I recall, most of our seventh-grade class really enjoyed the book, and it sparked plenty of conversation with boys and girls alike, even though it's a boys-only story. The girls easily took on the point of view of the boy characters in William Golding's novel, which is typical: Girls and women have long been expected to understand and enjoy stories via boys and men in novels, TV shows and movies. It's a given that men's stories are considered universal human stories. Meanwhile, the opposite is almost never true — boys and men often balk at having to sit through a "chick flick" or "women's stories."
Most of us have gotten the message: Men's stories are for everyone; women's stories are girls-only.
Which is why it's especially frustrating that there has been such a negative outcry over an all-girls film version of "Lord of the Flies." While I'd prefer to see a movie about young girls with an original script, or get to finally see a big-budget, smart, cool Nancy Drew film adaptation, I can't be the only one who's ready for more stories of girls. After all, there are lots of stories about boys already, from critically acclaimed ones for adults like "Boyhood" and "Millions," to new tween classics like "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," to old favorites like "E.T.," "Dead Poets Society" and "Stand By Me" — all of which were feature films for a general audience.
For girls, there's the most recent crop of Disney films and a few gems like "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," "Harriet the Spy," and my favorite, "Coraline" — but those are all for specific audiences of pre-tween and tween girls. There is an absolute dearth of movies about girls that are for adults. Occasionally one will break through, but they are often about teenage girls "growing up too fast" — dealing with what should be adult issues but have been thrust upon them ("Juno," "The Glass Castle," "Precious").
Telling a timeless story with a twist
These paperbacks were part of most middle schoolers' reading lists. (Photo: alaina buzas/flickr)
So why not a "Lord of the Flies" with an all-girl cast? Most movies only use the book they are based on as a general outline, and this novel has been made into two reasonably good movies already, so why not try something different?
The new film is going to be written and directed by two men — Scott McGehee and David Siegel. Here's hoping that they have women on their team who can give them some perspective on how the story might differ from the original. Or not. (I'm not so sure that all the Twitter philosophizers or even brilliant critics like Roxane Gay are right in saying that the cruelty of the boys in the original novel "wouldn't happen" with a group of girls.)
McGehee and Siegel, who excel at telling stories rooted in childhood traumas (like "What Maisie Knew" and "Bee Season") seem enthusiastic about adapting the classic 1954 novel.
"It is a timeless story that is especially relevant today, with the interpersonal conflicts and bullying, and the idea of children forming a society and replicating the behavior they saw in grownups before they were marooned," Siegel told Deadline Hollywood. Why wouldn't that story be relevant today?
I'll definitely consider checking out the film if the trailer looks good. While there are all kinds of wonderful female characters and shows about women on streaming services and television these days, movies have been much slower to catch up.
I like to think that as more boys and men watch and enjoy stories about girls and women, we'll have a more equitable culture as well, a culture that sees men, women and nonbinary people as all being worthy of stories — because we're all human, and seeing life through someone else's eyes is a gift to be cultivated, not complained about.