Rihanna in her video "Bitch Better Have My Money."
This morning, Warner Bros. dropped some big news: The cast of heist film Ocean’s Eight. The high-profile movie is a follow-up to Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen, the crime adventure movies that starred a lineup of big-name dudes like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Don Cheadle. Those three films have been ridiculously profitable for the studio, grossing $1.12 billion worldwide all together.
Now, Warner Bros. is taking the series in a different direction. Ocean’s Eight, which starts production this year, will center the action on an all-female crew. Deadline reported today that the cast so far includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina. Quick snarky question: So we went from 13 to eight? A film with eight women at its center is great, but were Hollywood execs at a loss to name 14 women or what? I’m a little worried that the studio will treat this film as a shtick—“Look! Ladies can be criminals, too!”—but hopefully we’ve come far enough that the creative team recognizes that it’s not enough to stick a bunch of women in a movie and call it a day. This movie will be much, much stronger if each of these characters is unique and fleshed out—which will likely be easier with a cast of eight than 14.
Rapper and writer Nora Lum, AKA Awkwafina, is part of the Ocean's crew.
Anyway, of course, watching Rihanna and Mindy Kaling partner up to pull off a criminal caper is a dream come true. In fact, if the whole movie is basically an extended Rihanna video with a little bit of dialogue, that would be an A+ directing decision, in my opinion. But the excitement about having an all-female cast at the center of this film is bigger than just wanting to see talented women blow stuff up while they throw gobs of money around. As Aya de Leon wrote in a recent article about the lack of female-centric heist stories, there’s a gendered aspect to crime capers:
“Audiences are so conditioned to associate heists with having the balls to think big, plan big, and steal big that it’s no surprise to realize that women’s heist narratives are comparatively rare. In most heist stories, women appear generally as either tangential accomplices or just part of the spoils. Sex workers, gold diggers, and garden-variety hot girls are an integral part of the good life that stolen riches offer to men. But in the lack of women-led fictional heists, pop culture squanders a fertile storytelling opportunity. After all, heist fantasies are doubly meaningful for women: The big score isn’t just a way to be set for life, it also offers the possibility of being free from patriarchal control.”
In a society where women are systemically underdogs, it will be thrilling to cheer for a crew of women hustling to take all they can get.
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