Feminism in Popular Cinema

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filmmakingally

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by filmmakingally » Fri Sep 30, 2:23 2016

Whoah! This thread took off since my last visit. I'm liking this discussion.

I don't agree with everything that Pikachu has said here, but I do agree with the prediction that we're going to see more and more action roles go to skinny white women, most of them brunettes. There's definitely a pattern here. Hollywood has a serious problem with diversity, and it extends far beyond ethnicity.

I would disagree with anyone who thinks characters like Rey and Katniss are boring. Okay, compared to the lead roles in prestigious indie films, sure they're not very complex. But compared to the heroes of most blockbuster movies, I think both of them are fleshed-out very well. For comparison, I would argue that Rey is much more complex than Luke (at least as he's presented in the first Star Wars).

In my opinion, this is progress. Is it perfect? Hell no, far from it! But it's less shitty than it used to be.
Pikachu wrote:No, them choosing ONE SKINNY BODY TYPE, is bodyshaming. I'm saying KEEP THAT BODY TYPE AND ADD MORE OTHERS.
Strong AGREE!

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Sonic# » Fri Sep 30, 14:17 2016

Pikachu wrote: I'm actually enjoying the wave of characters which aren't 2D personalities with boobs. - Nech,

You use a sexist false dichotomy of 2D characters with boobs and 3D characters without.
No, you use that dichotomy. In his quote, Nech hasn't said anything about the following three possibilities:
2D personalities without boobs
3D personalities with boobs
3D personalities without boobs.*

He has just said that he enjoys characters who are neither bad characters nor possessing big boobs. I stated that previously. Nech stated that. However, you continue to put words in his mouth. Why?

The fact that feminists on this very site, have outright broken the 4th wall and completely moved the goalposts for artists and writers in order to make their sex negative criticism stick. They will talk about how a sexualized design makes no sense storywise, yet when a storyline is written that justifies it, they just say Oh the character's not real so can't make their own decisions.
Who said that? Where? Why is their criticism sex negative? The unclear way you're representing this point makes it feel like either a stereotype or your misunderstanding of a point someone was making, but like many of your statements, it lacks enough specifics to either verify or challenge.

The diversity and depiction of female action heroes has been criticized for a while by feminists. About a decade ago Christina Lucia Stasia published " 'My Guns Are in The Fendi!': The Postfeminist Female Action Hero," an article in the edited volume Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration. She observes a phenomenon I've seen many other cultural critics observe: the seemingly "liberated" woman of postfeminist cinema is not actually feminist. Her agency is often proscribed, racial or sexual issues are often distilled down to a neoliberal idea of choosing not to be oppressed, and her many incarnations don't vary all that much. Even so, women heroes often do some things right (as the previous article, Patricia Pender's "'Kicking Ass Is Comfort Food': Buffy as Third Wave Feminist Icon" reports). Anita Sarkeesian has also pointed out the lack of diversity in terms of body type, race, and other elements, particularly in action games, but her points seem comparable to film. So it's a mixed bag, a work in progress, we've come a long way and have a long way to go, etc.

I agree with Pikachu that the lack of diversity within the female Hollywood action hero is a problem, but his argument has two flaws.

First, it's disingenuous to appeal to the many examples of female action heroes when they're such a small percentage of the total action films out there. What about the vast majority of action heroes period? Men. White men. Occasionally black men or men from East Asia.** If we want to talk about parity, it's hard to vary up a narrow slice of the pie, and attacking that narrow slice leaves out the broad, broad parts of Hollywood that don't give second thoughts to women in the lead. If women had closer to half of the pie, then Pikachu's points would take precedence over the need for more women in leading roles. If Pikachu were proposing that we make fewer Jason Bournes and more Tomb Raiders, there'd at least be further movement towards parity and more opportunities to tweak, alter, and smash the existing formulae. As-is, women need more ground in film before economically-conservative Hollywood is going to bite on diversity.
Objectification has nothing to do with what a character wears or their body type. What matters is character.
Second, if sexiness were truly neutral to the depiction of character, then we'd see more action heroes that don't fit conventional standards of beauty. Yet even his argument depends on observing that we're basically selecting two broad forms of beauty: explicit sex appeal, and more implicit forms of attractiveness, both centered on being white. Films in particular are more than written scripts; casting is one example of a big force in Hollywood that tends to enforce a narrow view of kinds of beauty, whether through selecting mostly young women or mostly white women. So yes, by all means let's criticize those systems. Criticizing feminism at large doesn't actually attack the systems that produce inequality and lack of diversity, since they precede feminism's influence on Hollywood and they continue to survive in whatever form they can.

*It's a bit silly to describe sexual appeal as "with boobs" or "without boobs" though, srsly. One of the points I do find bothersome in this thread is the very narrow definition of what sex appeal is.
** Especially if they're paired with a white man in a buddy action movie.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Nech » Sun Oct 2, 10:26 2016

I was waiting for more responses, but Sonic basically said everything I was thinking. :| TOOK THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY KEYBOARD!

Although I wanted to address this in particular...
Pikachu wrote:Any character who has taken breast reductions due to feminist criticism. Powergirl https://furrysenpai.files.wordpress.com ... tumes1.jpg, Lara Croft, Wonder woman, Spiderwoman http://cdn1-www.craveonline.com/assets/ ... ostume.jpg.
...because it's just false. For starters, anything "Unlimited" is a totally different timeline/story/universe then the mainstream. In unlimited, Peter Parker died and Miles Morales is Spider-man, but back on Earth-616 (the "main" universes earth) Spider-man is still Peter Parker. So that's actually a totally different person then the Spider-woman she's being referred to. Surprise surprise, different people have different bodies.

As for the Power Girl comparison, those aren't actually even chronological. And DC artists are notorious for just altering characters for their own reasons (male ones too, should see the changes Batman/Superman went through over the years), so that isn't even out of place. I would definitely disagree that any of it is due to feminist criticism.
Where there's smoke, there's fire. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So just shut up, and bring some water.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Pikachu » Mon Oct 3, 18:37 2016

Sonic# wrote: No, you use that dichotomy. In his quote, Nech hasn't said anything about the following three possibilities:
2D personalities without boobs
3D personalities with boobs
3D personalities without boobs.*

He has just said that he enjoys characters who are neither bad characters nor possessing big boobs. I stated that previously. Nech stated that. However, you continue to put words in his mouth. Why?
Nech brought up boobs to begin with where it had no place in the discussion because he associates boobs with 2 dimensionality. Otherwise there would be no reason to bring it up in the context of complaining about 2D personalities in female characters.

He didn't say,
I'm actually enjoying the wave of characters which aren't 2D personalities

he said:

I'm actually enjoying the wave of characters which aren't 2D personalities with boobs. - Nech,
Who said that? Where?
On this site specifically? I didn't memorize usernames. But I have seen it.

I've seen it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jko06dA_x88 @ 11:45
Here: http://www.themarysue.com/sexy-vs-sexualized/
On the antishurtugal group,
On we hunted the Mammoth, and elsewhere browsing the net.
Why is their criticism sex negative?
Because they are saying certain body types and ways of dress are problematic on fictional representations of women, yet wouldn't dare criticize it on real women because real women can consent to it, which doesn't actually change the fact that you just called a certain way of dress problematic. That is passiveaggressive shaming without having to directly condemn real women's choices. Instead just condemn the fictional representations they may see themselves in, thus shaming real women by proxy. And before you bring out the "mansplaining" card, I'm not. I'm relaying this message from women.
The diversity and depiction of female action heroes has been criticized for a while by feminists. About a decade ago Christina Lucia Stasia published " 'My Guns Are in The Fendi!': The Postfeminist Female Action Hero," an article in the edited volume Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration. She observes a phenomenon I've seen many other cultural critics observe: the seemingly "liberated" woman of postfeminist cinema is not actually feminist. Her agency is often proscribed, racial or sexual issues are often distilled down to a neoliberal idea of choosing not to be oppressed, and her many incarnations don't vary all that much. Even so, women heroes often do some things right (as the previous article, Patricia Pender's "'Kicking Ass Is Comfort Food': Buffy as Third Wave Feminist Icon" reports). Anita Sarkeesian has also pointed out the lack of diversity in terms of body type, race, and other elements, particularly in action games, but her points seem comparable to film. So it's a mixed bag, a work in progress, we've come a long way and have a long way to go, etc.
The many incarnations don't vary all that much because variation attracts criticism.
Obese = Fat shaming unless portrayed as an ideal.
Voluptuous = Sexualized,Male Gaze,2D.
Skinny - promotes anorexia.
Different race = Racist unless portrayed as an ideal.
Different culture - cultural appropriation unless done by a member of that culture or meticulously researched.
Trans - Transphobic unless portrayed very sensitively.

That's why the white male is default. Very hard to offend anybody with him.
Objectification has nothing to do with what a character wears or their body type. What matters is character.
Second, if sexiness were truly neutral to the depiction of character, then we'd see more action heroes that don't fit conventional standards of beauty. Yet even his argument depends on observing that we're basically selecting two broad forms of beauty: explicit sex appeal, and more implicit forms of attractiveness, both centered on being white. Films in particular are more than written scripts; casting is one example of a big force in Hollywood that tends to enforce a narrow view of kinds of beauty, whether through selecting mostly young women or mostly white women. So yes, by all means let's criticize those systems. Criticizing feminism at large doesn't actually attack the systems that produce inequality and lack of diversity, since they precede feminism's influence on Hollywood and they continue to survive in whatever form they can.
It's neutral in that it can be used well and not so well. What matters is character because judging character by appearance is objectification.
I have never understood many feminist's desire to add diversity by shaming the conventional body types. Some seem to believe that you have to "attack" stereotypical attractiveness for example. There's room to add without stepping on others.

** Especially if they're paired with a white man in a buddy action movie.[/quote]

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by filmmakingally » Tue Oct 4, 2:54 2016

Pikachu wrote:The many incarnations don't vary all that much because variation attracts criticism.
Obese = Fat shaming unless portrayed as an ideal.
Voluptuous = Sexualized,Male Gaze,2D.
Skinny - promotes anorexia.
Different race = Racist unless portrayed as an ideal.
Different culture - cultural appropriation unless done by a member of that culture or meticulously researched.
Trans - Transphobic unless portrayed very sensitively.

That's why the white male is default. Very hard to offend anybody with him.
I appreciate where you're coming from, but I strongly disagree. The reason that the overwhelming majority of movie heroes are straight white males is because, for a long time, those were the people identified as buying tickets. Hollywood is slowly waking up to the fact that the demographics of America are changing. Hollywood doesn't give a shit about offending anybody. They just want to sell tickets.

Take, for example, the last two Captain America movies. Both of them are strong indictments against the American government in our illegal War on Terror. Hollywood has zero fucks to give. They just want your dollars.
Pikachu wrote:What matters is character because judging character by appearance is objectification.
I have never understood many feminist's desire to add diversity by shaming the conventional body types. Some seem to believe that you have to "attack" stereotypical attractiveness for example. There's room to add without stepping on others.
Asking for diversity is not the same as shaming anyone who doesn't help fill the need for diversity.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Unvoiced_Apollo » Tue Oct 4, 5:29 2016

Pikachu wrote:The many incarnations don't vary all that much because variation attracts criticism.
Obese = Fat shaming unless portrayed as an ideal.
Voluptuous = Sexualized,Male Gaze,2D.
Skinny - promotes anorexia.
Different race = Racist unless portrayed as an ideal.
Different culture - cultural appropriation unless done by a member of that culture or meticulously researched.
Trans - Transphobic unless portrayed very sensitively.

That's why the white male is default. Very hard to offend anybody with him.
No Pikachu. The issue is Hollywood can't seem to handle those types without falling into those tropes.

Obese people aren't stars but the butt monkeys, often times because of their weight. That's why it's fat shaming.

Voluptuous doesn't equal sexualized, 2d characters. But who gets treated as two dimensional characters with boobs? Those with that body type.

Skinny - Perfect example is Cinderella 2015. Lily James already on the thin side, though at a healthy level. However, she's also petite and her wardrobe for the ballgown consisted of a corset so tight that her waist practically disappears (not to mention the liquid diet she was on in order to continue squeezing into it). So yes, there is an issue of making women look too skinny & promoting an unhealthy image of ones own body.

Different race/different culture/trans - this ignores the historical record of how poorly races, cultures, and LGBTQ in general were treated and how the insensitivity still continues. There is a right way to handle both & not necessarily treat them as ideal but Hollywood has yet to figure out how to make a good movie from it.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Sonic# » Tue Oct 4, 9:06 2016

Pikachu wrote:Nech brought up boobs to begin with where it had no place in the discussion because he associates boobs with 2 dimensionality. Otherwise there would be no reason to bring it up in the context of complaining about 2D personalities in female characters.
No, you brought it up.
Pikachu wrote:They will all be late teen, white, slim, brown haired, flat chested, girl next doors with a ponytail.
...

PROBLEMATIC. TOO BUSTY AND THREATENING.
SOLUTION: MAKE HER KATNISS.
In other words, you started the talk on sexualization, first through your prediction of what female action heroes will be in coming years and then your strawman of a production discussion paired with a picture of Lara Croft that left out her still sizeable, if more proportional, bust. Nech responded to that. You're the one who is continuing to exclusively associate 2D-ness with boobs, when both Nech and I have pointed out that was neither his intention nor the implication of his phrasing.

You overgeneralize in the inverse too. You link to a Mary Sue article and suggest that it makes two rhetorical moves simultaneously: it criticizes the sexualization of characters because it makes no sense plot- or world-wise, and when there is a plot- or world-reason for sexualization such sexualization is criticized anyway. Let's ignore the obvious, that the first reason for criticism isn't the only one. You're saying that any woman who doesn't appeal to the ideal of "late teen, white, slim, brown haired, flat chested girl next doors with a ponytail" will be criticized automatically, and the rest is rationalization.

In the Mary Sue article, I don't perceive that. Take the example the author uses from Black Lagoon, Revy. This is used as a positive example of characterization not because she's not "sexual," not because she's (in your words) "flat chested" (see below) but because the frame, narration, and action focus on what's relevant to that plot. She's got body, and there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Image

So characters can certainly have a broad range of body types, many of which fit into this or that conception of "sexy." Techniques of representation matter more than the body type itself. Stereotypes, including yours about flat-chested women, need not apply.
Because they are saying certain body types and ways of dress are problematic on fictional representations of women, yet wouldn't dare criticize it on real women because real women can consent to it, which doesn't actually change the fact that you just called a certain way of dress problematic. That is passiveaggressive shaming without having to directly condemn real women's choices. Instead just condemn the fictional representations they may see themselves in, thus shaming real women by proxy. And before you bring out the "mansplaining" card, I'm not. I'm relaying this message from women.
No, it's not the body type or way of dress, but the focus of depiction. Similarly, I wouldn't criticize a real woman for her body, but in published media I would criticize the way she was dressed or shot by a photographer or videographer. Costume, clothing, posing, the camera frame, casting - all of these are elements that the model or actor does not control. Criticizing those does not constitute body shaming. Instead, it points out the body shaming that these artifacts often encourage, since the overabundance of some types over others sends a clear message of what we value, and the themes often tied into them send a clear message of how people should be ashamed of their paunches, their skin folds, or their melanin.

Your list of features and how they're criticized overgeneralizes and misses the point. Fat doesn't have to be shown as an ideal to work well with a character. It can just be *not the central character flaw*, or *not all about excess*. "Voluptuous" characters are fine as Revy indicates and they can be well-rounded and well-developed. And on and on - each entry reads like its own strawman.

In aggregate, your list misses a second kind of criticism. Besides focusing on individual depictions, we can talk about what an entire field does. Why so few non-white women in leading action roles? That implies no criticism of all the white women who are leads, but the answer could develop a number of points for writers and casting directors to consider.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by filmmakingally » Wed Oct 5, 2:44 2016

Sonic# wrote:No, it's not the body type or way of dress, but the focus of depiction. Similarly, I wouldn't criticize a real woman for her body, but in published media I would criticize the way she was dressed or shot by a photographer or videographer. Costume, clothing, posing, the camera frame, casting - all of these are elements that the model or actor does not control. Criticizing those does not constitute body shaming. Instead, it points out the body shaming that these artifacts often encourage, since the overabundance of some types over others sends a clear message of what we value, and the themes often tied into them send a clear message of how people should be ashamed of their paunches, their skin folds, or their melanin.
+1

Think of a movie like "Back to the Future". Was there any reason why the lead character needed to be a straight white male? Couldn't you tell the EXACT same story with someone who isn't a straight white male? Sure, minor plot-points would need to change, but overall, it'd be the same damn story. If, for example, you decided to tell that story with a straight black female as the lead, there would be no reason why the movie would have to be about her being black or a female. You could treat that character basically the exact same way as you'd treat the white male and tell the same damn story.

I believe this to be true of almost all Hollywood productions. They choose straight white male as the default not because it has any matter of importance to the story but because they believe that's what's gonna sell tickets.

Confession: the fact that the film I'm working on has a lead character who is neither straight, nor white, nor male, is primarily a marketing strategy. I hope to fill the needs of niche audiences by making a movie about people who are starving for movies that are made about them. That doesn't mean that I don't sincerely care about the issues of social justice that will be brought up in the film, but I don't mind sharing the fact that this is a strategic decision. One of the reasons I don't mind sharing the business-side of why I'm doing what I'm doing is because I hope others will do it. It's not just Hollywood -- filmmaking, in general, needs increased diversity. I believe that both audiences and the filmmakers trying to reach an audience will benefit from it.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Nech » Fri Oct 7, 13:21 2016

filmmakingally wrote:+1

Think of a movie like "Back to the Future". Was there any reason why the lead character needed to be a straight white male? Couldn't you tell the EXACT same story with someone who isn't a straight white male? Sure, minor plot-points would need to change, but overall, it'd be the same damn story. If, for example, you decided to tell that story with a straight black female as the lead, there would be no reason why the movie would have to be about her being black or a female. You could treat that character basically the exact same way as you'd treat the white male and tell the same damn story.

I believe this to be true of almost all Hollywood productions. They choose straight white male as the default not because it has any matter of importance to the story but because they believe that's what's gonna sell tickets.

Confession: the fact that the film I'm working on has a lead character who is neither straight, nor white, nor male, is primarily a marketing strategy. I hope to fill the needs of niche audiences by making a movie about people who are starving for movies that are made about them. That doesn't mean that I don't sincerely care about the issues of social justice that will be brought up in the film, but I don't mind sharing the fact that this is a strategic decision. One of the reasons I don't mind sharing the business-side of why I'm doing what I'm doing is because I hope others will do it. It's not just Hollywood -- filmmaking, in general, needs increased diversity. I believe that both audiences and the filmmakers trying to reach an audience will benefit from it.
I think some movies are drastically changed when characters are changed from white male/female to anything else. Back to the Future would be one of those. Even in current day films, it does change a great deal. I wanted to comment earlier but couldn't really find a good way to phrase it. But then I came across this and it summed it up pretty nice.
Where there's smoke, there's fire. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So just shut up, and bring some water.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by melsbells » Fri Oct 7, 14:15 2016

filmmakingally wrote:You could treat that character basically the exact same way as you'd treat the white male and tell the same damn story.
I agree with Nech here. The only example I can think of that takes filmmakingally's suggestion, is Night of the Living Dead. Duane Jones was cast as Ben into a role that was in many ways subconsciously written for a white man. I mean, it was a groundbreaking casting choice, but Duane's race does make a difference in how some scenes are viewed, particularly where Ben slaps Barbara and that (in case there's anyone alive who hasn't seen this movie and doesn't already know everything about it)
he's shot in the end.
We're not living in a post-racial society nor a post gender-society, so any choice is going to alter the perception of a script.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Taurwen » Fri Oct 7, 16:36 2016

I had no idea that Duane was written white, my childhood has been a lie.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by filmmakingally » Fri Oct 7, 19:28 2016

melsbells wrote:We're not living in a post-racial society nor a post gender-society, so any choice is going to alter the perception of a script.
I have absolutely no illusion that we're living in a post-anything society, quite the opposite. The argument that I make, regarding Back to the Future, and the vast majority of popular cinema, is coming from the place of someone who spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to tell stories. That's not a call to authority; everyone's perspective is just as valid as mine; I'm just adding context. I feel very confident that I could re-make Back to the Future with a black female as the lead, and it'd be the same damn story.

Yeah, you'd have to change details. In order for the story to work, our hero would have to be transported back into a segregated part of the community. She'd have to seek help from a black mad-scientist. Instead of being hit on by a younger version of her mom, she'd be hit on by a younger version of her dad. And instead of using her talents to help a younger version of her dad hook-up with a younger version of her mom, she'd have to find a way to use her talents to help a younger version of her mom hook-up with a younger version of her dad.

Yeah, plot particulars would have to change. But the high-concept idea of a young person travelling back in time, accidentally sabotaging the meeting of their parents, and therefore needing to find a way to make sure that their parents end up together is still the same damn story.

I'm not arguing that you can cast any role with any ethnicity, gender or orientation, after the part has been written. What I'm arguing is that before the part is written, and all you've got is a high-concept idea, you can usually choose to make a role whatever gender/ethnicity/orientation that you want.

Most of the time. Sometimes, the story requires very specific types of characters. Like, you couldn't tell Brokeback Mountain with anything other than closeted gay white males.

The difference between my two examples should be obvious. Ya' dig? :)

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Misandry_Reborn » Sat Oct 8, 7:46 2016

filmmakingally wrote:I'm not arguing that you can cast any role with any ethnicity, gender or orientation, after the part has been written. What I'm arguing is that before the part is written, and all you've got is a high-concept idea, you can usually choose to make a role whatever gender/ethnicity/orientation that you want.
The more grounded a story is, in reality, the less freedom there is to change elements while being faithful and respectful to the source material. I don't think it is as easy to swap gender/ethnicity/orientation of a character and yet remain faithful in all instances.
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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by melsbells » Sat Oct 8, 14:50 2016

filmmakingally wrote:I'm not arguing that you can cast any role with any ethnicity, gender or orientation, after the part has been written. What I'm arguing is that before the part is written, and all you've got is a high-concept idea, you can usually choose to make a role whatever gender/ethnicity/orientation that you want.
I'm sorry. I took your previous comment as a sort of just-be-colorblind stance. I shouldn't have limited my thoughts to the time of casting. Thanks for clarifying.

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Re: Feminism in Popular Cinema

Post by Sonic# » Sat Oct 8, 17:49 2016

Yeah, you'd have to change details. In order for the story to work, our hero would have to be transported back into a segregated part of the community. She'd have to seek help from a black mad-scientist. Instead of being hit on by a younger version of her mom, she'd be hit on by a younger version of her dad. And instead of using her talents to help a younger version of her dad hook-up with a younger version of her mom, she'd have to find a way to use her talents to help a younger version of her mom hook-up with a younger version of her dad.
One of the big things involving Back to the Future was the attraction between young-parent and Marty. So if we gender/race-swap Marty, would we need to gender-swap the parents as you suggest? What if she were hit on by a younger version of her mom and the plot otherwise played out as expected - counseling her dad (who may or may not be attracted to her) on how to woo her mom?

I think there are several ways to square this plot and make it work. You say it'd be the same story, but the story would still feel different. When I watch movies, the high concept isn't what fascinates me the most. It's the details, the particulars, the way that high concept is realized.

And some parts of the story could easily influence the high concept. If you're time-traveling back to the 1950s, then it'd be tough to not make the segregation setting an important influence on the story. However you classify that change, I like the idea that any choice we make affects the other choices we make in composition.

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