George Orwell once argued that clichéd language produces clichéd thinking. So let's change the language.
- Dynamically rewrite the gender of personae in texts
- Challenge unconscious biases about gender and characters
Background: Unconscious biases on characters' gender continue in narrative fiction, both in print and on screen. Although, studies show that movies with women in leading roles and movies that pass the Bechdel test are more profitable, most roles, leading and otherwise, still go to men. Women fill less than a third of speaking roles in film, according to a review of the 700 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2014 conducted by the University of Southern California. Men get more speaking time in ads, according the Gina Davis Institute's 2017 study. In most Disney princess films, the amount of time women get to talk or act is overshadowed by the male characters. Research has shown similar gender imbalances in literature - from children's stories, to award-winning literary fiction, to best selling genres like sci-fi and fantasy. Not to mention the challenges faced by female authors in getting published.
Method: The gendered text project is an open source website allowing users to radically alter the gender of characters in a story. Users can read selected texts already modified for this format or submit their own texts. To modify a text this project, first input a text to identify all the gendered nouns in a story. Then, manually tag each gendered noun with the associated character. Insert a legend with a list of characters and alternate names. Finally, choose a gender for each character to output a new, revised text.
Examples: Changing a character's gender changes the story in multiple ways.
What makes a hero? Imagine Conan the Barbarian (a man) as Cuzha the Barbarian (a woman). The character remains an unparalleled warrior, adventuring in exotic lands and soundly defeating all foes, but as a woman instead of a man.
What makes a villain? Changing the gender may change a character from a hero to a villain or versa. Take the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Instead of a paranoid, hysterical shrew screaming "Off with their heads" every other line, as a man, the character becomes a ruthless tyrant, a bloodthirsty dictator, someone to be taken seriously.
Changing gender may also change sexual orientation. Take the example of Conan again. The character often takes a lover who fights by the barbarian's side in life and in death. What if it was Cuzha who seduces the Queen of the Black Coast or Conan who takes the King as a lover? A character's gender does not just reflect on that one character, but the whole story.