31 January 2018

What Happens When You Switch the Genders?

Image from Wikipedia
A few months ago I had an idea. I wanted to take some classic works of literature and change the genders of all the characters to see how it changes the story.

So for the last few months I’ve been working my way through Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities doing just that.

I find it fascinating, the changes it makes to the story. All of a sudden, women are lawyers, doctors, carriage-drivers, and innkeepers. Some of the behavior that was attributed to female characters in the original is downright silly when attributed to male characters now, which highlights to me the silliness of accepting or expecting that behavior from women in the first place. Crowd scenes are suddenly populated with men and women, not just men.

I’m hitting some road bumps, though. I’m trying to decide what to do with historical figures such as the kings and queens, George Washington, and God. Changing the genders of the general population changes some of the history, of course, but part of me wants to keep the story in a realistic historic period. I’m not doing a simple search and replace of all the pronouns and calling it a day. I’m going through line by line, making decisions about changing genders or making certain terms gender neutral to be all inclusive rather than all female. Do I change the genders of the horses pulling the carriages? I’m changing some of the clothing references (but I like the idea of keeping women in trousers and frock coats) and removing facial hair for the most part.

I’d like to share this eventually. Maybe chapter-by-chapter here on my blog. But I still have a lot of work to do before I’m at that point. Hopefully in the next month or two I’ll be ready. Even if no one else is fascinated by this idea, I am and it’s keeping me going.

I know that this is still going to be a very white and very cis/straight and very British story. Here’s the thing, though. If you want to read a Black version, or a trans or gay version, or a version that takes place in India and Pakistan rather than London and Paris, or any other version, go ahead and write it. And share it with me and I’ll read it, too. We are limitless in our possibilities. (I downloaded a copy for free from Project Gutenberg. I’m not a copyright expert, though. It’s up to you to read the fine print when it comes to sharing it if you’re going to do something.)

There will be more to come on this.

2 comments:

Derien RulesTheNet said...

I love it! I have often thought about doing something like that, but I never would have the tenacity to get through a long work doing it line by line. You could post it on Archive of Our Own, with the caveat at the beginning that this is just straight up gender-swapped, but just the basic story. People LOVE writing gender swap on AO3. You'll find gender swapped EVERYTHING there.

Lynne said...

I am so excited to read whatever you post, whenever you're ready!

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project . Chapter Six: The Shoemak...