The Female-Driven 'Oliver Twist' Reboot Sounds Like A Feminist 'Mr. Robot'
If you're like me when it comes to the classics, you probably hold them very close to your heart. Remakes and reboots are de rigeur in 2016, so it comes as no surprise that yet another beloved classic is getting the remake treatment. It will be a relief to hear, though, that the proposed Oliver Twist remake will be getting a feminist twist—a delightful twist that opens the story up to new possibilities. At first blush, it's hard to believe that Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens' classic tale of an orphan boy running amok in the streets of London, has any transmutability to the present day. Upon further inspection, this upcoming Oliver Twist adaptation will not merely be another mini-series or TV movie. Instead, NBC has plans to turn the well-worn 19th-century tale into a crime procedural with a female lead. Stay with me here: This is actually a genius idea, especially if you're a fan of darker shows like Mr. Robot.
The official description for this new iteration of Oliver Twist reads thus: "A sexy contemporary take on Oliver Twist with a struggling 20-something female (Twist) who finally finds a true sense of family in a strange group of talented outcasts who use their unique skills to take down wealthy criminals." While the notion of sexing up a Dickens character is a bit eyeroll-inducing, I think it's worth honing in on the female lead aspect of this announcement. There's always room for another well-drawn female lead, especially in the crime procedural department. If this new Oliver Twist lead mirrors the Veronica Mars model for women, there's a chance it could thrive. Dickens like to infuse his most well-known characters with wit and bite (think Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol); endowing a female lead with those same qualities would help round out the character and give viewers a reason to keep watching.
Better still, this version of Oliver Twist sounds like it will be right in line with what makes a show like Mr. Robot so inviting to viewers. There's an element of Robin Hood here (stealing from the rich) and there appears to be room for the show question the wealth inequality between classes in our modern world. This new Oliver Twist could be anything but by-the-numbers; rather, it could be an exciting social commentary with a crime procedural bow on top. To have a woman working within a criminal framework in stealing from the wealthy and getting the chance to question the moral correctness of her own actions as they fit in with society's class system opens the door to some bigger questions worth exploring.
We could empathize with a flawed young woman who is both heroine and anti-heroine. She would be maturing in a world removed from one we know but dealing with big, contemporary social issues. I don't know about you but when it comes to soothing the ache for more nuanced female characters in television, this is how I imagine it playing out. Plus, it would be an inherently Dickensian direction to take. Dickens himself was a socially-aware writer whose works often peeled back the sheen of life in Victorian England to reveal the society's darker, more corrupt morals and codes. Having a female lead adds another empowering lens through which to view an already exciting story.
Naturally, this proposed remake has struck a nerve with many people who remark that it is neither new nor interesting to green-light another crime procedural or the re-fashioning of a classic text for modern purposes. Over the years we've had Sleepy Hollow and Sherlock Holmes restyled as modern crime procedural/adventure shows. It was also recently announced that King Arthur would get the modern retelling as a crime procedural called Camelot. Moreover, there exists already a metric ton of crime procedurals on television right now: CSI, Criminal Minds, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and NCIS are just the tip of the iceberg. Believe you me, the apprehension to embrace this latest classic remake is understandable.
But this idea has some very solid roots. If the show adheres to Oliver Twist's original blend of social commentary, mischievousness and criminal intrigue, there could be some material worth mining for a modern audience. I have no doubt that a female lead would elevate the status of the project, rather than pander to those who want to check off diversity boxes. This modern Oliver Twist could be a real success —we have yet to cast the lead (the options!)—if done properly. I say we all start crossing our fingers now that the production process goes smoothly in this new life for Oliver Twist.