comScore Robyn Doolittle Erased From Her Own Biopic | The Mary Sue
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Good News: Badass Female Journalist Gets Biopic. Predictable Bad News: Her Character Is Now a Man

newspapers, ben platt, robyn doolittle, rob ford, expose, journalism

One of the biggest scandals in recent Canadian history is getting the biopic treatment. There were a few reporters involved in the revelation that Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford suffered from alcohol and drug addiction, and how his substance abuse and other issues led to his political downfall. But Robyn Doolittle was at the forefront of the coverage, even writing the 2014 biography, Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story.

So imagine the surprise of everyone involved when it was announced that the protagonist in this biopic would be played by Ben Platt, who is distinctly not what anyone would call a “Robyn Doolittle type.”

As a fan of Pitch Perfect, Dear Evan Hansen, and Ben Platt in general, obviously I want to see Platt cast in major Hollywood film roles. But this role should never have been offered to him. Unfortunately, Platt’s response to the criticism of his casting only highlights the issues at hand.

In a now-deleted tweet, presumably aimed at Doolittle herself, Platt wrote, “I have the utmost respect for your accomplishments- I play a totally fictionalized character, an entitled, incapable entry-level reporter (my boss is played by Jennifer Ehle) at a fictional competing newspaper. The film alludes to the successful reporting from the Toronto Star.”

The issue here is the issue we see time and time again. That when a story is “fictionalized,” and thereby reduced to its “universal” criteria, that defaults, almost without fail, to a white cis male character.

Doolittle herself said as much on Twitter.

She makes it clear that the issue isn’t Platt, but the top-down belief that a story can only be relatable if it has a man at its center.

Platt has since released another statement. He says he’s been the subject of “much of the hate” directed at the project. And while his original tweet was for sure worthy of criticism, he didn’t write this script or make the decisions therein.

In this new tweet, with a longer message, he explains that the movie is heavily fictionalized. He says the movie “centers on three fictional young people” and is “set against the backdrop of the Rob Ford scandal.” But he specifically says this is not a Rob Ford biopic, nor a Robyn Doolittle movie.

That explanation doesn’t mean all that much, though. And while Ben Platt does not deserve to be on the receiving end of the anger regarding these choices, his explanations and justifications don’t mean as much as he likely hopes they do.

Because as Doolittle implied with her tweet above, no one is surprised when a women’s story is “fictionalized” with a male character at its center. The only situation in which that would be perfectly fine is if we lived in a world where men’s stories frequently got rewritten without question or criticism to be about a female protagonist. In that world, those men’s stories would also not consistently and predictably revolve around their sexual or romantic relationships with their bosses and/or journalistic subjects.

But that doesn’t happen. So Ben Platt, as much as we like you, your casting is the product of systemic sexism. If we’re going to see a woman’s story be fictionalized, we are absolutely allowed to question why a woman cannot still be at that movie’s center, why one man (out of three lead characters) is the one making the headlines. We can also wonder why one woman’s incredible story needs to be fictionalized and distributed among three characters in the first place.

(image: brotiN biswaS from Pexels)

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