Casting Ready Player One: Female Geeks and the Sexy Sidekick Stereotype

Do you love games?  Have you always wanted to be in a Hollywood movie?  You can apply to be in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation of Ready Player One!  If, that is, you are a dude.


WADE WATTS: 18-19 yrs old, male, clean cut with a sense of humor, overweight or underweight. A sincere and passionate player in the Oasis. Not the most confident guy outside the Oasis, but Wade gains boldness & nerve as his worlds collide. He uses his skills & the support of his friends to rise above each challenge.

SHOTO: 10-13 yrs old, male, to play Chinese, hip & knowing for his age. He speaks MANDARIN AND English FLUENTLY. Wade’s friend in the Oasis who joins with him to complete the competition. Please note: Actor should be bilingual: Mandarin and English (Applications must be submitted by parent or legal guardian if applicant is under 18 years of age).

DAITO: 20 yrs old, male, to play Japanese. Speaks JAPANESE AND English FLUENTLY. One of Wade’s friends in the Oasis who joins with him to complete the competition. Please note: Actor should be bilingual: Japanese and English.

So why is it that the casting of Wade, Shoto, and Daito is open to the general public but that of Samantha/Art3mis, Wade’s love interest, is not?

The answer lies in a gendered double-standard that runs throughout gamer culture.

Wade Watts is meant to be an “every man” type of character, someone who isn’t particularly special according to the standards by which mainstream traditional masculinity is judged, but whose special nerdy skill set enables him to save the day and get the girl in the end.  This allows the imagined straight male audience of the film to easily put themselves into his shoes as a kind of geeky wish-fulfillment.  Casting an unknown actor (who, note, is either “overweight or underweight”) in the role will help facilitate this process.

If the filmmakers expected geeky women to be in their audience, they might have used the same strategy to cast Art3mis, encouraging female fans to fantasize about finding love and achieving success online.

Instead, however, Spielberg went the other direction, casting the gorgeous and well-established actress Olivia Cooke in the role.  This indicates to me that Art3mis isn’t intended to be an “every girl” character.  Rather, she will be a sexy sidekick fantasy, a fantastic, to-good-to-be-true prize for Wade to win (not unlike the virtual princesses that video game characters regularly rescue).  As such, she needs to be beautiful by conventional Hollywood standards.  This includes having a quite thin body shape, despite the fact that she is described in Ernest Cline’s novel (page 35) as “Rubenesque.”


Olivia Cooke


However, it will be interesting to see if, in the course of producing and marketing  the film, Cooke runs into the opposite side of the sexy sidekick coin: accusations that she is too perfect to be a “real” gamer and therefore must be a fake geek girl.





2 thoughts on “Casting Ready Player One: Female Geeks and the Sexy Sidekick Stereotype

  1. I think it’s likely she’ll be demonized as a “fake geek girl” no matter what; I think that’s the fate of a lot of good-looking women who are interested in such things. It’s disappointing to hear that casting is being approached in this manner. As you mentioned, it’ll have the effect of continuing a harmful double standard. Not a shock, but wouldn’t it be nice to be surprised for once? Nice summing-up.

  2. Pingback: Ready Player One Movie Wants Your 3D Models | Megan Condis

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