Why Dune Shouldn’t Be Gender-Swapped

Good morning, campers.  Today, here at Catholic Geeks, we’re going to play Let’s Kick The Woke Hornets’ Nest And See How Much The Internet Loses Its S**t.

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Step right up, folks.

I was at home, minding my own business, when my husband pointed out a Vanity Fair article on the new Dune movies.  I knew about the remake (or reimagining, whatever they want to call it), and was interested to see what they were doing.

Mind you, I didn’t hold out much hope that any of it would be any good.  Let’s face it, between the 1984 flick and the SciFi channel miniseries (back before they changed it to Syfy, the idiots) both sucked for different reasons: the old version has beautiful, perfect casting (Francesca Annis as Jessica; I rest my case)


Lady Jessica

but horrible visuals and a butchered script; and the miniseries has (at least up to a certain point), a more accurate script, but utterly horrific casting (Jessica as a whiny little dirty-blonde twit?  Seriously?).

In my opinion, if you want to experience Frank Herbert’s Dune, just read the book.  The first book.  The others don’t exist.

But, here they are, making another movie.  Or, apparently, two movies.  So I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I’m not going to fisk the article, because I was mostly pleasantly surprised by the content: the casting looks promising, the sets and costumes look great, and the director (Denis Villenueve) at least claims to be a big fan of Herbert, so the odds of him butchering the story are slightly lower than if, say, JJ Abrams got hold of it.

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The problem?  One supposedly-minor supporting character: Dr. Kynes.

The poor man got gender-swapped, and it’s a much bigger problem than just a bad casting switch.

There are a couple of bad points in the article, like the director claiming that the source material, written in 1964, was “a distant portrait of the reality of the oil and the capitalism and the exploitation—the overexploitation—of Earth.”


You saying that doesn’t make it true, you left-wing nutjob.  You can’t just say that this sci-fi epic is about some environmentalist cause and therefore make it true.  You’re full of it.

The director also claims to have “expanded the role” of Lady Jessica.


Her role was fine.  It didn’t need expanding.  She’s a wonderful character, very powerful, beautiful, and a great teacher and role model, with a very quiet and perfect kind of strength.  Who are you to try and “improve” on Frank Herbert’s work?

But on to the more serious problem.

In an intriguing change to the source material, Villeneuve has also updated Dr. Liet Kynes, the leading ecologist on Arrakis and an independent power broker amid the various warring factions. Although always depicted as a white man, the character is now played by Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Rogue One), a black woman. “What Denis had stated to me was there was a lack of female characters in his cast, and he had always been very feminist, pro-women, and wanted to write the role for a woman,” Duncan-Brewster says. “This human being manages to basically keep the peace amongst many people. Women are very good at that, so why can’t Kynes be a woman? Why shouldn’t Kynes be a woman?”

Oh, man.  Slow curve ball right over the plate.  You’re just inviting every fan of Dune over the last sixty years to jump right down your throat.

You think Star Wars fans are rabid?  You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, bub.

I’ll tell you exactly why Kynes shouldn’t be gender-swapped.

First: get his name right.  Liet was his name among the Fremen; Dr. Pardot Kynes was his name elsewhere.  He was the planetary ecologist sent to Arrakis by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.  He went native, and married a Fremen.  Actually, he married Stilgar’s sister.  His daughter is Chani, the love interest for main character Paul Atredies.

And you gender-swapped this character?


That is impossible just if you want to keep the accuracy of who the characters are, including Chani.  It isn’t just about Dr. Kynes not being a man anymore.

With that one casting decision, they torpedoed not just him, but multiple characters, and all of Fremen society.

No, I’m not exaggerating.

And, for the record, I’m not always against gender-swapping a character.  In the new Hawaii Five-0, they gender-swapped Kono Kalakaua, and it worked for them.  In the old show, they had no female officers on their squad.  If they needed a woman to go undercover for them, they had to borrow an officer from the HPD.  So, gender-swapped Kono filled that role on the squad and became a very lovable character.  It worked.  I don’t particularly like the gender-swap of Starbuck in the new Battlestar Galactica, but that’s a personal opinion of mine, and only that (I just like Dirk Benedict’s Starbuck much better, is all).

Sometimes a gender-swap works.  It doesn’t here.  It can’t.

Let’s go with your “reasons” for the gender-swap in order, though, shall we?

“There was a lack of female characters in his cast.”


Jessica alone invalidates your argument.  A fan of the book can very easily make the argument that Jessica is the main character, not Paul.  She is the mover and shaker; she is the power behind the throne, so to speak.  The whole point of the story is that she gave birth to Paul, not the daughter she was supposed to, according to her orders from her Bene Gesserit superiors (it’s impossible in real life, but the Bene Gesserit sisters were trained to be so in control of their own bodies that they could choose the gender of their children, and Jessica’s orders were to give Duke Leto only daughters).

There would be no story without her.  In the words of one of Princess Irulan’s chapter prefaces: “My mother obeyed her Sister Superiors where the Lady Jessica disobeyed.  Which of them was the stronger?  History already has answered.”

Then there’s Chani.  And the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam.  And the Princess Irulan, who doesn’t appear much in the story itself, but who narrates it and provides insight and analysis throughout the book with epigraph-like quotations at the beginning of each chapter.  One thing the 1984 version did correctly was have Irulan as the narrator.

Then there’s the Shadout Mapes.  She gets killed early on, but is extremely important.  Then there’s Alia, Paul’s younger sister.  And Jamis’ wife, Harah, another support character.  Also Countess Margot Fenring, another Bene Gesserit sister.  She moves in very powerful circles, unlike Jessica, who is stuck on Arrakis.  She is a manipulator extraordinaire.

Enough of the specific characters; just take the mere existence of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood.  Those women have, for millennia, manipulated whole planets, societies, and governments, including the Padishah Emperor.  That’s their entire purpose.  In fact, the entire Fremen religion was planted there by the Missionaria Protectiva, an arm of the Bene Gesserit sisters, as protection for any one of their number who might have to live there.  Women did that.

It’s as if Frank Herbert took the old cliche, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” and turned it into an absolutely literal statement.

Those women rock cradles and rule entire galaxies from the shadows. Even the great Padishah Emperor is beholden to them, manipulated by them.  He had no sons, no heir, because they said so.

But . . . there aren’t enough female characters in the script.

You’re either a liar, or you’re so stupid you can’t be trusted to tie your own shoes.  Did you even read the book before you started?

Obviously not, because Dr. Kynes was not “the leading ecologist on Arrakis.”  That implies that there are a lot of different ecologists, and that they have differing opinions on how to do their job correctly, both of which are false.  He was the “planetary ecologist” sent by the Emperor; the only one.  And Arrakis is–at least according to the Empire–a complete backwater with nothing worthwhile on the whole planet except the spice, melange, anyway.  They don’t produce their own ecologists at all.  The Fremen, to them, are worse than back country hicks–they’re superstitious back country hicks who would as soon kill you as look at you, and there weren’t that many of them, anyway.  So . . . what other “ecologists” are there on the whole planet?

None.  You’re already stupidly changing the story to make this perversion of a major character more “interesting.”  All you did was screw up a good thing.

Kynes is also “an independent power broker amid the various warring factions.”

Nope (2)

There are only two factions among the Fremen: us and them.  And “them” includes both the Harkonens and the Atredies.  “Them” includes the Emperor, too.  Kynes is NOT a power broker, and he isn’t independent.  The whole point of him “going native” was that his loyalty switched from the Emperor to the Fremen and stayed there.  He’s not loyal to Duke Leto; he basically hates Leto’s guts from the outset, and then gradually comes around to their side.  But his first loyalty is the Fremen, and to Arrakis itself.

There aren’t that many “various warring factions” on Arrakis.  It’s the Fremen against all comers.  And even if there had been, Kynes never sides with anyone but the Fremen.  He’s not independent at all.  So you’re wrong again in a serious way.

And it only gets worse:

““What Denis had stated to me was there was a lack of female characters in his cast.”

Incoherent Rage

You obviously haven’t been paying attention.  There’s only a “lack of female characters” if you’re a complete idiot.

No, they’re not going to give the part of Jessica to a black woman.  Forget it.  So I guess you have to go away and cry.

There is no lack of female characters.  There are more men in the story, perhaps, but it is the women who control this little universe.  See above.  Please note that most of the casualties in the book are men, too.  So, from your purely “woke” standpoint, the women win on that count, too; they survive the wars and massacres and assassinations more than men.

If you’re so obsessed with “who gets more screen time,” then yes, you might be offended.  But you’re so petty you forgot about Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.  He only appears on screen for 24 minutes and 52 seconds, and he got Best Actor for that role.  It wasn’t about screen time then, and it shouldn’t be about screen time now.  It should be about telling Frank Herbert’s story, not perverting it to serve some idiotic woke ends.

So, the director has “always been very feminist, pro-women, and wanted to write the role for a woman.”  Which gives the lie to his statement that he respects Herbert’s work.  I don’t care if he’s feminist, pro-woman, or whatever.  He’s supposed to be telling Herbert’s story, not playing politics.

“This human being manages to basically keep the peace amongst many people.”

Actually, no, he never did.  He wasn’t there to “keep the peace.”  He was “Judge of the Change,” a role in addition to his primary one as planetary ecologist, but he was just making sure that the transfer of power between the Harkonnens and Atredies went smoothly; he was at best a neutral party in that.  He didn’t care who the Emperor put in charge of his planet; because it was his planet.  He was Fremen; the momentary ruler sent by an Emperor they hated was immaterial to him and his plans and his people.  He wasn’t there to keep the peace.

“Women are very good at that, so why can’t Kynes be a woman?”


You’re serious about that?  Women are some of the most divisive, back-stabbing, drama-causing, scandal-mongering, horrible little creatures on the face of the earth, and you think that women are good at “keeping the peace” more than men?  Go back to your wishful thinking world and stay there; this one doesn’t agree with you, and neither does Herbert’s.

So, why shouldn’t Kynes be a woman?

How about because HERBERT DIDN’T WRITE THE CHARACTER AS A WOMAN, and it’s his story?

If that doesn’t convince you, how about the fact that writing that character as a woman destroys the worldbuilding that the story depends on.

Kynes went native.  He became Fremen.  But, because of the nature of their society, he can’t do that if he’s a woman.  The Fremen have very particular roles in their society for both men and women, and the two are not interchangeable.



Oh, how dare I say such a thing?  Of course, if Herbert wrote it that way, then we MUST change it to make it more correct!  How dare he insist that all those Fremen women be barefoot and in the kitchen?


You obviously didn’t read the book, and didn’t listen to me.  The women in the story have power, just not military power or physical combat power or overt political power.  They pull the strings.  They control from the shadows.

They rock the cradles, and rule the universe.

Jessica can’t rule in Duke Leto’s place.  She isn’t even a noblewoman; she is the “bound concubine of Duke Leto, mother of the heir-designate,” as she reminds the Shadout Mapes.  But that doesn’t make her some kind of servant.  She is the mistress of his household.  She is the mother of his son.  She forms that boy into the next duke, and how well she does it will have a direct effect on the politics of the entire Landsraad, the galaxy, and the survival of the Atredies house.  She’s the teacher, the comforter.  She doesn’t need to fight; she protects her son and his father with her perfect feminine skills.  She’s subtle, she plays the long game.

When they have to flee and seek shelter from the Fremen, Jessica is the one who has to secure a place for them.  She has to become one of their “Sayyadinas” and their new “Reverend Mother,” in order to gain their respect.  That is the only way she can do it.  Jamis, the little punk who challenges Paul to a duel, can only challenge Paul.  Jessica can’t fight their men; she has to gain their trust another way.

If Kynes had been a woman, that would have been the only option open to “her” if “she” wanted to gain the respect and trust of the Fremen.  Not by fighting, and certainly not by leading their men.

They would never have followed her in the role of a man.  Actually, they probably would have had one of their ferocious women kill her outright for her presumption; not because a woman “dared” usurp a man’s role, but because the woman in question disdained their customs, and sat in judgment upon them.  Fremen women would have taken care of that problem themselves.

In the book, women don’t ride the sandworms.  That is for men to do.  But, Chani, as the Sayyadina, observes to see to it that all their customs and rules are followed.  She can pass judgment on the men, but she can’t ride with them.

That isn’t subservience, you idiotic crazy feminazi.  That is power beyond anything those men have.  Chani and the other Sayyadinas are other than them, but they are also above them.  They can pass judgment on them from the outside.  They are respected, cared for, valued beyond anything the Fremen have.

And you seriously think that there aren’t enough women in this story?  The women are the story.


Frank Herbert actually wrote something in the 1960s–at the height of the downright evil side of the feminist movement, women’s rights to their worst extreme, sexual liberation and consequence-free sexual activity–that promotes the true rule of women in society.

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

The Bene Gesserit sisters aren’t slaves.  They might be pawns of their superiors in the order, or the “bound concubine” of some duke or king or emperor, but that doesn’t make them powerless.  It’s the exact opposite.  They assume the role of the powerless and thereby have more power than any man in their society.

The women in Herbert’s novel, not just the Fremen, but all of them, do not lead armies and command nations.  They support their husbands, they raise their children, they care for their staff and households, they shape the world their men live in.  They bind up wounds and teach and care and–in extreme cases, like the story shows–use those same exclusively feminine powers to manipulate and control.

Jessica is the role model; Princess Irulan and Countess Fenring are the cautionary tale.

All of the political machinations of the Emperor, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Baron Harkonnen, and the rest are undone by one thing:

One woman disobeying her orders.  She loved Duke Leto, and gave birth to a son rather than a daughter.  Then she raised her son well.

“Which of them was the stronger?  History already has answered.”

And because their religion and culture were shaped by Bene Gesserit sisters, the Fremen society follows that pattern.  They have very specific roles for both men and women, and an outsider would have a hard enough time stepping into that society.  A woman trying to do a man’s job would never have stood a chance.

That one casting decision destroys Herbert’s whole universe, undermines his story, and makes all of you look like politically correct, “woke” fools.

Only women can survive drinking the Water of Life; but there is one man who can–the Kwisatch Haderach.  Paul is the Kwisatch Haderach, but if there was no difference between the roles of men and women in this universe, there would be no need for Paul, and no story.

Frank Herbert was anything but a Catholic; he was specifically against religion of any kind (which is why in his story, the “religion” of the Fremen was made up by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood to protect their members from the locals).  And somehow, he wrote a society in which the roles of men and women are oddly Catholic.

Jessica doesn’t pick up a weapon and fight for her duke; she takes their son and runs, exactly the way she’s supposed to do.  Men are protectors; women are nurturers, just the way God designed it.

And you thought you knew better.  You destroyed all of that just so you could virtue-signal and pretend you know better than the man who wrote the book, for one, and all of nature, for another.

We’re supposed to be different.  Even Herbert, the anti-religious guy who wrote the story, knew that.

Go take your politically correct casting and shove it.

I hope your movie bombs.

Don’t forget to check out Lori’s new book, Phoenix, now available in print and Kindle copies on Amazon.


This entry was posted in Rants, Reviews, Science Fiction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why Dune Shouldn’t Be Gender-Swapped

  1. Pingback: New Post on The Catholic Geeks – Little Squirrel Books

  2. Foxfier says:

    And somehow, he wrote a society in which the roles of men and women are oddly Catholic.

    Stuff that’s true tends to have a power all of its own; even lies are stronger by being close to the truth.
    One of the things I like about Terry Pratchett’s writing is that he had that “come around to something profoundly real” thing all over the place– just usually by taking the long way around!

    Liked by 1 person

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