Here’s Why People Wondering If the New Ghostbusters is ‘Any Good’ Are Missing The Point
There is an action scene in Ghostbusters (2016).
[There are several action scenes in Ghostbusters (2016), but this one is more important than the others.]
Without giving too much away for those who have yet to see it, the scene involves Kate McKinnon in coveralls, tinted goggles, a horde of malevolent ghosts and two proton pistols.
I was enthralled the first time I saw this scene. My jaw LITERALLY dropped, and I think I actually stopped breathing for a good eight to ten seconds.
The second time I saw it, I was just as awed. This is it, I thought, as McKinnon ducked and dodged and whipped twin proton streams around like some kind of high-tech Indiana Jones. This is THE climactic, over-the-top, slow-mo action scene that I’ve been waiting for all my life.
But this time round, I knew exactly why.
I don’t know about you, but I have personally never, ever seen a woman take centre stage in a fight scene as dramatic and badass as that — all while fully clothed. There was no cleavage. There was no excessive display of tanned, heavily lotioned and/or oiled leg.
Most astoundingly, there was no man waiting close by to take over, to jump in to offer assistance. Not even to deliver a cheeky “wow girls can kick butt too” punch line!
How much can this tiny detail possibly matter?
On paper, Ghostbusters (2016) [which I shall henceforth refer to as GB16] is a remake of a classic cinematic icon ~with a twist~: it’s an all-female cast!
That doesn’t sound too harmful, does it? I mean, they’re doing a fucking Waterworld remake, and that thing’s repeatedly showed up on numerous “Worst Movies of All Time” lists since its release in 1995. Look, there are worse ideas for big-budget feature films, that’s all.
Ghostbusters is a lot of things. It’s sci-fi, it’s adventure, it’s an underdog story with a healthy side of supernatural terror.
But the two main things that make up Ghostbusters are comedy and action.
And that’s where the torches and pitchforks come in.
Comedy and action are two things that have always, always belonged to men. We have female-led comedies, sure. Bridesmaids is a stellar example. We have female-driven comedies with music (Pitch Perfect!), and romance (inserts a million examples!). We have female-dominated action movies (Charlie’s Angels, anyone?)!
But Ghostbusters isn’t just an action-comedy. It’s an ICONIC action-comedy, chock-full of spectral ass-kicking and witty banter. What’s more, its premise is basically super-heroic in nature. Save New York, save the world!
So, really, whether or not the torches and pitchforks are applicable to you depends entirely on what Ghostbusters truly is to you. Is it four heroes stepping up to defy the odds and save mankind?
Or is it four men doing all that?
(Hint: if it’s the second one, you’re probably at least a little bit bothered by an all-female cast.)
(Pro-tip: If you’re more of the opinion that “I’m not against girls! I’m against a BAD/MEDIOCRE REMAKE……… starring girls”, then yeah, you’re probably at least a little bit bothered by an all-female cast.)
Now, before you start calling me a “mindless sheeple” and accusing me of “falling into the trap of exploitative pandering”, let me first say this:
You are right.
You are so goddamn right, my friend! And you know why? I’ll tell you why.
WELCOME TO CAPITALISM 101. There is one rule, and one rule only: DEMAND DETERMINES SUPPLY.
I will unreservedly agree that GB16 is not a perfect movie. Of course it is not a perfect movie. It has flaws. It has weak spots. It has questionable holes in its green slimy fabric. Critically speaking, it probably isn’t a great film.
Do you know how hard it is to make a great film?
“People do it all the time! There are fantastic movies coming out all the time!”
No. Men do it all the time.
And, guess what? The only reason they’re better at it is simply because they have always had more chances to hit the bull’s-eye.
When it comes to the silver screen, men have had approximately a hundred and thirty years in the driver’s seat. Please don’t be mistaken; yes, female filmmakers are becoming increasingly prominent (Kathryn Bigelow! Ava DuVernay!). But please understand that these women are only getting their turn at the wheel about 9% of the time.
Well, so what? Doesn’t seem like the rest of the 9% are doing great at their job if we’ve never heard their names!
Just so this is easier to understand for everyone, let me put this in baseball terms. #sports.
Let’s say you’re a baseball player. Let’s say you’ve played a full MLB season — never missed any of the 162 games, never sat out a single inning.
What are the odds that you’d have at least one home run under your belt?
Now let’s say you’ve only been allowed to step into the batter’s box for fourteen games. Fourteen, out of 162 — about nine percent of the season.
What do you think the odds would be then?
Here’s the reason why the arguments of good vs. bad, quality vs. mediocrity don’t hold up for me when it comes to GB16.
Plain and simple: it’s not the main issue at all.
The issue is representation.
Why is it so important that GB16 be financially successful?
Because (say it with me) DEMAND DETERMINES SUPPLY.
If something sells, people make more of it. That’s not an opinion. That’s how the world works. It’s a fact.
If GB16 can sell as a film about four girls kicking butt and trading hilarious banter, guess what studios are going to make more of.
This is why I cannot stop at the “but is it good? but is it great?” debate.
I have to think beyond.
I have to think beyond “hmmm but the original was this and that”. I have to think beyond “wow that Ocean’s Eleven all-female reboot better not suck”.
Because it’s not about reboots, at all. It’s about representation.
This is the only issue that truly, truly matters — until what we see on our screens matches what we know, which is that half the world is female.
It’s the only issue that matters until we get Bridesmaids, but with espionage and guns and nail-biting car chases.
Until we get Charlie’s Angels, but without the need for charged sexual imagery.
Until we get Pitch Perfect, but without — well, I don’t know, because frankly, I enjoy a cappella and teamwork and jokes.
Someone called GB16 an “exploitation film”. He’s not the first, and certainly won’t be the last. In his words, “This movie used “feminism” and “girl-power” to do it’s marketing for it and try to silence criticism. Feminism and girl-power had nothing to do with it”.
Now, I won’t say that he’s entirely wrong.
But I will say that it is entirely possible to, in one move, neatly avoid being wrong and being right.
Rather than trying to understand (and very backhandedly defend) feminism with zero first hand experience of gender inequality, let us instead consider the fact that there has never been a need for “male power” to be used as a defence — because a film has never been publicly and heavily criticised for having male leads.
It’s really not that feminism and girl power have nothing to do with GB16. Instead, this person has nothing to do with feminism and girl power.
Not to mention, if Sony did make this as a gimmick to pander to feminists, then, well, they sure aren’t very good at the art of gimmicking. GB16 had a ton of heart and soul to it, and the remake wonderfully embodied the rollicking spirit of the original, but with a fresh, vibrant voice.
I leave you with my response to this person:
Please consider this an open invitation to continue to pander to my feminist, girl-power tendencies by rebooting as many iconic franchises as possible starring all-female casts. Please, studio execs, exploit my sucker money for all it’s worth on multiple female-led comedies, dramas, action movies etc. until I finally look past the surface and see the motive behind the unstoppable trend of female representation in film.
You can find out more about Melissa on her author page.