There’s no escaping the ubiquitous controversy over this female-powered retelling. For me, it solidified an ideology that I have always been told existed, but never quite believed- until now.
When word got out that the classic ’80s comedy ‘Ghostbusters’ was being remade with a female cast. I’ll admit that I was skeptical. I was never a big fan of the hugely popular film, but the fact that three out of the four leads were current or past members of Saturday Night Live somehow cheapened it for me. I figured it would be along, drawn out comedy sketch with not much depth.
Facebook ‘critics’ were not kind, either. Months before the film’s release, the nasty and preemptively spiteful comments began flooding in. The first trailer, while admittedly a bit weak, set off a firestorm of critical comments. Some people just thought the film looked like it would lack comedy. Others were offended that Leslie Jones, the only black lead actress, played a decidedly less intelligent (the only non-scientist of the bunch) character. The immediate backlash was absolutely NOT, many commenters insisted, because the cast was comprised of females (and how dare we be so oversensitive as to think that it was).
When the second trailer was released, a bit of faith was restored in the Internet Universe that the film wouldn’t be a complete catastrophe. The bit where Leslie Jones’ character had a large, winged apparition on her shoulders and two bystanders took a selfie had me in stitches. I decided at that point that I’d give the movie a go once it got into theaters.
As the film’s release drew nearer, I became a little more excited about it. I even invited a female friend to go with me- because, you know, GIRL POWER. As a serial solo movie-goer, this was actually a substantial move for me.
Within minutes of the movie starting, I was in love.
Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy were their typical charming selves, Leslie Jones was much more likable than I’ve ever found her to be on SNL, and Kate McKinnon? Don’t even get me started on that insanely powerful girl-crush.
I loved how the movie celebrated friendship between women, intelligence and independence. I also loved how there was no obvious ‘romantic’ story line thrown in (because someone always has to fall in love in every single movie, right?)
That brings me to the only substantial male presence in the film: Chris Hemsworth’s character,’Kevin.’
Without giving much of the plot away, here’s the gist on him: Kevin was the only person who responded to girls’ ad requesting a secretary for their struggling business. Though he is insanely, ridiculously stupid (he covered his eyes when he heard a loud noise) the ladies decide to hire him. Why? Because he’s really nice to look at.
‘Hah!’ I remember thinking while sitting in the theater.
‘I get it. They’re just taking the same gender roles and stereotypes that have been used against women for decades in action and comedy movies, and reversing them! How clever.’
I was genuinely amused and completely charmed, and I walked out of the theater all smiles. I was ready to share my thoughts with the rest of the self-proclaimed movie buffs out there that frequent fan sites and blogs. Surely, everyone must have loved it!
I started scrolling.
‘So, it’s not ok for men to sexualize women but it’s ok for women to sexualize men.. got ya.’
Oh. OK, well that guy didn’t quite get the humor. Whatever. Moving right along…
‘This is feminist propaganda and the first ghostbusters is better than today’s crap of neo feminist ghostbusters.’
Whoa. So, that warm and tingly sense of pride I felt as I left the theater was nothing but a side effect of being brainwashed by propagandists trying to push a feminist agenda?
Maybe the next comment will be nice…
‘Some dipshit producer decided to take a 30-year-old cult classic movie and girl-power the shit out of it. Doesn’t work. You can’t remake classic movies in such a dramatic way and expect people to respond positively to it. What’s next? The Godmother? Bridge Club? The Fugitivesse?’
It was then that I gave up reading the comments, slammed my iPad down and tried to make sense of what I was feeling. Anger? Sadness? Frustration? I really couldn’t tell. I wasn’t sure why I was taking these attacks on a film, that I had no real feelings about prior to seeing it, so personally.
Then, it hit me. I wasn’t offended that strangers were attacking a movie. I was offended because they were attacking me. A woman. Now, before you dismiss me as overly dramatic, allow me to explain.
For as long as I can remember, a typical movie-viewing experience has resembled this: handsome man saves the planet. Along the way, handsome man picks up hot chick, and maybe hooks up with a couple other hot chicks along the way before ending up with, you know, the really hot one. Handsome man is a hero. Handsome man spends the rest of his days sleeping with hot chick.
After thousands of movies, with each and every viewing, I was left with the same hopeless feeling. I would never be hot chick. I could never even be one of the background hot chicks. Handsome man would never go for me. And maybe, for the first time ever, a man walked out of a movie theater feeling the same way. He didn’t like it, that feeling of inadequacy. He became outraged enough to vent his frustrations on social media, accusing the movie of ‘man-bashing.’
And I was pissed. Suddenly, all the pent-up anger that I had pushed aside in the past came rushing back. My cheeks felt hot.
I’ve been talked down to by male superiors ever since joining the work force. I’ve been mocked by coworkers, laughed at by frat boys in college and had perfectly good ideas brushed off-simply because I came up with them. I make substantially less money than most men in my field; even on days when I work twice…even three times as hard.
I’m constantly feeling pressured to watch my weight, make my skin a little tanner and my hair a little blonder. And now guys are feeling that same intimidation- watching women save the world while only keeping the ‘dumb guy’ around because he’s hot.
I don’t know why years of learning about the women’s lib movement, taking women’s studies courses in college and just generally being treated like a moron my whole life didn’t wake me up to this blatantly obvious discrimination sooner. I don’t know why it took a 90-minute movie to wake me up. But it did.
Now that I’m aware, I feel an acute sense of power. I know that the way I’m treated isn’t going to change overnight, or maybe even in my lifetime. But I realize that the discrimination is happening. Not just to other women, not just in other countries, and not just in decades past. It is happening now, and it is happening to me.
So, what do I do with this newfound knowledge? I’m not quite sure yet. But with it, I can change the world (or, you know, fight ghosts).
And that’s a powerful thing.
Photo Courtesy: GhostBusters.com