How Sexism Ruins Ghostbusters for Everyone, Even the People Who Don’t Care

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by Andrew Bloom

in Movies

I’m not especially interested in the new Ghostbusters reboot. Comedy remakes and sequels are a dicey proposition at best. The trailer left me underwhelmed. And despite the fact that I think Kate McKinnon is amazing, the rest of the cast doesn’t really do it for me.

And yet I feel a strong impulse to not only see the film, but also to defend it in the face of the ridiculous backlash it’s received. It had the most “disliked” trailer ever on YouTube. It’s been the recipient of a terribly misogynistic response to the fact that the new film gender-flipped its predecessor. It’s been decried with the usual “destroying my childhood!” rhetoric for daring to remake a classic film with an extra X chromosome or two.

That’s embarrassing. I may not be particularly interested in the new Ghostbusters film, but I’m in interested in films like it. I want there to be room for comedies with talented comediennes like Kate McKinnon and Amy Poehler and Jessica Walter front and center. I want studios to be able to produce funny movies with women in the spotlight without having to think twice about facing of this type of headache. I want money to speak louder than any he-man woman haters who would otherwise send the wrong message to the powers that be that making this sort of film is a “risk.”

That’s one of the quietly pernicious things about that type of unfair, vitriolic reaction — it doesn’t just commandeer the entire discussion around the film; it also commandeers the apathetic.

Case-in-point, The Interview was a juvenile-looking Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy about North Korea that might very well have gone merrily along into the dustbin of history alongside hundreds of other fine-but-forgettable comedies. Instead, Sony was hacked; a terrorist group threatened to attack any theater showing the film, and this dumb movie was suddenly at the center of bigger issues of censorship, intimidation, and in a strange way, patriotism.

All of a sudden, watching this lowbrow farce of a film became a minor act of defiance, a stand against people who believe that daring to make fun of something is an act deserving of such harsh consequences, and a way to spite the people who think that free speech can be squelched by threats of violence. Though there’s not the same risk of violent retribution when it comes to the new Ghostbusters, there’s a similar sense of a generic-looking comedy having to be elevated and defended because of the ridiculousness of the sentiments that have been marshalled against it.

To wit, I haven’t even seen this movie yet. Trailers are notoriously misleading, and it could still prove to be the funniest film of all time or the worst thing to hit the cinema since The Room. I have little basis to evaluate its quality or lack thereof. But I feel the need to promote it, to stand by it, sight unseen, for the same reason people are attacking it despite the fact that we’re months away from the movie’s release — because of what it stands for.

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It’s a shame that we have to defend a woman-driven comedy’s right to exist. It’s a shame to need to combat this sort of sexist reaction. And it’s also a shame because it means any criticism of the film takes place in the shadow of the misogyny that the production’s faced from day one.

Because there’s a legitimate conversation to be had about remake fatigue. There’s a legitimate conversation be had about Hollywood being so risk-averse that they’re constantly regurgitating the same familiar properties and promoting anything with a recognizable brand name over truly original ideas. I’m a believer in the validity and merits of reinterpretation, but there’s even a legitimate conversation to be had about disturbing the bones of a classic film and potentially tarnishing something people feel a connection to.

But we can’t have those conversations, at least not in the context of Ghostbusters, without it being bound up in the sexist vitriol surrounding the film. Maybe you’re genuinely miffed that we’re getting this film instead of Ghostbusters 3, but that’s the same fig leaf people hide behind to spew thinly-veiled misogyny. Maybe you hate remakes on principle, but offering that criticism now puts you in the company of people who simply hate women. Maybe you just think the movie looks unappealing, but even that simple sentiment can paint you with the same brush as the people decrying it because “women aren’t funny.” You can’t talk about this film, let alone criticize it, without having to address the elephant in the room, one that was led in by a group of retrograde partisans trying to ruin it for everyone.

Sexism poisons the well. It poisons it for fans and audiences whose conversations now inevitably take place in the context of a misogynistic backlash. It poisons it for the director and the cast who now have to suffer through endless interview questions and tweets about a nonsense issue separate and apart from the film they made. And it poisons it for movie studios, which now have to worry about wading into this type of “controversy” anytime they dare greenlight a high-profile comedy with this type of cast. When an otherwise innocuous film engenders this type of regrettable, embarrassing response, everyone loses.

Andrew Bloom (@TheAndrewBlog) runs The Andrew Blog, where he overanalyzes The Simpsons and takes pop culture too seriously. He ain’t afraid of no ghosts, but he is a little worried about the effects of long term exposure to Hi-C Ecto Cooler.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason May 18, 2016 at 2:46 pm

VERY WELL SAID. Hating this film just based on the fact that we have a team of female Ghostbusters is just plain stupid. One of the first films I ever watched in the theater was the original so I hold it in HIGH regard. Does this new film have a chance to top it? Definitely not. But the Ghostbusters franchise has much more to offer than just the original film and even if the new film sucks, it will at least introduce the GB world to a new generation. If you already hate, just shut up about it and don’t watch it. And feel free to leave the new Ecto Cooler and any merchandise on the shelves this summer because you defiintely don’t deserve it.

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Andrew Bloom May 29, 2016 at 7:39 pm

Thank you for the kind words, Jason! There’s been plenty of trailers and films that I’ve just rolled my eyes at and never thought about again. As such, I do find it odd and telling that this film has received such a loud and angry response, instead of the collective “meh” similar unappetizing reboots of classic properties have engendered. Where was this type of outcry when the new Robocop or Predators or Point Break or Total Recall or Smurfs movies came out?

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Shandor May 27, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Nothing to see hear except another piece of clickbait cybercrap and a scumbag blogger masquerading a journalist. Are you really trying to say that seeing The Interview was a patriotic experience? Get your head out of your hyperbolic @ss! Look, whatever reason people don’t want to see the new Ghostbusters film is a valid reason. Taste is subjective. You are not the “taste police”, nor are you the “thought police”. If people don’t want to see it FOR WHATEVER REASON and they express that much, then why the hell does anyone else care? All the nonsense has overshadowed the film, the experience is poisoned, and it is thanks to the plethora of moronic articles like this one.

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Andrew Bloom May 29, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Sorry you feel that way, Shandor. I stand by my statement that watching The Interview was a “minor act of defiance,” made all the more strange by the fact that but for the attack on Sony, the movie would be just another dumb comedy that no one, least of all me, would have given a second thought. That’s the thought I tried to capture in the article — that it feels strange when these otherwise innocuous films come to have greater importance because of the cultural conversation that surrounds them.

And no, I’m not the taste police nor the thought police. People have a right to see what they want to see and avoid what they don’t, and they have the right to express as such. But I do think it’s important to speak out against sexist reactions to films like this one because 1. they discourage female-driven movies 2. they create an unfortunate climate and a conversation around the film that overshadows its genuine merits or faults and 3. as I tried to point out, they make even legitimate criticisms of the film feel suspect, given the misogynistic company those criticisms share. I care because even if I’m not interested in the news Ghostbusters, I’m interested in a lot of things like comedies starring women, and a mature and respectful film discourse that a sexist response can hurt tremendously.

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Yelinna June 17, 2016 at 11:44 am

Women are so underrepresented in pop culture and sci fiction that we ended up used to all-men casts with useless Mary Sue love interests, so having an action all-women group feels alien.
Also, there are the fans from the original movie that feel betrayed because the reboot changes too much for them. The original Ghostbusters was made for male audiences (back then, action movies weren’t exactly girl’s stuff), and we all obendiently accepted it that way.
Sadly, reboots tend to be bad, and tend to change things fans want to be left untouched. I would prefer if they stopped making reboots, they tend to not work well (there are few ones that did work well, but there are so many that didn’t…)

For me, having both genders doing stuff separately is wrong. Stuff made for one gender inmediatly excludes the other, one gender tends to look down content made for the other… this needs to stop! we are supposed to work together, live together, raise families together. How is this supposed to be done if we are kept separated and silently hating each others?
How many men have to ged rid of their beloved toy collections because the wife doesn’t want it in their new home? how many women have to feel that the girly stuff they like is silly and airheaded?
I repeat, this needs to stop!

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