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.
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.