We F*cking Love: Ghostbusters (2016)
* The following post is a conversation between Shannon and Christina about the new Ghostbusters movie. Read our previous posts about all the fit-throwing that occurred when the new cast was announced here and here .
I ain't afraid of no ghosts. Or women. Or men. Or trolls. I am afraid of walking cheetos, though. (Image source)
SB: So hey! We saw Ghostbusters on my birthday! Did you fucking love it? Because I fucking loved it. I went into it cautiously optimistic (and, let’s be honest, a little tipsy) and it met or exceeded all expectations. I loved the original, I loved this. I fucking love Ghostbusters. But you know what I’ve noticed? I know one man who's gone to see it. That's it. I know a couple husbands of friends who’ve gone to seen it, but that’s it. What’s up with that? Oh yeah. OTPBS. That’s what.
CML: My smartner just saw it! With me! On our tipsy date night! Moments ago! Will write more in the morning about the OTPBS and, OH SPOILER ALERT! The sad baby men who bitched about Ghostbusters are fully represented in the form of the movie's antagonist, Rowan, that entitled sack of ectoplasm. But let's talk more about it tomorrow when I'm not harshing my buzz by reckoning with OTPBS. A woman gets a night off every once in a while, right?
SB: Hell yes. A woman should get a night off from OTPBS. (Unless, apparently, that woman is Hillary Clinton. I DIGRESS.) So! Tell me your thoughts! And did you notice how all the women wore clothes the entire time? Me too. Come to think of it… that’s probably why men aren’t going to see it.**
CML: Yes! I did! And, although I am a huge fan of boobs, I really appreciated the fact that there was no gratuitous or compensatory boob shot to make what was otherwise a movie about women GETTING SHIT DONE more palatable to dudes. I particularly noticed this during the ending credits when each of the 4 leads had a still from the movie accompanying their names. And each of those stills were of the actors steely-eyed, tooth-gritted gamefaces. This movie isn't about being sexy, or being pretty, or being desirable. It's about ALL of the other things women are that are hardly ever represented in film unless wrapped in a sexy, pretty package. These women are workers, scrappy geniuses who use scrappy effort and creative resources to get their jobs done. They embody all of the fantastic qualities that the women I know rely on to make their lives work. Which, you know, for most, doesn't include cleavage.
But I don't think that's entirely why men aren't going to go see it. I mean, men see movies without titties in them all the time, right? When it's about war or space monsters or when Susan Sarandon is a nun. So what is it that's turning men away from this movie? It's a goddamn delight, an effervescent summertime romp, so why say no to it?
SB: This is where I’m finding myself confused. What, exactly, is so offensive about this movie?
Women go to see movies about dudes all the time. Because, you know, most movies are about men. Some of my favorite movies are about men! But that’s not why I love—or hate—a movie. I will FULLY admit that I was so excited about this movie because of the women in the cast. Every protagonist was a woman. Imagine. It was a really, really delightful change of pace. Finding a movie that passes the Bechdel test is damn near impossible. (Not to mention passing the Sexy Lamp Test, Mako Mori Test, and Furiosa Test.) BUT ALSO, these are women who are talented and funny in their own right. Not because they are women, but because they are hilarious, accomplished comedians. Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon KILLED it. Not in a lady way. Just in a regular ol’ awesome way.
AND! AND! They’re smart! All of them! These characters use their brains and their abilities to find resources and adjust them as necessary. ALL BY THEMSELVES. Nay, in *spite* of the male characters. I mean. *swoon*
And they don’t spend the movie talking about vaginas or periods, so I’m still kind of baffled about why men aren’t going to see it. Do they think they can’t relate to ladypeople? I relate to manpeople all the time. It’s not a thing. But I think that’s the assumption? The same reason we couldn’t find the female characters from Star Wars represented in the toys and merch. People believe that women are less interesting?
Which. Ugh. Enough with the old-timey patriarchal bullshit, yo.
CML: I know! It reminds me of my days working in a children's bookstore and later teaching English. So many boys would complain about having to read books with female protagonists - you know, "girl books" - and I can't rightly recall a single time a girl complained about having to read a "boy book." Maybe that's because we just call books that feature male protagonists "books," like we call movies that feature male protagonists "movies." Girls and women can handle the empathetic identification with characters unlike them, because they have to all the time. Boys and men can handle it, too, but they often expect not to have to.
BUT it's not all bad. Really, it isn't. Look at this Vanity Fair article! Sure, it's tongue in cheek. It's also a great contrast between the dire state of movies and gender relations and EVERYTHING that anti-Ghostbusters trolls cried about and real dudes watching a real good movie.
It's this contrast that makes me wonder whether it's that all people believe that women are less interesting or if it's marketing people (Star Wars) and just extraordinarily loud people (Ghostbusters trolls) who think that women are less interesting. I think normal guys, like these in the Vanity Fair article, like the one I married who happily took me to see Ghostbusters a second time this week, are fine.
But can we talk about the song for a minute? Because we have to talk about the song. WHERE IS MY FEMINIST GHOSTBUSTERS THEME ANTHEM, SHANNON? Because, I am told that this exists, but, dude, it's so bad. And it's sung by dudes. And not even 20 seconds of Missy Elliott can save it. That's saying a lot, given that I generally consider her my savior. I mean, Ghostbusters 2, not a particularly good movie, brought us Bobby Brown's too-hot-to-handle-too-cold-to-hold "On Our Own." So why does this, a decidedly good movie, have such a lackluster theme song? I'm so sad, Shannon. So sad.
SB: Look: I don’t know why we didn’t get a song this time. I really loved that Bobby Brown song back before I knew anything about Bobby Brown (or how he had sex with a ghost?). We needed a song. We DESERVED a song. Think of all the badass women out there who could have done a kick-ass job. (Janelle Monae? Bey? Liz Phair? MISSY ELLIOTT ALL BY WONDERFUL HERSELF?!?!) I feel slighted.
I do think that it’s a marketing problem and the *perception* that boys and men won’t be interested in anything featuring a female protagonist, much more than it is that boys and men aren’t interested. My sons are dying to see this movie They have been highly annoyed that it’s so hard to find Rey toys and Princess Leia toys. I know lots of kiddos that have been absolutely heartbroken that Skye and Everest merch from Paw Patrol has been so elusive. BUT, as you say, there’s still the problem that boys and men don’t expect to have to (and I say *have to* for a reason) participate in anything with a female protagonist, so they fuss. Because anything unfamiliar is (as we know) SCARY.
(Or there’s a real fear of vagina dentata. One or the other.)
And here’s the other thing: The majority of men complaining about this movie haven’t actually SEEN the movie. They're whining about their precious characters being replaced, but IT IS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT STORYLINE WITH COMPLETELY NEW CHARACTERS. So there’s that. I will happily… wait… I will slightly more patiently listen to a dude complain about the *actual* movie, but when they throw fits about a movie they have not even seen… I WILL NOT HAVE IT. One cannot think critically until one has actually interacted with the thing one is criticizing. And, from what I’m hearing, the men who’ve actually seen it are enjoying it. So.
CML: Yes. I have no time for those non-movie-watching-but-also-movie-hating fools. Now learning all about Bobby Brown and ghost sex? I have all the time in the world for that.
(All the time. Bobby. Call me.)
While poking around for information on the actual demographics of the movie's audience, I found this:
"Even though Sony targeted female demographics for the film, metrics reveal that Ghostbusters key demos – both male and female – who came out specifically for the actresses gave the same score of B+ for the cast. Meanwhile, the demographic that consists of many of the anti-Ghostbusters backlash, males over 25, 35-49, and 50+ gave the film a B score. The A-s the film did receive came from the under 25, under 18 demographics which pulled in 33 and 21 percent of the audience this weekend, respectively."
Which is to say that younger people liked it more in general. And maybe - just maybe this is part of a generational switch toward valuing women's stories in film. Just like young people supported marriage equality in greater numbers than older people. Just like young people increasingly demand gender equality.*
Maybe the new Ghostbusters plays better to young audiences because young audiences are less sexist. And wouldn't it be fantastic if today's younger audiences could grow up with powerful, smart, hard-working women action heroes as a norm rather than an aberration? Perhaps that's what the older, male haters are afraid of. Not someone "ruining their childhood" (Because, really, are we time-traveling here? What the hell does that even mean?), but rather this new iteration on an old story erasing their childhood experience in favor of a new, more inclusive one.
Perhaps this is indicative of all the national angst we're struggling with as all of our cultural paradigms - race, gender, sexuality, family - are currently in an age of flux and redefinition. It's not just that the unthinking Ghostbusters critics don't want to mix vaginas (let alone dentatas) with their proton packs, but also that they feel some anxiety about their own history being rewritten. You know, with lots of green mucus. I hate to think that the original Ghostbusters movies, as delightful as they are, are such a meaningful touchstone of cultural identity to so many, but perhaps these bilious trolls really are grieving the loss of a world in which their Ghostbusting viewpoint remains supreme.
Or maybe they're lonely, angry, misogynists. I'm willing to entertain that theory, too.
But enough about the haters! They are irrelevant to our enjoyment of the film! And enjoy it we did! What was your favorite part?
SB: My favorite part? Kate McKinnon. No wait... Leslie Jones. Wait... no... I... I DON'T KNOW THEY WERE BOTH SO GREAT. I just generally loved that they were nerds doing their nerd thing and kicking ass in the process. I loved that—apart from Kristen Wiig's character—they were unapologetic in their nerd-dom and their asskickery. I loved that they were powerful women bucking stereotypes and being hilarious and smart and badass, all while wearing regular ol' clothes or coveralls. And while I love a woman who takes control of her sexuality and allows it to be powerful, I especially love that these Ghostbusters didn't *have* to get nekkid to be interesting and relevant. It was just all so good. And, of course, the nods to the original were classy and fantastic and the cameos from the original cast filled me with unbridled glee. ANYWAY. All of this to say: It's a damn great movie. It's not Beowolf, friends. It's Ghostbusters. It's *supposed* to be silly and campy and joyful. And it is.
Go see it. Enjoy it. Watch women being funny and strong and kicking butt. Let it sink in that that's a thing. Realize that this is not a lady movie, but is instead... a movie. The end.
Ghostbytches 4evah! (Image source)
*But don't want to call themselves feminists? We're going to have to have a little sit-down over that, young people. Later for you.
** Please don't get angry and respond with #NotAllMen. I know. I KNOW. I know many, many men who do not think this way. Many feminist man friends. Who are interested in women for more than our body parts. I BELIEVE IN YOU, DUDES. The point is that A LOT of men have expressed a ridiculous amount of rage about this movie. Without ever having seen the movie. Enough that it has been written about lots and lots and lots. So... 'tis valid.