Culture, Feminism/Women's Issues, Movies

Who You Gonna Call? Not the New ‘Ghostbusters’

November 16, 2016

Okay, I don’t know if it was a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell.

(Leslie Jones as Patty Tolan in the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters)

Well, Patty, I don’t either, though I’d probably say I’m more disappointed than mad after watching the female studded remake of Ghostbusters. I didn’t have high expectations, aside from enjoying a silly remake of one of my favorite childhood movies, though I suppose I thought I’d laugh at the comedic talents of Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, as I am prone to do. While I can’t say they weren’t funny, as there were some really good laughable moments in the beginning of the movie, I’d probably have to say they were working really hard with a sub par script that seemed to want to keep the four main characters on the flighty side of comedy. At the end of the movie I said something along the lines of “Well, that was kind of stupid and I’m not even really sure what happened.”

Disclaimer: I have not watched the original Ghostbusters anytime in the recent past, so I can’t compare the movies with any real specificity. Any attempt to do so is based on my general impressions and loose memories of the original movie. Having said that, I feel like the original Ghostbusters allowed its team of male comedians be both funny and serious at the same time, whereas the remake tried hard to paint the female ghostbusters as a mockery. Their success felt accidental, like when the class clown tries to do a back flip off the cafeteria table and slips, but still lands on his/her feet instead of breaking a neck.

I really didn’t enjoy the subplot that was presented by Chris Hemsworth’s character, Kevin. I found his presence unnecessary, and too over-the-top stupid. The ladies’ ogling of him was embarrassing and really only undermined their own credibility; a little attraction and flirtation would have gone a lot further than the mindless lust. The reverse sexism went a little too far. The recurring joke about Kevin being too incompetent to know how to answer the phone got old after the first time it rolled. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Janine, secretary to the ghostbusters in the original movie, was allowed to be a laughable but still had a job to do, which is to say that she was needed and taken seriously. It’s not that I think Kevin should or shouldn’t have been needed, rather, as I said before, in making him so unbearably dimwitted it only served to delegitimize the lady ghostbusters.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have minded Kevin so much if the movie as a whole had been better, and it was hard not to feel like Leslie Jones’ character, Patty, was written in obligatorily, as she really didn’t have much presence or screen time at all. I can’t remember how prominent Ernie Hudson was as Winston Zeddemore in the original, but it feels like he was given more equal billing. (Again, correct me if I’m wrong, and, yes,  I really should just go back and watch the original movie.)

So, was it a lady thing? Were my expectations for this movie and this cast too high because I wanted them to be feminist beacons? On some level, yes, and I really appreciate what Manohla Dargis had to say in her review for the NY Times: Our ‘Ghostbusters’ Review: Girls Rule. Women are Funny. Get Over it. There are some feminist elements to appreciate, like that fact that this isn’t a relationship movie, and regardless of their presentation the female ghostbusters persist in doing their ghost hunting thing. At the same time the brain of the operation, professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), is still wearing high heels she can’t walk in, and this group of ladies seems to be fighting mostly, if not exclusively, male power figures.

I think this sums up my feelings almost exactly. From Roger Ebert:

All this misplaced misogynistic hostility that has been sliming the reputation of director’s Paul Feig’s gender-reassignment redo (co-written with Katie Dippold, his partner on “The Heat”) has stirred the girl-power advocate inside of me. But, the reality is, there is perhaps one, maybe two moments that come anywhere close to being as memorable as [the original movie]. And that reality leaves me in the unhappy position of having to admit that this feminized attempt could have used a makeover itself. […]

I suppose it was inevitable that in the age of YouTube the filmmakers would seize the opportunity to have a commenter mock an online video of a ghost capture with the observation, “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts” while the women react with appropriate scorn. But I would have preferred that they simply had shut their naysayers down by producing a better movie.

When it was all said and done, this just wasn’t a great movie for reasons that had nothing to do with the all female cast or the fact that it was a remake, it was simply a movie that wasn’t very funny or well-written. I wasn’t overly impressed by Kate McKinnon, but hats off to Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig for doing the best they could with what they were given.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Douglas Storm November 16, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    you’re right. terrible, terrible. And yes, the idiot boy toy ONLY served to make me think that it’s “secretaries” (and blonds?) who are ditzy and office sex tools for bosses. Weird.

    • Reply Sarah November 16, 2016 at 8:09 pm

      Yeah, the boy toy only served to reinforce the negative female/sexist stereotype. They were trying too hard to make him the thing they weren’t supposed to be? Me thinks thou protest too much.

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