Here are a couple of the things that the online film community hasn’t been able to stop talking about over the past couple of years:
- The need for better racial minority representation in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the screen
- Basically, the same thing I just said but applied to “gender” instead of “race”
- The need for more original films and TV shows and fewer freakin’ reboots, remakes, sequels, superhero movies, etc.
These things keep coming up because nothing’s really changed. Even if kind of seems like we’re getting more female-led movies these days, Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter keep re-publishing the results of new studies from some source or another reminding us that white men still run Hollywood, and every other week there’s some story about yet another film or TV show being revived. It can leave you feeling burnt out, but based upon what I see on Twitter every day many film fanatics now view the need for improved gender/race representation as a social cause worth fighting over.
It’s into this environment that Sony and Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters reboot has been born. The bold decision to gender swap the cast, making the Ghostbusters all-female and their secretary male, should satisfy those who claim to want more roles for women in movies. You can’t fathom the idea of an all-female group of Ghostbusters? You pig. Also, stop calling them “all female”! Just because there have only ever been male Ghostbusters before that word is automatically reserved for men? That’s some 70s era sexist bullshit, like calling someone “lady cop” instead of just “cop”…or so the argument went on io9.
But while this new Ghostbusters has the ability to delight the half of us who approve of its apparent gender politics it also inherently angers another half which is sick and tired of Hollywood’s endless cycle of remakes, reboots and sequels.
That makes talking about this Ghostbusters a tad difficult. If you say anything bad about it are you just being sexist? From the moment Paul Feig first started discussing the project in detail, he’s framed it in similar terms, telling EW last October, “When people accuse it of being a gimmick I go, why is a movie starring women considered a gimmick and a movie starring men is just a normal movie?”
FilmSchoolRejects saw all of this coming back when the movie was merely at the rumor stage, “This is the existential crisis faced by all minority and underserved storytelling groups. Make a movie where a group of men (say, expendable ones?) band together, and no one raises an eyebrow. Make a movie where a group of women do something — especially if the job is seen as ‘traditionally male’ — and you’ll get all the attention you want while running the risk of having your project wholly defined by its novelty.”
Of course, Ghostbusters has just about finishing filming at this point, ready to head into post-production. Throughout the entire shoot a particularly irate Ghostbusters superfan named Robert M. Cassidy has been using Twitter to attack Feig and the various other people involved with the movie. Yesterday, Feig was finally pushed too far:
A director of a big budget Hollywood movie just told a superfan to go fuck himself! Wow. When Joss Whedon was overwhelmed by the negativity on Twitter he simply deleted his account. What kinds of things has Cassidy been saying to earn Feig’s ire?
That was earlier today in reference to Feig’s announcement that Sigourney Weaver will have some role (no idea what, maybe a new character, maybe cameo as Dana Barrett) in the new movie meaning pretty much all the major players from Ghostbusters other than Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis will appear in the 2016 Ghostbusters. Cassidy’s reaction is clearly in poor taste, and you don’t have to look far on his Twitter feed to find other examples where’s been equally harsh. What particularly annoyed Feig is the way Cassidy has directly tweeted everyone involved with the movie, e.g., accusing Ernie Hudson of being a sell-out who’ll do anything for a paycheck.
If you cut through all the vitriol and read deeper into Cassidy’s account, you’ll see that his animosity stems not from sexism but instead childhood nostalgia. He simply doesn’t want a new Ghostbusters movie to be made at all, claiming he’d feel the same way if it was a bunch of blokes in the cast instead of gals. It doesn’t help that he appears to hate Paul Feig’s other movies, specifically The Heat and Spy, and refers to the same brash persona Melissa McCarthy carries from movie to movie as being about “as funny as terminal cancer.” But mostly it comes down to him being tired of so many reboots/remakes and holding Ghostbusters so close to his heart that he can’t stomach seeing it churned through the Hollywood machine which abhors risk and desires four-quadrant blockbusters with built-in brand recognition worldwide.
However, as Nathan Rabin argued, “Myopic nostalgia assumes that the new will inherently be worse than the old out of a combination of misplaced romanticization of the past and knee-jerk cynicism about the future.” Our childhood is not sacred!:
Adults, our childhoods are over, and waxing apoplectic over Michael Bay’s Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies won’t do anything but broadcast our inability to move beyond the silly, entertaining ephemera of our youth, or understand how it might appeal to a younger generation with a different set of ideas about how entertainment works. And for those rending their garments and weeping openly in the streets at the idea that new people are going to come along and change Star Wars and Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones in ways that deviate radically from the ones we cherished in our childhoods, let’s at least allow the possibility, radical as it may seem, that these new versions of old favorites might be just as good as the movies we loved as kids. Maybe even better.
If you can accept that and take Paul Feig’s advice to simply let the new Ghostbusters happen there is a more legitimate criticism which is harder to diffuse, namely that Feig might be ill-suited to make this movie.
As io9’s Charlie Jane Anders argued in an essay about Spy:
Everything in the world of Spy (with the exception of Jason Statham’s bonkers character) feels borrowed wholesale from elsewhere, even as the movie rushes through a series of plot twists that feel half-assed but also consume way too much of the movie’s focus.
It’s like, if something is classified as a genre comedy, we have to make it a spoof—and a spoof can’t be clever or character-driven, it can only plod through all of the rote elements of whatever it’s spoofing. There’s a moment halfway through Spy where McCarthy stops being a meek doormat and starts being sassy and taking control of her situation—and it feels refreshing, because we’re sick of her being a doormat, and also natural, because she’s acting assertive in the way we’ve seen McCarthy act in several other movies, but it does not feel earned, because it comes out of nothing that’s happened in the movie up to that point. Spy doesn’t really care about building out McCarthy’s character, because it’s so focused on plot devices and the trappings of the genre it’s poking fun at. This makes me worry about the new Ghostbusters, which is another genre spoof being directed by Paul Feig.
Agree? Disagree? Maybe you, like some of the professional film critics, want to add on that Feig is still not very good at directing action scenes, or maybe you love the action in Spy and The Heat and think it will translate well to Ghostbusters. These are the kinds of conversations I am more interested in having about this movie at this point because it digs deeper than simple kneejerk nostalgia or small-minded sexism or raging against the heartless machine. What about you?
Ghostbusters is due out July 15, 2016.