Listen to my full discussion with my partner-in-crime, Dan Scully, on my podcast, I Like To Movie Movie.
I had so much fun with Ghostbusters, I just had to see it again, and this time in multiple dimensions (puns!).
There’s a good chance you’re reading this and don’t already know this about me – I have a ghost trap tattoo on my left forearm. Ghostbusters truly means something to me and has for most of my life. I grew up weird, as in not one of the “normal” kids. I was bullied a lot for liking math and science, playing with Star Wars figures on the playground, and having a bizarre sense of humor that only made sense to a few other weirdo’s. But then Ghostbusters entered my life (likely as the cartoon, first, to be honest), and Ghostbusters is a property that revels in weird. Ghostbusters is all about being true to who you are regardless of how the rest of the world sees you. And because of that notion, a generation of nerds grew up with a newfound confidence and built the nerd kingdom we live in today, for better or for worse.
Well the Ghostbusters are back, but this time they’re looking to inspire an entirely different kind of weirdo. Or maybe the point is they’re not so different, eh? In 2016, the Ghostbusters may have become women, but they have completely maintained their weirdness, and that’s not only the thing that allows this to continue to work all these years later, but it’s also the thing that I find most inspiring about this movie. Women get to be weird in this movie, and there’s never once a judgement made about that. There have been plenty of weird female characters on screen in the past, but they are always, always, always (always, always, always) dismissed as less than desirable, less than lady-like – simply less than, for it. The history of weird women on screen has sent the message to young women that it’s not ok to be weird. In other words, it’s not ok to be you.
Enter Erin Gilbert, Abby Yates, Patty Tolan, and Jillian Holtzman (I’ve only seen it twice and I already know all their names like I have the original team my whole life – this movie really fucking works). Four distinctly weird women with big personalities that they not only don’t hide, but they’re never shamed for over the course of the movie. To me, that’s the really important thing that this movie does – it strongly makes an argument for letting women be three dimensional humans and not forcing them into gendered roles without ever having to MAKE that argument. It does so through their actions, through their interpersonal dynamics, and through their bond with one another. I think this is such an important message to impart to young women, and I think simply by being a good Ghostbusters movie that happens to star women, this movie did that in a big bad way.
And this really is a good Ghostbusters movie. After my first viewing I had given it 3 stars, noting quite a few issues I had with the film, but really enjoying it regardless. Seeing it again, I like the villain a lot more (he’s a stand in for toxic masculinity and Men’s Rights Activists, which I got the first time around but didn’t mean much to me – but thinking more about the gender issue on my second viewing I love that that’s what they’re doing there) and give much less of a shit that every joke didn’t work for me. Plus, the 3D was a really enjoyable experience for this movie, and they even did something original and cool with that too, using the confines of the letterbox to further highlight the 3D effects. I still think the one thing holding this movie back is how beholden it is to the original. Keep the iconography, but almost every cameo and repeated line of dialogue or sight gag can go.
I dropped this bit of actual criticism in there because I wanted to make this one last point – the reason that matters is because young women having their own Ghostbusters really, really matters. And this movie needs to be a good, successful Ghostbusters movie in order for women to truly have their own Ghostbusters. If this were easily dismissed as a remake-fever, knock-off, cash-grab version of Ghostbusters, we’d have to wait another 30 years for Hollywood to try putting female characters like this on screen again. Because it’s not just that they’re smart, capable, funny, independent, any of those positive adjectives that this movie lets these women be – it’s that they’re weird. That’s the thing this movie lets women be that I can’t personally think of any other examples of, not current ones anyway. And not any that are this wildly popular, with a brand that people love and respect attributed to it. And speaking from experience, I can’t think of anything more meaningful to give young women than weird role models.
New Ghostbusters is legit – bustin’ makes ladies feel good too, ya dig?