A lot of negative swirl surrounded the 2016 Ghostbusters film, starring four leading ladies instead of the original four leading men. Based on that negativity, I didn’t intend to go see it. But then I saw on Facebook two of my friends, two people who of course don’t have exactly my same tastes but whose opinions I listen to, said they’d seen it and really enjoyed it. Huh! So I reconsidered. I didn’t even know what the criticism of the movie actually was; I don’t pay much attention to pop culture (…that doesn’t involve Loki or Thor or Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth, and while Hemsworth was in this one my impression was that it was a bit part or cameo). I went, and I had so much fun and laughed so much. It was a surprising delight! I’m sure some of that was due to my low expectations, but I really truly enjoyed it, laughing all the way through to the silliness of Hemsworth’s character’s dancing through the credits.
Afterward, I went online and looked up what exactly what that negative swirl was about. Wow, it seems it came down to male fans of the original being up in arms that the new one stars four females. WHAT? Seriously? Yep, seriously. As far as I could tell, that was the sole source of it. I loved the original (pretty sure everyone my age does), but the fact that the new one would star women didn’t particularly mean anything to me one way or the other, whether “oh no how can you do this?!” or “fantastic, girl power!” This was just how they were making it different from the original. Putting a bit more thought into it, I think this is also a way of handling a common “remake” issue — who’s going to play Bill Murray’s character better than Bill Murray? Having them be women makes it tougher to try to draw those strict comparisons. Was any of those new characters meant to be “Bill Murray’s character”? Changing the gender helps make the characters more independent of their predecessors. (The same is true, by the way, of the ditzy secretary, now played by a man. I mean played by a MAN. Hemsworth, of course. Not a bit part.)
But here was the shockingly widespread reaction to Girl Ghostbusters, drawn from this New York Times article (recommended if you’re interested in this issue):
Online, YouTube users have given its trailers more than one million negative votes while clamoring in comments that women simply cannot be Ghostbusters.
Dear God, that sentence makes me feel like we have gone back to the 18th Century. Perhaps a lot of men felt threatened, in a sense? As emblematic of men being pushed out, pushed aside? There is some of that in some feminist corners. But I think men are safe both in holding onto more leading roles in films and certainly more leading roles in action films. Actress Melissa McCarthy summed that interpretation up well, I think (from the same NYT article linked above:
There’s a weird replacement phenomenon, a fear that if you put two women in, two men come out. I don’t know why that viscerally affects certain people. It’s not how I ever think. If I see four men, I’m not like, “Well, those are four jobs women didn’t get.” Great for them. There’s room for everybody.
Anyway, if the negative hubbub deterred you from watching this movie, I encourage you to give it a chance! It came out on DVD in October. It’s a feel-good movie. It was refreshing to see women just being friends and having fun and adventure and having something to talk about besides men. I didn’t parse it with a fine-tooth-comb but it seemed pretty child-friendly in terms of language and subject matter, but without veering into 10-year-old-boy humor as much as I thought it would (toilet humor, etc.). And Hemsworth…yeah. Such a departure for him but he does it really well. Yes, some of the lines are a bit over the top (as in, no one is that dumb), but he’s very funny and did I mention NOT a bit part. As an actor he’s very game! Plus, here’s your chance, wow, I was shocked to hear him actually using his Australian accent, and later came across this article confirming that in fact he’s not used his own accent onscreen since his Australian soap days, and his thoughts about it were interesting and make total sense.
It’s funny because (your voice) becomes like another prop. But when it’s you speaking, and having not done it in a time, you… you’re very much aware of it. It’s in your head a little bit more.
And finally, you know how you read some movie reviews and you squint your eyes thinking, did that guy/gal watch the same movie that I did? Well, this one, also from the New York Times, is pretty perfectly on the money. I don’t think there’s a word in it I would disagree with.
So check it out! My DVD should be at the post office, and I can’t wait to pick it up, watch it again, and check out the special features!