Ghostbusters: Calling Hollywood out
The first trailer for Paul Feig’s all-female Ghostbusters arrived last week, and was seemingly met by a wave of derision from fans of the original. They were shocked that this new take on the story – one which is only described as ‘four scientists saved New York’ – actually wants to be a different film, and not just a rehash of the original. Perhaps most noticeably though, this reaction came from male fans of the original.
I‘ve watched reaction trailers, and some of the guys haven‘t even let the women speak before they’ve started shaking their heads and looking confused. At the end of the trailer, one man asks: “what the hell did I just watch?“ Well, let me tell you. You just watched a film trailer that wasn‘t specifically catered towards you. I know it‘s a shock, most things are, but this is a film that‘s unashamedly calling Hollywood out on its bullshit. You‘re used to films like this having witty men and big explosions and pretty women that flit in and out of the story without saying or doing much, and to have an expectation – and that expectation is there because Hollywood has placed it there – of this film and then deriding it for not fulfilling that expectation is supporting the Hollywood bullshit. Even if you were aware before you watched the trailer that it was going to star four women, as you most likely were, that didn‘t stop you from being disappointed that it enroached on the idea of the 80’s original, a film entirely catered to those needs.
This is where we can see the values of reboots. They can be cash-ins and shameless, but they can also be a way of taking an idea that hasn‘t aged well and is stuck in its time and bringing it into a modern era. This is what Ghostbusters will be, not some utterly pointless Total Recall-esque remake that treads exactly the same lines as the original to little or no effect and making no mark of individuality. That’s part of where the brilliance of the all-female cast lies: regardless of how different it is, they‘ve already created something new.
Part of this newness, and quite frankly the genuis, is in casting Chris Hemsworth as the receptionist, Kevin. He doesn‘t get a last name, and he slots into the role usually reserved for the token receptionist who does very little and is quietly sexy. I don‘t know if it‘s physically possible for Hemsworth to be quietly sexy, but from the trailer it looks like he‘s fulfilling the normally misogynistic stereotype brilliantly. He appears only once in the 2 and a half minute trailer and is only seen kicking open a door, a physical activity for which he is given absolutely no lines. He exists only as a physical specimen, and hopefully his role in the rest of the film will continue to invert this stereotype.
This is no guarantee the film is going to be brilliant though; if you don‘t like Paul Feig’s other films and the general SNL humour this cast brings, this probably isn‘t going to be up your street, but that‘s ok. The CGI doesn‘t look great, but that‘s not what the film looks like it‘s centring on. It wants to be a film about four people in New York fighting ghosts, with humour as the main centre for the story. That‘s actually leads me on to other criticisms I‘ve seen online: apparently, they aren‘t taking the story seriously enough, and it‘s not scary enough. So, they haven‘t taken the story about people driving round New York defeating supernatural creatures more seriously? Suprisingly enough, I‘m not buying that criticism. And if you found the original scary, you were either very young when you first watched it or you and I have different ideas of what scary is. It was a funny film. This new film is also going to be funny. To criticise this film for not being something the original actually wasn’t is idiotic.
It’s important to note however, that no matter how feminist the concept of the film is, it’s been called out for it’s depiction of race: the three white cast members are all clever scientists, and Leslie Jones’ character is depicted as the street smart one that provides an ‘add-on’ sense of humour to the group. Gender-wise, it’s inverting every stereotype; race wise, it’s reinforcing them. Jones has defended the characterisation though, and it‘s safe to say she knows more about who this character is than we do. Writing from her Twitter account, she spoke about how her character, Patty Tolan, is a regular woman and that there was nothing wrong with that: ‘I’m playing a hardworking woman. The regular one that reps the people. You guys are the racists by labeling her a lowly MTA worker’ and ‘Why can‘t a regular person be a ghostbuster. Im confused. And why can‘t i be the one who plays them i am a performer. Just go see the movie (sic)!’
I plan to see this film like Jones suggests. I doubt I’ll find it perfect, but it’s women taking the lead role in a franchise that up until this point has been centred around men, and that in itself is if not worth applauding – this shit needs to happen more – should definitely be celebrated. I’m sorry if you didn’t like the trailer, but please, ask yourself why: and ‘it’s not like the original’ is just not good enough.
Images courtesy of Allstar/SonyPictures