The backlash against the new Ghostbusters showed the double standards for female comedies.
I loved the new Ghostbusters, and when it came out on DVD recently I had to watch it again. And yep, still a good movie. So the hate and backlash it received — before it even came out — was completely unwarranted, creating an unfair expectation for what should have been an average screwball comedy.
I get this reboot had a lot to live up to, and wasn’t as iconic or hilarious as people were expecting. It’s not The Big Lebowski or Bridesmaids, and it never had to be. It didn’t even have to be the original Ghostbusters because obviously that task would be impossible. Regardless most people believed in this Ghostbusters to buck all the nay sayers given the super talented cast, director, and modern premise. But like in any movie, when someone asks “How can this go wrong?” something very bad is hiding just around the corner.
In Ghostbuster’s case, the terrifying monster was misogyny. Anti fans tried to claim that their anger was at the reboot of a sacred franchise, however as the Atlantic points out, this is the only female-lead reboot in the long series of the current remake trend. No matter how the “critics,” mostly comment sections, YouTube videos, and Twitter trolls, tried to insist otherwise, their vitriol was based in unfounded sexism. The official trailer became the most disliked movie trailer on YouTube, over 1 million at the time of this writing.
Looking back now it’s admittedly not a great trailer, but at the time it originaly came out the dislikes were an organized protest. “The thumbs down votes aren’t organic, they’re part of a coordinated attack on the film by people who are opposed to its very existence.” Screen Crush reported. The website broke down the ratio compared to other disliked trailers, like Captain America: Civil War (5,237 likes to 1 dislike) and noted most of the videos on the YouTube most disliked list featured women from pop stars like Taylor Swift to “Let It Go” from Frozen.
“Here are just some of the major franchises Hollywood has rebooted in the last decade: Batman. Superman. Spider-Man. James Bond. Star Wars. Planet of the Apes. Halloween. Friday the 13th. The Evil Dead. The Thing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Robocop. Every Disney animated classic, starting with Cinderella and continuing with The Jungle Book this year. The list could go on endlessly, even without counting TV spinoffs.” from the Atlantic.
Now Ghostbusters faced two challenges upon its release: it had to make a lot of money to prove female-lead movies were financially viable, and it had to be really funny. Anything less proved critics right: women weren’t marketable or funny. It immediatley set up the movie for disappointment because suddenly it went from a remake of a goofy comedy to the next iconic comedy of the 21st century. Ghostbusters can’t have greatness like that thrust upon it, no matter how many SNL cameos you throw at it, not when certain audiences were never going to give it a chance to begin with. The 2016 Ghostbusters was only meant to be a fun comedy retelling an old favorite with a new, all-female cast. But of course when you announce an all-female anything, there’s no way in hell that it can avoid becoming a political lightning rod.
Ghostbuster’s very existence meant discussions, think pieces, panels, and round tables debating its merit and role as commentary. How is it a a feminist piece? To many, it was not all that it could have been. The Washington Post’s columnist Alyssa Rosenburg lamented how this screwball comedy became a new feminist icon saying, “But they’ve succeeded in creating an environment in which this anodyne bit of corporate recycling gets positioned as daring, and where its box-office success or disappointment may have meaningful implications for other, more truly innovative, more explicitly feminist and certainly more funny movie projects.”
The movie also faced difficulites from viewers who felt that Leslie Jones role as Patty Tolan, the only non-scientist on the team, continued stereotypes against black women and perpetuated white feminism. It’s a fair argument because as Janessa E. Robinson pointed out in the Guardian, “This limits her character to an academically aloof, street savvy black woman who is apparently only allowed in the crew (and in the film) because of her familiarity with New York City.” Jones responded to these concerns on Twitter (which would become its own battleground later) and said she was happy with her role.
In an environment like this, Ghostbusters hardly stood a chance. From the moment it was announced, this movie had to be too many things in 105 minutes. With all the conversations about this movie, and it did start very important ones, I feel like people stopped watching it. The original Ghostbusters is remembered for being a ridiculous romp through New York City, and in that regard 2016’s Ghostbusters delivered. You can be disappointed in the movie for what it lacks as a symbol of feminism, POC character development, or reboot of a sacred franchise. Or you can sit down with some great salty parabolas and watch a damn movie.
Unrelated, here’s a great behind the scenes video with the cast: