Being Against the New ‘Ghostbusters’ Film Doesn’t Automatically Mean Someone’s Sexist (OPINION)
Since the announcement of a Paul Feig directed 'Ghostbusters' reboot with an all-female cast, opinions have ranged from both extremes. And unfortunately, those who oppose an all-female 'Ghostbusters' film are quickly labeled as sexists, even if they have valid concerns.
When the criticisms about an all-female Ghostbusters crew began, director Paul Feig said that he doesn't understand why touting such a cast is being called a gimmick. Well, what is a gimmick? The definition of a gimmick, according to dictionary.com, is,
an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal.
So is an all-female cast a gimmick? Of course it is! If it wasn't it wouldn't have been the first thing Feig went on about at the announcement of the project. He'd have more weight to his case if he announced the cast first, without placing emphasis on their gender over their ability to be the best people for the film. But their gender is now a point they are wanting attention on, and its working. There's no such thing as bad publicity, and all the talk about this film, both positive and negative, is doing nothing but bringing attention to film and guaranteeing that it will be on the tips of everyone's tongues when it comes out.
So why are people against an all-female cast if they aren't sexist? I can only speak from my opinion and my experiences talking about this with others, but the biggest issue is that gender went from being a non-issue in Ghostbusters lore to the forefront. Gender had nothing to do with the story, humor, or success of the original film and resulting legacy. Gender was such a non-issue in the original film that you could gender swap just about every character in the film and lose nothing. But now with the gender of the crew being such a touted point, there are concerns that the resulting story and humor will be female-driven, thus limiting the accessibility to the audience.
"What the heck do you mean by 'female-driven' humor?" That's the most common retort I've seen when discussing this topic with other fans. I can understand why people have been offended by such a statement, but they don't realize that its not meant to be a negative thing. There's female-driven humor, just as there's humor directed towards men, African-Americans, Latinos, homosexuals, etc. How many female comedians have done bits about having their period, finding a bra that fits, or any other bits that have to do with some aspect of being female? That's not saying the routine isn't funny, but humor is based on a sense of reference and relatability, and to focus on humor that part of the audience cannot directly relate to does limit the effect. Everyone can relate to the frustrations in driving in rush hour traffic or dealing with security at the airport, but how many men in the audience can truly relate to the pain from menstrual cramps? The fact that the original team was male didn't play into the humor, making the story and humor accessible to the entire audience.
So how do we know the humor will be centered on the fact they are women? We don't. The script isn't even finished yet, so this is all clearly speculation. So then why is there concern? Taking a look at Feig's recent theatrical releases, namely 'Bridesmaids' and 'The Heat', it cannot be denied that a good deal of the humor in the films has to do with gender or stuff mainly from the fact the leads are women. Again, not saying that doesn't mean they weren't funny, just a fact that it was a focal point that is more relatable by a portion of the audience as opposed to the audience as a whole. But again, it comes down the fact that the gender of the crew is being so heavily touted by those involved. But what if it were about race? What if we had a movie where race had nothing to do with the story or humor, and then its remade and touted as an "all-(insert ethnicity here)" cast. Would we go from race not being a point of the film to being either the theme of the movie or the film itself is aimed at that particular ethnicity?
Again, we don't know if the humor or story will focus on gender, but taking into account the hype of the gender, the recent films by the director and cast, and other remakes that have focused on similar changes, there's room for concern.
But honestly, the focus on gender isn't the only concern for many fans. Paul Feig's recent feature film directing doesn't inspire the best confidence, with 'Bridesmaids' being his only film to receive great acclaim, and others like 'The Heat' and 'Unaccompanied Minors' getting mixed to poor reviews. And though 'Bridesmaids' was a great, Oscar-nominated success, it can be argued that its not to the level of a film like 'Ghostbusters' or the precursor films from the original cast like 'Blues Brothers', 'Caddyshack', or 'Stripes'. And this will also mark the fourth film Feig has directed Melissa McCarthy in, including the aforementioned films and the upcoming 'Spy'. And though McCarthy has shown range in other films, her work with Feig so far, and in major comedies in general, has been pretty much the same and predictable.
"Why does it matter if they change it so much? It won't ruin your enjoyment of the originals. It won't keep you from seeing those." I like to call this the "Star Wars Originals vs. Prequels Defense". Its something we've heard many times over the past 15 years, and they are correct. The existence of a new film won't prevent us from seeing the old ones, nor will it harm the enjoyment we get watching them. However, there is damage done when a remake/reboot changes what made the originals great. They are trying to reach a new audience, for many of whom this is their first real exposure to the product. How many people flocked to see the new Star Trek films who only knew the originals as the stuff geeks watched? But now Star Trek is action-packed and sexy, focusing on these aspects and doing away with the attention to stories and characters that made the originals great. The new audience isn't turned onto the originals because the new stuff is so different from the originals that there's little connection to bridge the gap. And now this new audience, the audience that the production company seems to value over the established fans, looks at the new films as superior to the old ones.
Like Star Trek, Ghostbusters has a long legacy leading into a reboot with the potential for drastic changes. And while change is good and necessary for longevity, changes from the original formula harm the product and the legacy. Many fans are seeing the last thirty years being wiped clean, and being replaced by something that potentially only has the title in common. Am I saying there shouldn't be an all-female Ghostbusters team? Not at all. I'm just expressing concern that the fact they are women is the driving force here and making a quality film that will appeal to a whole audience and be a worthy addition to a beloved franchise is not. Someone can be against an all-female crew and not be sexist. Sure, if they are against it because they don't think women can do it, that's very sexist. But don't discount the people who look at focus on gender, a focus non-existent in the original, and wonder where its going to lead.