Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: Ghostbusters

Last night, I went to see Ghostbusters.

To be honest, I was dubious. I think the majority of the roles that Melissa McCarthy has has have not done justice to her abilities. As a larger woman, she is often cast is roles that could be described as sloppy and gross. Her part on Mike & Molly was a notable exception to this.

As much as I enjoy her and Kristen Wiig, I didn't like Bridesmaids. It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why, but it may have been simply the type of humor was just not my style. I'm not a fan of slapstick comedy or fart and poop jokes.

If I'm being completely honest with myself, I also have to say that I was dubious about a remake of the such an incredible film. I want to say that it had nothing to do with putting with women in the lead roles where giants of 80's comedy (and therefore, my childhood) forged their paths, but I can't be certain that's true.

There are WAY too many Ghostbusters fanboys complaining about the remake as a way to mask their thinly veiled misogyny. As a vocal feminist, I knew that I was going to have to see it before I could mount a review that didn't sound like "you can't fight ghosts with vaginas!"
"When I write 'they are ruining a classic', I TOTALLY don't mean 'having women do this drives a spike into my mediocre, fragile white male ego.'"

Before the movie started, the previews were for either teen romance movies, or animated children's movies. I couldn't help but wonder if there would have been different trailers if the headliners in the movie had been men.

From the very opening scene, I was impressed. There were subtle and clever jokes inserted into the script with such regularity that it would have been easy to miss many simply by laughing at the previous ones.

While I didn't find the movie to be emasculating, or as some basement dwellers have said "a castration festival", I did notice that all of the female characters were strong and smart while all of the male characters (with the notable exception of the antagonist) were foolish, useless, arrogant, immature, vapid or downright stupid.
"Which picture makes me look more like a doctor? Me playing saxophone, or me listening to saxophone?"

The Dean of the college where Abby Yates and Jillian Holtzmann (McCarthy and McKinnon) work is the definition of up-jumped incompetence, as underscored by Yates' line "you only got to be the Dean because the last Dean went to jail." He then proceeds to flip off the 2 female doctors and the female engineer in various ways for a full 30 seconds before donning his crocs and chasing them out.

I found this switch of traditional gender roles in movies to be amazing. The female characters can be seen eating (gasp) regularly and aren't anything close to caricatures of females. They were rich, deep, complicated and interesting. They had real problems that evoked empathy, many of which were issues that women deal with on a regular basis. Primary among these being the lack of faith from their male counterparts.

Dr. Hiess (Bill Murray), a famous debunker, comes to their office after a VERY public display of ghost hunting and blatantly asks them "Why are you pretending to hunt ghosts?"

This misogyny is even mentioned in a very meta way when the women are reading YouTube comments about their first ghostbusting enterprise and encounter the comment "Ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts!"

The gender roles of traditional movies are also delightfully flipped when they hire Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) to be their receptionist in spite of his complete lack of qualifications and brains simply because they need a receptionist and he's gorgeous.

Wiig herself takes on the role of objectifier by constantly remarking on how attractive Kevin is (in spite of his clearly having the intelligence of a jar of mayonnaise), all the while being told to stop by McCarthy because they don't need a lawsuit.

In addition, none of this even touches the brilliance of the character of Jillian Holtzmann who is a brilliant, weird and hilarious character and is played insanely well by Kate McKinnon. It could easily be argued that she was, by far, the greatest part of this movie and worthy of a post all by herself.
Really, they should be salty hyperboloids, but tomAto, potahtoe!

If you take the objections to this movie at face value, pretending that they have nothing to do with putting white men in a subordinate role to women, it is still an excellent movie. It is full of cameos from the original cast. Weaver, Murray, Aykroyd, Potts (Janine), Hudson and others all show their faces. There is even a bust of the late, great Harold Ramis.

While there are clear homages to the original, including the firehouse, Ecto-1 and the idea of being thrown out of a college for being crazy, this movie stands on its own merits. It provides excellent writing, believable characters (the women, not the men) and shows solid and deep role models for girls and women.

There is a level of emotional intimacy and friendship among Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones that simply didn't exist in the original and is severely lacking from movies in general. Males fears of being perceived as gay often keep that from existing in other action movies, or limit it to slapping bro-hugs and fist bumps.

My only objection was the fact that the 3 white women were scientists while the black woman was an MTA worker, but even that could be seen as an homage to the original. In addition, for all of the horrific racism that Leslie Jones took on Twitter last week, she did an brilliant job and I loved every moment that she was on screen.

Women and girls need these movies to see what strong women can accomplish.
This is everything

Men and boys need these movies even more.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job! I caught the salty parabola piece too. I agree with you on all the above. I guess I had low expectations going in, just looking for a laugh and there isn't much out there now, but I really liked it. Well done.


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