Movie Discussion: Ghostbusters
Warning! This entire discussion contains spoilers for Ghostbusters.
Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.
Genre: Action, Comedy, Fantasy
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig, Ivan Reitman
Actors: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon
Release Year: 2016
Evie Totty | July 14, 2016
WELL SAID! I very much enjoyed reading every word of this. Thank you Scott!
Scott Hardie | July 16, 2016
There's more discussion here, for members only.
Scott Hardie | July 18, 2016
Here's getting into big spoilers now that I've seen the movie.
I liked all of characters and wanted to spend more time with them (bring on a sequel!), but I really loved Kate McKinnon's flamboyant, highly confident weirdo. I don't get the mystery over whether she's gay because it seemed pretty obvious to me that she was flirting with the other women, most aggressively so in the lip sync dance. Her big action scene in the climax was a minor triumph for women in movies, reminiscent of how Charlize Theron's badassery in Mad Max: Fury Road last summer was a breakthrough. As for the other ladies, was is it me or did Melissa McCarthy, the biggest star and highest-billed cast member, get the least good material and the least character development? Maybe some of her good material wound up cut from the finished product.
I took the joke about Zuul in the post-credits scene to be a throwaway gag, yet another winking reference to the original film, and I was surprised to see comments online interpreting it near-universally to be setup for a sequel. I thought, nah, people assume too much; can't a joke just be a joke? But no, co-writer Katie Dippold says it was specifically intended to set up a sequel. I have given the movie too much credit.
Ugh, there is one inarguably terrible thing about the new movie: That shrill new version of the theme. You can hear the multiple exclamation points when Patrick Stump shrieks "I'M NOT AFRAID!!!!!!" over and over. Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot go together like sardines and grape juice.
Is it churlish of me to wish that the villain's powers had been a little better defined? He kept flinging bolts of energy around that had all kinds of effects with no rhyme or reason or consistency to them. At one point he even departed three-dimensional reality and became a drawn cartoon character inhabiting physical space. How exactly did his omnipotence work? I shouldn't care, because the jokes are what matter, but I kind of do. I appreciate internal consistency. I wonder if the explanation of his powers was also cut for time.
Kelly speculated that the dance scene over the closing credits was originally intended as a proper scene in the movie, and that's why the villain made everyone freeze with their fingers pointing in the air. If so, that was a rightful cut; it would have brought the story momentum to a halt.
Even though it scared a few kids out of the theater where I saw this, I appreciated Paul Feig making the haunting scenes a little more intense and frightening. Ghosts, to me, shouldn't just be benign curiosities like Slimer; I prefer some genuinely scary apparitions too. The first ghost delivered on that count, and to a lesser extent so did the second. (I still don't know how the winged dragon ghost had no trouble operating a bipedal humanoid mannequin, but whatever.)
There are so many great laughs in this movie. "It's 2040! The president is a plant!" and "do not compare me to the Jaws mayor" and "he's going to be the third scariest thing on that train" and "an aquarium is a submarine for fish" are going to stick with me. I really enjoyed this. That lousy trailer did the movie a disservice.
Scott Hardie | July 19, 2016
Besides the scene where the women read some online criticism about them, I did notice a few mildly misandrist jokes along the way, such as a violent snapping contraption being called a "nutcracker," and the ghostbusters shooting a threatening male ghost in the crotch. If that's what the haters were worried about in an all-female movie, they could stand to have a little thicker skin.
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Scott Hardie | July 14, 2016
This movie has been controversial since it was first announced (see here, and here, and here, and here, and about a million more places if you Google it). I honestly cannot fathom why. It's pretty obvious that misogyny is the root cause, but for sake of discussion, let's consider the other arguments made by people who say it's not about the women:
- It's a remake of a beloved classic. So what? Classics get remade constantly. That annoys people. But it never inspires anywhere near this much vitriol.
- It's a reboot of an existing franchise. Huh? The series has been dormant for almost thirty years, despite Dan Aykroyd's attempts to revive it. In an era where Sony reboots the Spider-Man series while the films are still playing in theaters, "rebooting" a franchise this long dormant shouldn't even count as a reboot.
- The trailers look shitty. I agree, this doesn't look like a great movie, judging from the footage shown. But all kinds of lame comedies come out all the time, and don't inspire this much hatred.
- The jokes are inappropriate for kids, like Kristin Wiig's joke about slime getting in "every crack" in the trailer above. The travesty! A family-marketed Hollywood comedy making gross-out jokes about the human body! Wait, most small children love gross-out jokes about the human body.
- Leslie Jones's character looks like a racist caricature. That may be so, but it can't explain this level of furious criticism, can it? Black audiences have to suffer the indignity of caricatures much broader than this, and sometimes in their own movies.
It has to be the women. And not just women, but intelligent women, with their own agency, who the movie takes seriously. If Hollywood made this same movie but it was about four sexy bimbos who ran around in skimpy outfits acting dumb, the movie would be poised for a big box office weekend, and it would suffer relatively little controversy.
Why in the world are women unacceptable as ghostbusters, or as comedic actors, or as leads in a major film? What about them, exactly, is so wrong? I just lack some kind of essential misogyny in my bones necessary to process the feelings that other men have about this. I can understand it academically I suppose, but I just can't feel it. The closest that I can get to it is remembering what it was like to be in grade school, and getting riled up by the other boys that, I don't know, some girls wanted to play on our part of the playground, and getting frustrated thinking "how dare those girls think they can play with us!" I have to regress in my thinking to the age of a young child to make sense of this.
I can understand ignoring women in entertainment. Just this weekend, a friend laughed at me and told me to "turn in your man card" when I mentioned watching Orange is the New Black. This is his typical attitude about women's films and women's shows. He ignores them. But he doesn't get angry, He doesn't rant and rave on the internet and conspire with other men to post bad reviews so that it will harm the film's box office prospects. What can possibly inspire that kind of active hatred?
Kelly, who as a woman has suffered this kind of bullshit all of her life, says it's about women entering a male space. If the previous Ghostbusters films had never existed and this was an original movie, almost nobody would care. But with this film, women enter roles once held by men, and that's unacceptable. Much like race, gender is a caste system in our society, and to cross between castes is taboo, a threat to the order of things, and the response to that threat is angry and violent. That's at the root of violence against transgendered people: To become a woman is to reject masculinity, and to become a man is to infiltrate masculinity, and neither is acceptable.
I feel bad for the people who made this movie. They were just trying to make a fun summer movie without much on its mind, a production far too small and unimportant to bear the weight of this gender-politics battle on its shoulders. I fear the chilling effect that this will have on future productions starring women, which is very much the goal of the protestors. Their cause is unjust and their motives disgusting, but in the end, if it works and the movie doesn't earn much, they might win anyway.
What do you think?