When Ghostbusters opened in 1984, it was an instant success. Not only did it hit comedy gold, but it cemented itself as a box office success and broke all kinds of records at the time, in fact it still sits at #91 on the top 100 Domestic Box Office Gross list (Box Office Mojo). It was obviously successful enough to garner a sequel which ultimately wasn’t quite as good, or successful, but still a box office hit. Since then, Sony has been trying to make a sequel with several start ups that never came to fruition lead by Dean Aykroyd. A large part of it possibly had to do with the fallout between Bill Murray and Harold Ramis, but regardless, nothing has gotten off the ground until now.
Back in January, Variety reported that Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) was being courted for the Ghostbusters 3 directing and producing gig after Ivan Reitman dropped out shortly after Harold Ramis’s passing. And more recently it was reported that Feig was re-teaming with “The Heat” writer Katie Dippold for an all female cast reboot of Ghostbusters. Upon hearing this news, it’s tough to describe my feelings as I’m overwhelmed with intrigue, excitement, disappointment, and overall confusion.
Along with the announcement that it would be an all female cast, it was also reported that it wouldn’t be a continuation of the Ghostbusters but in fact it would be a reboot. Let me address my 2 major issues with this one at a time, and as carefully as I can without sounding crass, sexist, or just plain idiotic.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this could be a very funny and amazingly entertaining movie. I actually liked Bridesmaids, and was very pleasantly surprised when, on a whim, I went to go see “The Heat.” However, I am a bit disappointed with the idea that they’re going with an all female cast for the Ghostbuster reboot. It’s not because I feel like an all female cast couldn’t be extremely funny or be the best possible outcome; it comes more from the idea that this was a decision that was made going into the project, before the script had been written and it seems like that is a creative restraint on the project. Instead of trying to craft a story or script that is open in terms of both gender and ethnicity and be all encompassing and inclusive, they are making it strictly 4 females. I understand that this immediately sounds sexist, but what I mean by it is that, instead of making it 4 males, or 4 females, or trying to pander to a particular ethnicity, group, or age group, why would you not try and craft a story that allows for an open interpretation of the characters that leaves the different roles open to a wider pool of talent in terms of casting.
When discussing with a friend of mine, I brought up the point that I understand the move and understand it’s marketing value, but that I wasn’t overly happy with it. He immediately tried to call me out and say that I sounded sexist and that feminism is not a marketing device and that what I said was like saying feminism was a marketing ploy. I of course had to immediately defend myself, and explain that I wasn’t saying that feminism in itself was a “marketing ploy” or “device” but rather by putting a creative restraint on a project such as making it all females, or all one ethnicity, or even all males for that matter, you are clearly attempting to sell that project a bit more to a certain market. A movie such as “Hangover” with an all boys club is obviously pandering to a male audience, much the same way an all female Ghostbusters cast is trying to sell females more on the idea of, well, a Ghostbusters movie.
This brought up a very interesting point: my friend then brought up the valid point that we don’t necessarily live in a post-feminism world where this would be an okay thing to argue. I completely understand that, and get the idea that my comments and statements probably sound quite sexist, regardless of the fact that I consider myself quite a feminist and get in my fair share of arguments in favor of equality. I suppose my point is though, I feel in general, you should just treat people as equals particularly in storytelling. If you want a problem to go away, stop talking about it. If you over compensate, that divide will always exist because you bring it up with the fact that it keeps being brought up with the overcompensation. True, we live in a society where sexism still exists, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t move and strive for something beyond sexism. We can push for something where all genders and ethnicities are treated equal especially when you have a widely recognized platform, such as the Ghostbusters, that is extremely popular already and has a built in audience that will sell tickets. I just feel diversity makes any story the most interesting and thought provoking as well as realistic.
This plays into my second problem with the movie, the fact that it is a reboot as opposed to a continuation of the franchise. This isn’t an isolated problem but rather a problem with Hollywood over the last couple decades. If this movie has nothing to do with the original property, and they’re not going to reference of even have any of the original Ghostbuster characters, what is the point of making it “Ghostbusters.” Again, from a marketing standpoint, you’ve got a brand that sells and a built in fan base that will buy tickets. However, this is another problem with stifling creativity. Why can’t you create or come up with a very similar idea of an all female team of ghost catchers or something similar and have it be something other than “Ghostbusters”. So what they’re essentially doing now is taking the “Ghostbusters” name and saying, we want to sell it not only to a new generation but a new audience as well, and by making it all females, they are pandering to particular audience, (the same would be true if they made it an all male cast.) Perhaps it’s not the creative minds who are making these decisions, but rather the higher ups who are deciding these things, but whoever they are, they know exactly what they’re doing, and to say anything otherwise, I feel is somewhat ignorant. Granted, business is business, and Hollywood has and always will work this way (therefore I am somewhat ignorant for attempting to make this argument); as it essentially has to “sell” it’s movies to certain peoples, and you can essentially breakdown and analyze most movies in this fashion. It’s just particularly heartbreaking and discouraging when it happens to one of your most beloved movies when you wish nothing but the best for it.
That said, I am still quite excited for the idea of this movie, and believe it has all the potential in the world to be just as big of a hit as the original. I wish the best of luck to all those involved, and you can bet I’ll be there opening day. And perhaps one day down the road, we’ll be at a place where pandering to certain groups won’t be as important or necessary, but then again, something tells me that’s a bit too optimistic and a bit of a pipe dream…but one can always hope.