Guest Post: Why We Need Ghostbusters to be a Hit

I was thinking about a few ways to improve my blog and one of the ideas at the top of my list was featuring guest bloggers. There are several bloggers out there who’ve been doing this longer than me and who are certainly doing it better than me; so why not recruit some of that quality and add it to my blog? Wendell from Dell On Movies is one of my favourite bloggers and a person I’ve collaborated with in the past (in the form of blogathons). He has a terrific site which I suggest you visit (you’ll soon find yourself doing it regularly) and a voice that I have immense respect for when it comes to film. Without any further adieu, here’s his post on

Why We Need Ghostbusters To Be A Hit

 
The title of this post is not a question, but implies one. If I did my job correctly, you’ve asked it yourself by this point. “Why do we need the Ghostbusters remake to be a hit?” The reality is that there is a brief answer to this. Girls need heroes, too. You’re smart. You already knew this. You even know girls will need heroes for as long as there are girls. The most unfortunate part of this is how severe this need is in the twenty-first century. We’re supposed to be passed this by now. Men and women are supposed to be on equal footing in all areas of society, at least in countries we like to think of as enlightened. Then again, equality is a tricky beast to tame. We still haven’t quite figured it out. It bedevils us in regards to race, religion, sexual orientation, and yes, gender. Having more women in movies fit for young girls to look up to will not fix any of those problems, but it will continue our movement in the right direction.
You might be saying to yourself ‘there are plenty of heroic women in film right now.’ You would be right. We are firmly in the midst of an era in which “strong female character” is a buzzword. They’ve shown up all over the place in the last decade or so. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of them have played second fiddle to a male protagonist. This is especially true when we talk about Hollywood blockbusters. We are also in the midst of the golden age of superhero movies. These, and the other big action flicks that dominated the world’s multiplexes from mid-Spring to early fall are the films that show humanity at their most undeniably heroic. These are people that save the world, the galaxy, and even the entire universe.
We’ve reached a point where all of these people don’t have to be white males as they once did. Important characters of both genders and multiple ethnicities are larger than life on the screen in 3D and IMAX using their incredible abilities to protect us as we munch popcorn from the safety of our cushy seats. However, these diverse characters are almost always under the leadership of a Caucasian man. Think back through the summers. Sure, The Avengers were brought together by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, but he was always more of therapist to the group, massaging egos, and getting them to put differences aside for the greater good. The real leadership of that group is a shared venture between Iron Man and Captain America. There were plenty of other offenders, too. Guardians of the Galaxy. All those X-Men movies. The Fast and the Furious franchise. The Mission: Impossible flicks. The Star Trek series.
Women are second-class heroes in all of these movies. They generally serve as some combination of support for or love interest of the real hero. Even if not a love interest, they’re highly sexualized by being packed tightly into outfits more conducive to the wet dreams of pubescent boys than crime-fighting. When needed, she can also be damsel in distress. Tammy Wynette’s classic song “Stand by Your Man” would be a fitting theme song for any of them. Unfortunately, our strong ladies are not always allowed to stand by their men in one of the most important places in the world they’re saving: the toy section. At the tail end of 2015, and early in 2016, Star Wars: The Force Awakens ruled the world. It made roughly a gazillion dollars at the box office and admirably had a female for a protagonist. Yet, she was absent from much of the movie’s merchandising which was everywhere. She was completely excluded from a pack of action figures that included all of the other main characters. Of course, they were all male. The powers that be decided since the target audience for action figures is boys, she would be left out. After all, girls don’t play with action figures.
Sigh. By itself, this is a disappointing sentiment for any company to have. The disappointment doubles when you realize the powers that be in this case are the folks at Disney. That mouse may serve as the mascot and people call it “The House That Mickey Built,” but I’ve never seen that as accurate. Even if Mickey did build the house, it’s been maintained and upgraded thanks to labor of their stable of princesses. With movies such as Brave and, more recently, Frozen the way they represent girls onscreen is evolving. They’ve positioned themselves as the people who know little girls best. How is it no one at Disney saw the error in their thinking and flooded the market with as many Rey action figures as they did Kylo Ren? Thankfully, this was rectified and Rey indeed found her way into those big packs and was given more of a presence, but it took a public outcry for this to happen. That should not be the case.
The superhero properties have adopted similar philosophies in regard to their female characters. Black Widow has become a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the screen. She remains in short supply on the retail aisles. Mystique and Storm of the X-Men flicks suffer a similar fate. This is especially troubling in the case of Mystique since the series has developed into a showcase for her story. Only Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy seems to share equal shelf space with her male teammates. The oddest part of all this is that the companies that control these properties seem to be willingly leaving money on the table by relying on antiquated notions. Don’t these companies employ people who do the type of research that surely proves the bottom line will be enhanced by selling toys to both boys and girls?
All of this brings me to Ghostbusters. If you’re just crawling out from under that rock you’ve been living under, it’s a remake of the 1984 classic that starred a team of four men taking on New York’s paranormal entities. This version replaces our heroes with heroines. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones will handle the ghostbusting. I know this isn’t the first action-comedy starring women ever made. The star of this very film, McCarthy, has several under her belt. However this is one of, if not the, first with a huge budget and major marketing campaign. Columbia Pictures really appears to be hitching its wagon to this one. They need it to be a hit, for financial reasons. That doesn’t make it any less important a film. To be honest, to make money is as good a reason as any to want a movie to succeed. In fact, that’s the main thing I want from it. If this thing comes bursting out of the gate and becomes a global phenomenon, the money people won’t be so hesitant about giving us more blockbusters with women in the lead. Girls will get more truly liberated women for heroes. Their parents will even be able to get their action figures everywhere. The world will become a better place.
More important than Ghostbusters being a huge hit, we really need for it not to be a box-office flop. When forging a new path in Hollywood, the decision-makers are easily scared off. There was a time in my life when superhero flicks were considered box-office poison. The problem was, in the 80s, other than the Superman flicks they weren’t making money. The same goes for the early and mid 90s with the Batman movies being the one money-maker. By late in the decade the Blade franchise began to pull the genre out the doldrums. 2000’s X-Men and 2002’s Spider-Man really set us on the fast track to where we are now. Superhero flicks about women weren’t far behind because it makes sense. At least it made sense until we actually got them.
We got Catwoman in 2004 and Elektra in 2005. Both movies flopped big time. Instead of chalking it up to them both being horrible films, which they were, the narrative that emerged among us studio heads seems to be “Girl superheroes don’t sell tickets.” Not surprisingly, we haven’t had one released by a major studio since, with the exception of 2006’s modestly budgeted and moderately successful romantic-comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend which was never high profile enough to matter. There were other movies such as SaltHanna, and the Resident Evil movies. These movies enjoyed varying degrees of success. None were a big enough hit to make the big wigs want to put out more. None of them registered on the all-important toy market. If Ghostbusters isn’t successful, it gives studio heads an excuse to not make big budget blockbusters featuring women. It helps that a few are already in the works so we’ll get at least a few more. Still, we don’t need a lull in the production of these films.
Despite all I’ve said, it’s not really about giving little girls more toys to play with. It’s about taking more steps towards having a truly inclusive society. It’s about our boys learning to see women as equals. It’s about our girls getting the boost in self-esteem that comes from seeing yourself represented in pop culture. To achieve this Ghostbusters doesn’t need to be a critical darling. It merely needs to be a fun popcorn flick worthy of a few bucks and a couple hours in the theater. The parts it needs to promote true femininity are already in place. If you’re at all familiar with the original, you know that this film will feature a group of women running their own business and saving the world without having to be strapped into quasi-dominatrix outfits. Any objectification done here will likely be of Chris Hemsworth who gets to play the eye-candy role of the film. Before anyone cries reverse sexism, this is perfectly okay because the overwhelming majority of movies do not objectify men in the same way as women. Having it go the other way a time or two won’t hurt.
There is at least one step for Ghostbusters to take on its own. It’s a simple step, but still seems difficult for many studios to take. It needs to make sure that it’s black character, handled by Leslie Jones, is a true equal to the rest of the women. Instead of just having her be the “loud black woman,” make her as deep and complex as the rest of the characters. If we’re going to be inclusive, let’s be all the way inclusive and give young women of color someone to look up to. They’ve been largely left out of the annual summer festivities. There was Catwoman, starring Halle Berry. We’ve already talked too much about that. There was also 2011’s Colombiana starring Zoe Saldana, which did fairly well. I can’t think of another that featured a woman of color as the protagonist. Within some of these other franchises we get a few Hispanics and blacks. In the case of the Hispanic women, they tend to be over-sexualized while black women have been largely asexual. Why that is or what that means is a topic for another post. Suffice it to say these women need to be afforded the same complexities as anyone else.
To this point, expectations appear to be mild for the new Ghostbusters. Reactions to the trailers that we’ve gotten over the last few weeks has been mixed. However, that hasn’t stopped the hype machine for it from rolling right along. Similarly to recent blockbusters Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, and the aforementioned Star Wars: The Force Awakens we’re being inundated with new information on Ghostbusters on a daily basis. It’s being positioned for a big opening weekend, but at this point, it doesn’t feel like a given. Before those other films that I mentioned, kids at the school where I work were all abuzz about them. When the trailers came out, these kids were all over them. Granted, we’re still over a month away from the release date, but I’m not hearing any Ghostbusters. I’m not terribly sure most of them even know it exists. Even in my own house where we are all Melissa McCarthy fans, there seems to be a rather ‘blah’ attitude about it.
My youngest daughter seems excited to see it while her older sister is dismissing it off-hand. As evidenced by this post, I’m looking forward to it, but my wife is rather apprehensive about it. She cites her love for the original as the reason. My recently into adulthood son is too cool for anything so whether he is really excited for it or out to avoid it entirely only musters a shrug of the shoulders so I can’t really tell with him. I hope that as we get closer to opening weekend anticipation will build and our newest paranormal experts will set records box-office records and merchandise for the film will fly off the shelves. If not, next year’s Wonder Woman will feel like a last-ditch effort to save women protagonists in blockbusters rather than the culmination of a triumphant journey to her very own big screen adventure with the fate of Marvel’s Captain Marvel hanging in the balance. I’m pulling for it.
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31 thoughts on “Guest Post: Why We Need Ghostbusters to be a Hit

  1. I followed you here Dell. You can’t escape my gaze so easily! LOL

    Your thoughts are well constructed and well written….but.

    One thing that struck me in all this reversal-of-gender, gender-equality filmmaking garbage (and most of it IS garbage) is exactly *why* female heroes need to be born out of a male dominated subculture. Do-gooders and feminists will point to women being secondary characters in the majority of blockbusters films (you mention Marvel and Star Wars, although in my opinion the latter is vastly more inclusive of female heroes than the former, in spite of Black Widow and Scarlet Witch) and although I disagree somewhat for films in recent times (X-Men, for example, has always had strong female representation) I do think forcing a gender balance by way of studio mandate has left many with sour tastes in their mouths. That’s not to say we shouldn’t redress the imbalance of strong female leads in films, but exactly who are the studios trying to please with their obvious agenda in reversing genders in films like Ghostbusters and (gulp) Ocean’s 11?

    It’s all well and good to say cinema (and society) needs more female heroes, but for some reason they’re pulling this out of an established male clique that is hugely resistant to the idea. Comic books have long subjected women to overly sexualized portrayals (Power Girl, as one I think of immediately) and I ask myself why strong women would want to even be a part of that world?

    Women have lead roles in a diverse selection of films anyway, such as sci-fi (especially television), drama (again, television), romantic comedy, comedy (Melissa McCarthy, in spite of my hatred of her, has done her gender proud as a standard bearer for female-centric comedy, not to mention her quibble of recurring co-stars), horror (most modern horror films have a strong female lead instead of a male one (It Follows, Oculus, the Evil Dead remake, etc) and even crime thrillers, so it’s not as if Hollywood isn’t giving them opportunity.

    It’s a question of success, as you so rightly point out. Female-led films typically don’t perform as well at the box-office for whatever reason one might suggest, and I hate to say it but the new Ghostbusters isn’t about to rectify that situation anytime soon. I straw poll around my office (of a mix of both film fan, and non-film fan, male and female alike) indicated the excitement for Ghostbusters is approximately similar to having root canal. If it’s going to make bank among my colleagues then word of mouth for the film is going to need to be exceptionally strong, short of life-changing.

    If women want strong roles and bigger box-office clout, they’re going to have to demand it through showing up to female led films. Demanding gender diversity in a subgenre that’s typically skewed towards teenage boys (and man-children) is like trying to convince a child that Frozen isn’t a documentary. At its very essence, it’s unlikely to succeed without generational change, and even then, still unlikely.

    Claiming women are disenfranchised on the screen is (IMO) little more than wailing about equality in everything – the simple fact is, inequality is everywhere, and society needs to do more to right that imbalance. What Hollywood needs to do better is give female audiences a hero worth their investment to follow. Is it any wonder that Ellen Ripley remains alongside Sarah Connor as two of cinema’s greatest female heroes? Strong writing (by James Cameron, not a man noted for his feminist views I’d say) and compelling character arcs make these female screen icons memorable in spite of their gender, not because of their gender. People simply want good characters and good writing.

    Exactly why they thought it was a good idea to slap women into a franchise formerly led by men and think audiences would just eat that crap up, I’ll never understand. It’s not about Ghostbusters being women. It never has been. It’s about lazy, condescending, patronizing filmmaking dressed up for nostalgia value and shouty-screamy “comedy” that – based on the trailer – doesn’t work. And before you suggest I shouldn’t base my opinion on a trailer because it’s not the whole film, think about this: a film’s trailer is representative of the film, and it should entice me to want to see the film. Nothing about Ghostbuster’s horrifying marketing campaign thus far makes me want to see it, simply because it looks like an imitation of something I know is far better. I don’t care about the women in it. Not because there’s women in it, but because it just looks stupid. Stick Adam Sandler and Co in it (which is what they did, and called it PIXELS) and it’d look just as bad, and I’d still not care for it at all.

    Instead of Ghostbusters flopping or succeeding, why don’t we concentrate on the one thing people want more than forced gender politics: quality story, quality characters, and compelling films. Regardless of gender, race, politics or belief, people just want good stories. People will support good films, regardless of gender. Marketing companies need to stop trying to force people into gender segments and start accommodating crossover – the fact Disney didn’t include a Rey figure in their Star Wars toy merch was a debacle of the highest order, and I think next time they’ll approach things differently. Women need to start supporting films in which strong female roles are leading. Commercial greed will ensure Hollywood (much like any other capitalist venture) mine that vein of money for all it can.

    If women want to correct the course, skimming easy brand recognition from previous male franchises is not the way to go about it.

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    1. Thanks Rodney for following me here. Not sure if you’re familiar with this blog, but I hope you’ll be back. And thanks for a great comment to discuss.

      In truth, I agree that gender swapping in once male films to make them female centric is not ideally the way to go. I also agree that strongly written characters and stories are what’s needed most. My point with regards to the new Ghostbusters is simply that it’s here and is the highest profile female-led movie we’ve had in quite some time. Let’s embrace that so we can get more of them. I’m not trying to mandate any particular type of film be made, but hoping (or wishing on a star) that fewer films get shot down before ever making it to the big screen simply because they’re about women.

      Why would girls want to be involved in a world that is marketed to young boys in which the objectification of women is par for the course? To answer that, I say why not? Like boys, girls want to see themselves represented as the very best the world has to offer. To widen our scope a bit, people simply want to be included. Look back at movies of the first five or 6 decades of Hollywood and how exclusive it was. Everyone who wasn’t white was portrayed in an insensitive and stereotypical fashion. Often whites would even play those roles. It was clear that Hollywood didn’t want or care for anyone who isn’t white. In society at large, it was the same. Still, people who were not part of the establishment yearned and fought to at least be represented within it. The principle is the same here. Big action flicks, whether or not they’re superhero movies aren’t going anywhere. So again, I say why not? Why not push for better representations of yourself in the films that are breaking box office records left and right?

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    2. so instead of making Ghostbusters three they crap on the orginal and top on that we need more female heros? What if I said we need more guys in girl roles oh say the Craft! come on its pure BS!! there was no reason for them not to have the orginals in the movie and then have the girls take over. NONE instead we get feminism to draw in the crowds and crap on the orginal film

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      1. As stated in my prior comment, if I had my druthers, remaking Ghostbusters with all women wouldn’t be the way to go. Then again, neither would Ghostbusters 3, even if we could get the original cast (that ship has sailed). My point is not to start the trend of remaking movies that starred guys with women replacing them. My point is if we’re going to have heroes then all types of heroes should be represented in the best possible manner.

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      2. then how? in the 80 Sarah conner Ripley then nothing happened and then where are the gay leads no where to be found etc etc. Hollywood will listen if we support the movies tv shows etc but it has to sell so there will be more representation of woman gays etc etc

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      3. That’s precisely my point. We need to support the movies we do get with diverse leads so we can get more. Why not start here? At this point the reason we’re usually given is just hiding behind a catch-22. They say films featuring a lead that is female, black, Asian, gay, or whatever don’t sell. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that isn’t really true. McCarthy’s films do very well with mainstream audiences. Will Smith spent like a decade and a half as the biggest box office draw in the world. Denzel Washington has been packing them in for years.

        Just because there weren’t a slew of action films female leads after Ripley doesn’t mean we should give up forever. Instead of everyone throwing obscene amounts of money at Adam Sandler so he can keep making crapfests, give someone a chance who isn’t a straight white guy. It’s not that we should stop making movies for and about straight white guys. We shouldn’t. It’s that the cinematic universe is plenty big enough to share on more equitable terms.

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      4. because like I said its like crapping on the craft! what do you not get! Its crapping on the fucking original what do you not understand! there are tons of other marvel DC female leads not used! why not use them! Instead of raping the orginal GHOSTBUSTERS!! Its like making Ripley into a man and Sarah conner into a man! would you like that?! I hope not!

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      5. I do understand. However, the film has already been made and is about to be released so I am choosing to embrace it rather than crying over spilled milk. Again, I don’t want to go back and remake all these movies in hopes of retroactively manufacturing gender equality. I just want them to continue being open to having more females as the lead in big budget summer fare.

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      6. of course you dont since you dont see that if Ripley was played by a man. this is going to be a F nuclear waste zone for little girls to be ghostbusters!

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      7. To continue to bring up Ripley is to deal in “what ifs” which I don’t want to do. However, the beauty of Ripley’s character is that, as written in the original Alien, she really could have been a man or a woman, she just happened to be the latter. And if little girls want to be ghostbusters I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world, either.

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    1. I get it, you think having women as Ghostbusters desecrates the memory of the original. I disagree. I’d also like to point out that you can still watch the original anytime you want. It’s not like that one is going bye-bye because the remake is coming out.

      At this point, I think it’s best to agree to disagree because we could go back and forth forever on this as it’s clear neither of us is changing the other person’s mind.

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  2. Eek! I thought this was a great read, especially because it brought social justice issues to light. It seems we can never please all of the people all of the time when it comes to film. However, I do agree that perhaps, just maybe if we simply included more (dominant) heroic female roles within quality movies, then we’d be getting somewhere. Thanks again for this. KG – now I’m afraid to submit mine lol – just kidding…you know I fear nothing 😉

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    1. so lets make SOME not crap on the orginal FILMS!!! I have no problem with a female ghostbusters but what are they doing there making a gender swap its like making the craft with all males which I would be against!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So if you don’t have a problem with female ghostbusters then what’s the point of this comment? Does the new Ghostbusters tarnish the original? If this remake is poor does it stop you from enjoying the original?

        Either way this isn’t about a movie being good or not, this is about a blatant lack of diversity and equal representation in Hollywood. This is about retroactive justice.

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      2. I have a problem with them not having the orginals and they pass the mantle to the other females and it not be like the orginal its a gender swap? WHY there is no reason for that. Ghostbuster fans have been begging for a ghostbusters film and this is it?? come on. we need for vankman etc etc to come back and then pass the torch to the females or other ghostbusters this is a total crappy reboot

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      3. YES but not as there character counterparts why? Thats why people dont like this film since its yes showing the old cast but not as Peter Vankman etc etc

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    2. Hahahaha really eager to read what you come up. You can’t please anybody with anything but I think you can always be just and that’s what Hollywood needs right now. In exchange for writing a guest post for my blog, Wendell asked that I do the same and feature on his blog. Coincidentally we both decided to write about issues of diversity. Here’s that post, would love to hear your thoughts on it http://dellonmovies.blogspot.co.za/2016/06/whitewashing-in-hollywood-black-and.html

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No you cant please everyone but that article I am reading is riddled with holes, My nephews are a quarter chinese so they cant play a mixed race person like in aloha? there are some people who look white who are related to Japanese and chinese people good example Dean cain and his son

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      2. Um I’m confused? Is Emma Stone part Asian cause I have it that she’s of Swedish, German, English, Scottish and Irish descent.

        So Dean Cain is a third Japanese. If he plays a mixed race person, it’s fine but if he plays a character who is 100% Japanese it becomes a problem.

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      3. I am saying who is a quarter chinese or japanese in Hollywood that could play that part? They had to pick a white actress. Who else could have played that character? Well if it fit the part like if his character LIVED and was born in Japan I wouldnt have a problem. Whats the problem with Emma Stone? There are white people that are of mixed ancestry in Hawaii not be represented as well as ones that are darker skinned not being represented let alone gay couples living on the island. Hawaii is very gay friendly and hollywood makes it there are NO gays on the islands and there are

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      4. You’re telling me in the entirety of Hollywood there isn’t a single quarter Japanese person? You just mentioned Dean Cain who is a third, so you’re telling me there’s no one else? Come on. I’m all for diversity and greater representation. Saying I want more roles of colour to be present and that those that are present to be represented accuratley doesn’t mean I don’t want other minorities to get equal representation.

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      5. His played WHITE. People who of chinese and Japanese descent say no Japanese person played Superman. Yet Dean Cain did. Then lets talk about it since I have yet to see any chinese/White male lead anywhere. if there is its very very rare. Gay teen Forget it on Disney and Nick Channels. They can have gay parents but no gay children? come on

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