The misogynist, gatekeeping reactions from so-called fans of the 1984 "Ghostbusters"Â have been washing over the Internet in ugly waves since the reboot was announced. So, let's take a look at the original film, examine the great legacy it has created and what it holds for people like me.
When I heard about the reboot I admit to being skeptical. I don't tend to like many reboots, though I don't see any harm in their being made. I do, however, see harm in the criticisms from mostly male fans, saying things like "this movie rapes my childhood." That makes my skin crawl for many reasons: the entitlement of assumed ownership; the language diminishing the actual, literal horrors of assault; and the incorrect assumption that a reboot could possibly impact their life-long enjoyment of the original film. The prevalence of that reaction was actually what convinced me to see the movie. Why was this new female cast so threatening to this mostly male portion of the fanbase? How could they thoroughly hate a movie they hadn't even seen? And why was it so controversial that women were assuming central roles, presumably as a corrective to some of the gender inequality rampant in the original film?
Now don't get me wrong here: the original "Ghostbusters" is one of my top 20 favorite films of all-time, but nobody can claim that it isn't sexist as hell. Unpacking the misogyny of the original film isn't a task I enjoyed -- I love that world and the ribald humor that typifies it. The movie's importance cannot be denied, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't also be examined, especially if a major argument against the reboot is how divergent it is.
There are roughly ten women in the 1984 "Ghostbusters," most of whom hold tiny parts. The first woman we see is a librarian who spends her screen time stalked by an unseen presence, terrified out of her mind. Then we meet two lady ghosts: the peaceful librarian who just wants to comb through the stacks but transforms into a shrieking denizen of hell after being pestered by the relentless Ghostbusters, and the beautiful vision in Ray's dream, whose only purpose is to give him a blowjob from beyond. There's Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), a mature and sensible woman who seeks out the Ghostbusters only to be continuously sexually harassed by Dr. Venkman, even after rejecting his advances. And then she ends up possessed by a demon, thoroughly removing the last of her agency. Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), the team's secretary, is condescended, suffers biting comments about her appearance, and is treated like a nuisance. The only woman of color in the movie is a hotel maid, minding her own business when her supply cart is shot to crap by the boys, who offer monotone apologies and not much else. Finally, we have Dr. Venkman's student, whom he lies to and manipulates for his own amusement.
Every woman in the movie is either harassed, sexually harassed in the workplace, or victimized. I love the movie and I turn it on to laugh with it, but it's not exactly a place where I feel represented as a person. Isn't it time to make more room for an entire gender to see themselves accurately portrayed in that iconic, exciting world? Shouldn't a new generation be able to make cardboard proton packs and discover how good busting makes them feel, without being relegated to sexy ghosts and obnoxious secretaries?
That said, I'm never going to not love the original "Ghostbusters." I'm never not going to think that it doesn't have some of the most quotable dialogue ever committed to film, and I trust that generations of fans will continue to fall in love with it along with me, hopefully without turning into the sort of monstrous garbage-fans who attack others. However, I'm also beyond excited at this new vision of Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis' world from Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold.
I'm grateful to Feig and the cast for showing me what it can feel like to be represented and respected in an action movie, how it can feel to be seen. And when I think about those young girls who were in the audience with me? I know that bustin' can now make them feel good, too.
"Ghostbusters" is in theaters now.