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Friday, July 15, 2016

VIDEO ESSAY: GHOSTBUSTERS: Busting the Genre’s Gender Roles

One of my earliest childhood memories was having an uncontrollable and overwhelming love for the Ghostbusters. I don’t know where this love came from; I just know that everything about the Ghostbusters universe, including the spinoff cartoon, felt like it was already part of my life, even at a young age. In fact, my mother said my younger brother and I would have heated fights over which of the Ghostbusters toys we’d have to share. 

And when it comes to the courtship between the moving image and me the viewer, it’s a real case of the cart being put in front of the horse since I was born six months after the original film hit theatres--so it wasn’t like the movie itself was my introduction to the franchise. It was actually the cartoon. I remember by the time I actually watched the first Ghostbusters film on VHS it was already 1989 and I was barely getting ready for Kindergarten; that also began the cycle of me watching the film and its sequel as often as humanly possible. 

And what the Ghostbusters stood for—for me anyway—was this ideal that no matter how quirky, or non-status-quo you could be in contemporary society, if you were passionate about something and held your convictions to a higher standard, then your work would not be in vain. The icing on top of it all, of course, was that Ray, Egon, Winston and Peter were buddies and were haphazardly smart and were occasional smart-asses. Okay, okay—Peter was a smart-ass ALL the time but who better to do that than Bill Murray?

Which brings me to the point of this video essay: Why the hell are so many people upset that the new Ghostbusters film has an all female cast?

From the moment the first trailer for the 2016 reboot dropped, a Scarlett letter was branded onto the new film. It became the most disliked movie trailer in the history of YouTube. Which is insane, when you consider the caliber and comedic prowess of its four female stars. And it didn’t stop there: hordes of fan boys and haters took it upon themselves to bury the film before it was even released into theatres. 

Myself being a Ghostbuster fanatic, I couldn’t be more thrilled to see what Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Melissa McCarthy were going to do with the rich source material. So I took a sort of personal offense to all this backlash—and I haven’t even seen this new movie yet!

So, as any cinephile should do, I stepped back historically to see where the original Ghostbusters stood in the timeline of the moving image. And after some studying, here’s the unfortunate revelation I came across: When it comes to American comedies and ghosts—or just comedic horror for that matter—it’s a man’s world. At least it has been since the days of The Bowery Boys...Abbott and Costello…and Bob Hope

In fact, women in horror cinema are usually limited to being the sexy villainess, the long-haired demonic entity or the slasher-film damsel in distress. Which is pretty shitty. 

In regards to American comedic ghost and horror stories, there hasn’t been anything that’s been both female-driven and culturally successful. Even an attempt like Jennifer’s Body, unfortunately just re-positions the film’s star to rest on her sex appeal alone. 

For lack of a better phrase, it’s all pretty fucked up.

It’s 2016 folks. This is crazy! And now an inspired reboot of one of pop culture’s most apt comedies risks ever having a sure footing with audiences because…well, I don’t even know what? Because of a barbaric, male-sense of ownership over the material? Because of the threat that women might do the job better? 

The Ghostbusters are cornucopia of unapologetic fun and happiness...for viewers anyways. It’s not just for the boys. After my brother and I began grade school, our sister was born. You know what we did when she started to play with toys and watch movies? We introduced her to our beloved Ghostbusters. 

Because girls ain’t afraid of no ghosts either.