Okay, before you read any further: go see Ghostbusters. Go see it right now. It’s not even that this blog post is super-spoilery, though there are some spoilers. It’s less of a review of the film and more of a collection of my reactions before I go to bed and lose my fangirl zeal.
We all heard about how it would ruin the collective childhood of a certain segment of the population. I thought it was a man-child tantrum being thrown over yet another Hollywood remake that we didn’t need but that I would go watch anyway to spite the haters and because I liked the Ghostbusters cartoon when I was a kid. I eventually saw the movies but the cartoon and Hi-C Ecto Cooler were still what I first thought of when someone mentioned the Ghostbusters franchise.
Okay, so I still think it’s a man-child tantrum. But I understand their anger now. I understand it because I never had hilarious badass science heroes and I would be pissed off too if they were removed from continuity and replaced with new faces.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t. Not only that, I didn’t realize what my childhood was missing until Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Holtzman pulled out her sidearms and went to town on some ghosts in the final act. I don’t have words for the badassery of that scene, but here’s a gif that encapsulates my reaction to that scene:
In that moment, someone like me was the big damn hero. She was weird and brilliant and awkward and so familiar. For all that she felt like me, I still wanted to be her. (I’m already looking into being her for Halloween.) I’ve been devouring a pretty steady diet of American pop culture for the past thirtyish years and never had a moment like that.
On the drive home tonight, I was talking about this need for female heroes that I didn’t even know I had with my boyfriend. He brought up Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens as another example of movie franchise heroine/target of a certain demographic’s ire. That led to this exchange:
Me: Yeah, Star Wars was great. I knew it was going to be great. I expected it to be great. I even expected Rey to be a Jedi all along. But I liked Ghostbusters better.
Me: Yeah. I just wanted to see a fun summer action flick and stick it to angry meninists. I didn’t expect the oooooh, wow moment. I expected that from Star Wars. I had high expectations for that movie and it met them. I had decent expectations for this movie and it exceeded them.
James: That totally makes sense.
My new fangirl obsession with Dr. Jillian Holtzman isn’t the only thing that I love about this movie. I loved that it took tropes that I was used to re: female representation in pop culture and subverted the hell out of them.
I expected Kristen Wiig’s Dr. Erin Gilbert to be my favorite character because she was set up to be the smart (but uptight) one and I usually gravitate towards that character in all female casts. Sailor Mercury was my favorite scout, Blossom was my favorite Powerpuff Girl, Jeanette was my favorite Chipette, Piper was my favorite Charmed One, etc.
But here’s the thing: there is no smart one. Three of the four protagonists have Ph.D.’s and the fourth possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of New York City. Since all these women are brilliant, there has to be more to their personalities than just slapping a pair of glasses on them and telling but not showing that they have brains. I got my choice of smart female characters. I identified with Erin’s ambition, Abby’s heart, Patty’s ability to absorb and apply supposedly trivial knowledge, and Holtzman’s embrace of her quirkiness. (And not that cutesy and twee Manic Pixie Dream Girl quirkiness, either.)
Chris Hemsworth’s gorgeous and delightfully dimwitted secretary Kevin made me uncomfortable sometimes with just how objectified his character was. He’s the token male and I’ve got so used to the token female being put in that same position of dumb eye candy that I’ve learned to ignore it. There is no ignoring Kevin’s buffoonery. It may come off as over the top, but I think it’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. You’re supposed to feel like creating a character like this is wrong because they just can’t be real.
As for the other major male character, Rowan, the socially inept antagonist that decides to destroy New York because he doesn’t get the respect he feels he’s entitled to? He’s a huge fuck you to the haters and I loved it. Any woman who engages in geek culture knows that guy. His entitlement is so real that it makes him genuinely scary.
This movie needs to make all the moneys so that Hollywood keeps making movies like this. Go see it in IMAX 3D: it’s actually worth it. (And not just because it will make the box office profits even higher.) I normally get nauseous in 3D movies but the effects are well done in this movie. I definitely jumped in my seat a few times, but they didn’t abuse the jump scares, either.
I’m the drooling aunt to two adorable six-month-old twin girls and I don’t want them to grow up to be Tia Liz, hurrying home to blog about finally seeing a hero in a movie that looks at feels like them. They’ll have Rey. They’ll have the Ghostbusters.
That’s not enough. Maybe they don’t want to be a space knight or a science hero. Give us more heroines. More choices. More stories. Not more of the same.