To be honest, I don’t think I can write about this year’s Ghostbusters reboot with any objectivity. But let’s just admit up front that objectivity in media reviews isn’t even a thing that exists, despite what Gamergate seems to think. You would think they would understand, since what I will generously call The MRA Community flooded the internet with negative reviews before the movie even opened.
They hated it for daring to have an all-woman cast—actress Melissa McCarthy and SNL cast members Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. They hated that these women showed up in publicity photos not in clothes that came from bags labeled “Sexy Ghost Hunter” from a Halloween store but in frumpy jumpsuits. They hated that they were expected to relate to these new Ghostbusters not as sexy lamps but as people.
They hated it because it wasn’tfor them.
And that’s why I loved it so much that objectivity isn’t even on the table.
Not because it made horrible men angry, though that’s always a nice bonus. That’s also a good litmus test, because when you see the darkest corners of Reddit worked up over a movie like that, it’s most likely going to have some excellent portrayals of women in an otherwise male-dominated genre.
And Ghostbusters really does.
Director Paul Feig proved that he knew how to treat female characters in comedy with 2011’s Bridesmaids, which also starred Wiig and McCarthy. If anything, his involvement guaranteed the idea of an all-woman Ghostbusters team would be handled with no cleavage shots or fat jokes.
But as a queer woman who was once a little girl who loved Ghostbusters (especially the Real Ghostbusters cartoon) and who still loves sci-fi/fantasy, the new take on the team is not just acceptable, it’s incredible. It’s a movie about four women, some of whom start out as friends, some of whom have strained friendships in need of mending, and some of whom become new friends. None of the familiar old tropes are in play. When they hire a secretary named Kevin who’s as dumb as he is sexy (played by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth), they don’t fight over him. No one has a love interest (despite Wiig’s character Erin’s puppy-dog infatuation with Kevin). These women are here to bust ghosts.
Of special note is McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann, the team’s engineer, who’s as queer as the Short North during Pride. Though Sony’s basically said “no comment” on her sexuality, McKinnon herself is SNL’s first openly gay cast member, and as Holtzmann she unashamedly flirts with her fellow Ghostbusters in ways that have nothing to do with the male gaze. She’s the sort of character I would have loved to see growing up: quirky, queer and carrying a portable nuclear arsenal.
Of course, no movie can be perfect, and while the Ghostbusters themselves are, Feig’s lack of experience directing big-budget effects movies sometimes hurts the pacing and feeling of scale. The climax as written is good, but it doesn’t feel as big as it should.
But with Sony already greenlighting a sequel, maybe he’ll have a better feel for epic by the next one. And hopefully it’ll be better than the first Ghostbusters II.