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The Big Debate: Was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot a good idea?

The Big Debate: Was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot a good idea? Who ya gonna call...? [IMAGE: Sony Pictures Entertainment]

It may only be March but there’s no doubt 2016’s most polarising film is the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters. The controversial decision to switch the much-loved leads with women has provoked both cheer and praise plus outrage and derision. We’ve only had the trailer to go on, but judging the responses, they’re as pretty as, well Slimer. But was the lady-reboot a good idea? Here, two writers present their cases. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Why the all-female Ghostbusters reboot was a good idea – by Lucy Bishop

The level of criticism directed at the new Ghostbusters is surely unfounded; the film is the latest in a string of hits from director Paul Feig, who has worked on a number of successful comedies in the past, including Bridesmaids (2011), The Heat (2013) and Spy (2016), all of which have performed well at the box office. The film also stars a number of hilarious comedy big hitters. Melissa McCarthy and Kirstin Wiig have starred in several hit comedy shows and box office hits over the past few years, while Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon have seen their careers go from strength-to-strength following regular spots on US show Saturday Night Live (SNL).

The decision to cast an all-female Ghostbuster crew is a striking and refreshing departure from the original 80s movie, and one that will hopefully breathe new life into an old and much loved film franchise. Instead of opting to make yet another macho superhero movie (Thor/Superman Vs Batman/Captain America,) in which women are usually cast in supporting roles, Feig has chosen to entirely reboot the franchise and introduced to us four new strong female characters who don’t need supporting and are quite capable of taking care of themselves.

Two of these characters are scientists (Wiig and McKinnon), one is a published author (McCarthy) and another an NYC subway worker (Jones). Though the decision to cast black comedian Leslie Jones as a ‘lowly’ subway worker (in contrast to the more successful careers of the other three white Ghostbusters) has been a point of contention among critics, Jones herself has been quick to respond to such criticism, maintaining that her character should be lauded for showing that regular people can be heroes too.

The casting of four women instead of four men in the film is also particularly poignant given the ongoing concerns relating to diversity or lack thereof within Hollywood, which is still reeling from the recent Oscars furore. Four of the female actors are over 40, one is a black woman. This film should be praised rather than criticised for making headway where other films have failed. In fact, maybe there should be more films like this, films that give an opportunity to celebrate funny women whatever their shape or size. Maybe we should let the film – when its released in June – speak for itself, and, if possible avoid getting sidetracked by the unwarranted and so far unjustified level of criticism that this film has attracted so far.



Why the all-female Ghostbusters reboot was a bad idea – by Paul Klein

Brb just going to gouge my eyes out with a spork.

For every dislike, McCarthy will gain a pound of lard and disgrace.

Can someone create a petition to ban this movie?

I came for the Ghostbusters trailer, and left with AIDS

Wow, I can’t wait to not see this movie.

Just a sample of some of the condemning YouTube comments left on the trailer for the all-female Ghostbusters reboot. They’re only the tip of the iceberg of the film’s backlash. It could be simply people don’t like the idea of drastically reworking something that means something to them, or it could be sexism, but the problem with Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters actually goes much deeper than that.

For years the idea of a third Ghostbusters film has been bandied around with the original cast coming back for an oldies-but-goldies adventure, but since the late Harold Ramis’ passing that seemed to not be the case. Enter Paul Feig director of Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy. The connecting link? Melissa McCarthy, along with Saturday Night Live alumni Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. SNL has been the launch-pad for many stars and including Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, and yet just watch the trailer and there is one monster-sized hole in the film: there aren’t any jokes. 

Or rather, there aren’t any jokes that are funny. Highlights of the trailer include a reprise of the slime gag with Wiig’s punchline “that went everywhere… in every crack”, Leslie Jones informing us that she can get a car from her uncle – it’s a hearse. Melissa McCarthy touches something, it zaps her, she says ouch, Chris Hemsworth is hot, Kristen Wiig pull a door that needs to be pushed, and Kate McKinnon makes Wiig jump by posing as a mannequin (“the hat is too much, right? Is it the wig or the hat”).

Worse than that, is not only the painful pandering to the feminist, pro-equality PC movement by shoehorning in the all-female lead cast but the cringeingly awful racial stereotypes (no) thanks to the shoehorning in of a token black woman whose main skills are street smarts, speaking sass and shouting for comic effect. Back in the 1980s when Eddie Murphy made his career playing that role it just about worked, thirty years on and the cliche of the no-nonsense urban person no longer has any sway.

The biggest gag in the trailer concerns McCarthy being possessed by the iconic Slimer and attempting to throw McKinnon out the window, only for Jones to slap McCarthy across the face, screaming “Oh no, the Devil is alive? Get out of my friend, ghost” *slap* “The power of pain compels you!” *another slap*. It’s not the physical assault on McCarthy that is offensive, nor the fact that Jones clearly sees the ghost leave McCarthy’s body before she goes in for the second it’s that what could have been an interesting concept falls back on tired jokes about a street smart black woman being sassy, jumping to violence and using Catholicism as a get out of jail free card.

The racial implications of Jones’ character are made worse by the fact that the three professional busters are all clueless fools, despite being, you know, highly educated scientists. Wiig’s character can’t open a door she’s used for how many years? Wiig and McCarthy’s outdated “let’s go” at the same time gag, even though Wiig clearly started saying it first, McCarthy just touching random things in a lab that could hurt her, and McKinnon’s hippie looking scientist licking her gun, wearing big goggles, dressing in silly hats. Just because they’re female scientists doesn’t mean they have to fall back on also being clueless nerds.

All of this would have been fine if it was an original concept, an original film but like the previous three Paul Feig ventures they’re simply lazy, lady-versions of pre-existing ideas (Bridesmaids was clearly The Hangover, The Heat was Lethal Weapon, Spy was Austin Powers, or Johnny English), here there is an actual pre-existing story that was by no means finished or complete. Who are Jillian Holtzmann, Abby Yates, Erin Gilbert and Patty Tolan, but more importantly why aren’t they Peter Venkman, Raymond Stanz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddmore?

So what could have been a return to a long dormant franchise is more an easy cash-in, but one that also manages to offend just about everyone, gone is every-man Winston played so well by Ernie Hudson, but here is a crazy, shouty black woman. Gone are three different but smart scientists in over their head but managing, but here are three scientists who lack common sense, clear defined personalities and any charm. Gone are the iconic lines “we came, we saw, we kicked their ass” or “yes, this man has no dick”, but here is just enough variations on the iconic theme tune to remind you why it was so popular.

To return to YouTube, and that much criticised trailer, the point of contention is simple. The original Ghostbusters was a film that appealed to boys, girls and adults of all ages, people who reintroduced it to their kids and people over and over, a staple of television at Halloween, both scary and funny. But the reaction to this return is summed up in the user rating. The up-rating is a meagre 191,900 verses the mighty 448,470 down-rating. Will it make money? Maybe. Will it live as long as the original did? No.



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