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My Problem With Ghostbusters and the All-Female Reboot

“It’s like a dude movie, you guys….but with girls!”

08.18.16
GhostBusters Movie Man Repeller Carousel

When Deadline Hollywood broke the news last week that Warner Bros was working on the next Ocean’s Eleven movie, but this time the entire principal cast would be female, I understood that, as with the recent all-female Ghostbusters reboot, I was meant to be excited. I was fairly confident the people at Warner Bros (and the director named Gary and the producer named Steven) hoped us womenfolk would feel empowered by the idea that they believed A-list vaginas could break into vaults just as stealthily as A-list penises. Because that’d be amazing PR — ahem, I mean — amazing for feminism.

Instead I felt pandered to. Like Hollywood execs just gave me a noogie on the scalp and said, “Look at you, girl! The big leagues!”

I’m not livid (look at these lowercase letters!) and I’m not calling it a step backward, necessarily, but it doesn’t feel like leap forward, either. Results currently inconclusive on whether it’s a dainty step or a ladylike heel click. I do know one thing: a lot of men are going to make a lot of money and sleep like koala babies wrapped in blankets of synthetic altruism. Meanwhile, after my eyeballs scrape the back of my skull, I’ll try to get to sleep by counting our eight Ocean’s lady-stars like sheep while I try to find the humor in the fact that anyone who understands counting knows we should have gotten 13.

The casts (or rumored casts) of both remakes, by the way, are undeniably phenomenal. My low-humming noogie resentment has nothing to do with them or even the movies themselves. I’m frustrated by the subtext communicated by their making: that female ensemble movies are too financially risky without the security of a previously tested all-male one.

Maybe that’s unfair; I don’t want to dole out righteous indignation for the sake of it. Maybe there is a large subset of the population dying to see male-driven movies remade with women. Maybe Hollywood is just continuing to reboot and sequence the shit out of everything in lieu of original scripts and, occasionally, during the casting process, gender is being progressively disregarded the way race was when Noma Dumezweni’s was casted as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or the founder fathers were in Hamilton.

But those felt different. They weren’t remakes with a new representation angle unilaterally applied and marketed, a gimmick that’s hard for me to swallow regardless of the group swapped in. I can’t shake the feeling that these reboots are sloppy seconds, plain and simple. That the driving force behind them is patronizing and rooted in money while parading as feminist liberation.

Let’s write new stories.

Feature photographs by Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures. 

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  • Haley, I can’t agree more. To be honest, I didn’t even like the new Ghostbusters movie. It felt really forced, which is probably because it’s capitalism trying to mask itself as feminism. And the female characters in the movie we pretty cliche as well. With one of the smartest women in the group turning into a complete moron over a guy. Though I will say that Chris Hemsworth’s character was actually the funniest in the movie…so not sure what that says about anything.

  • Lyndsay

    ‘Let’s write new stories’ is basically my battle cry re: ‘feminist’ remakes where the men folk are subbed out for ladies. It’s like, Ghostbusters (1984) is an awesome movie, which had all male stars – a product of its time and its stars being cast together in SNL, where it was conceived. It’s frankly unimaginative, IMO, to simply rehash the winning formula of the Ghostbusters story with women instead of men – and done primarily, as you say, to make $$$.

  • Morgan Heuer

    In favor of Man Repeller writing and producing a movie

    • Sam

      I would back the hell out of this.

  • Molly D

    As 50% of the population, it blows that we are still such a novelty in film/(life). As a woman, movies like this don’t make me feel more included. They make me feel like I was invited to a party I should already be at.

    • Anna Diane

      totally in for that!

    • Totally agree!

  • Abigail Newhouse

    There are all female casts out in the world somewhere, but it’s usually chick flicks or some story where the women are coming out of a role (like Bad Moms–granted, I never saw that, but as far as I can tell it’s about moms doing something other than being moms?) What I’m saying is, YES to new stories. No need to be afraid of people not watching. They will if the story is good enough. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the starring genders.

  • Emily

    I hear ya, but at the same time, I’m willing to accept any number of pandering, corporate cash ins if it means a generation of girls will grow up watching movies where women doing things (instead of supporting male characters) is the norm and there are female action figures with realistic proportions instead of Barbie’s physiologically impossible measurements.

    • Emily

      I mean look at those lil girls’ faces

      • Kelly

        This picture makes me so happy.

    • Haley Nahman

      Agreed! I’d choose this gimmick over none, of course. (But I also don’t think we should have to choose that.)

  • Ashley

    Ugh there are so many new stories out there and ready to be made but the big guys are such scardy cats about creating something that hasn’t already been constructed and reinforced by a bunch of dudes. Nobody wants a female James Bond we need a whole new franchise created and driven by a badass chick.

  • Harling Ross

    “A-list vaginas could break into vaults just as stealthily as A-list penises” is an A-list sentence

  • Anna Diane

    A-list vagina up here!
    sorry ^^*

  • i agree my comrade

  • Something about this “all female reboot” craze seems off. I am all for women and of course these are phenomenal cast lists, but it seems like too much. If it really were about equality and normalcy then there wouldn’t be such an emphasis on an “all female cast”.

  • Bridget

    I also roll my eyes at these gimmicks, but Ghostbusters in particular seemed less like a remake and more like a reclamation. Have you seen the original 80s one as well as the new one? After watching the 2016 version (Kate McKinnon <3) and reading a feminist critique of the 80s one (lol), I was curious to compare the Ghostbusters. And…. the 80s original was horribly sexist, not to mention completely unfunny. I couldn't even get through half of it. Whether or not the Hollywood men who profited off the remake realized it, this awesome cast of women took garbage material and transformed it for a new generation.

    • Haley Nahman

      Great point!

  • Alice Pawley

    Amen to this!

  • Hannah

    Yes.

  • Senka

    To me, all female cast would be relevant if the movie wasn’t already done with the all male cast.
    There are movies like “If these walls could talk” or “The Hours”. Womans movies, yet not a chick flicks. It shows the struggle, the complexity of the female being and our already pretty difficult life choices. To me those are the more feminist movies. Being action figures doesnt make us benefit, because, let’s face it, majority of us isn’t. But most are working and struggling to succede, fighting for better health care and right to chose what to do with their bodies. Most are either mothers or caretakers in some way. Most try to make the best of what they are given. Being accepted as women that we are is the goal. No point in recreating previously male cast movies, but creating movies that show us as we are. Which might gradually and slowly (I’m sure) convince both men, and ourselves that it’s perfectly ok to be the way we are.

  • Basil

    In general Hollywood needs cowrite some new stuff. I went to the cinema last winter some time, and all the trailers were for reboots of ld ideas like Bond, Jurassic Park, Star Wars. I think they’re really working the whole “women versions!” because it can look like they’re addressing under representation without actually having to. I did really enjoy the new Ghostbusters, and Jurassic World though for JW in the interest if equality Chris Pratt’s clothes should have ended up all torn, not Bryce whatserface’s

    • Haley Nahman

      That made me nuts re: Jurassic World!

  • I agree.
    Yet I believe that if we don’t “fight” nothing will change…
    and what bout Bridesmaid ? this was an original, and a blockbuster I believe

    • Bridesmaid was definitely an original and not a reboot, though I have to admit it felt very similar to the Hangover (more so did Bachelorette with Kirsten Dunst). If you look at the people involved though, both films were directed by men (the same man, actually). I think we’re doing much better, but I think even those characters are always falling into the same stereotypes. Like, “fat lady is funny” or “black lady is loud” sort of thing.

      • This is true. Yet these kind of comedies are all about stereotypes anyways aren’t they ?
        The fat guy is the funny one in the hangover as well.

        • Very true! But I would say that that’s bad too. I mean, it basically keeps pigeon-holing everyone into stereotypical roles. I’m sure in many ways everyone suffers. Some more than others.

  • Eva Skewes

    I also want more original movies, preferably with lots of ladies, but film in general – especially ‘tentpole’ movies – have all become franchise driven. If Hollywood wants to remake a bunch of classics B-films, I’m not going to complain if they’re going to fill a handful of those films with women. I want women to headline action movies, rom-coms, wacky comedies, serious dramas, obscure indies, and everything in the middle. I want them to be anti-heroines, kick-ass, broken-down, deadpan hilarious, obnoxious, etc. I don’t just want roles for women described as “woman, sexist-description” and I think movies like these are a small but essential step in the right direction.

    We live in a world where people see a movie with 33% women and think that the women are overwhelming the men because they’re used to seeing 17%. That’s insane!

    Also the hate that the Ghostbusters reboot got – simply for having all women – was nauseatingly horrific and I don’t think SONY had an easy time making it happen. I also don’t think it would have happened without Amy Pascal as head of SONY (at the time of greenlight). Just like I don’t think the new Star Wars movies would have been headlined by ladies if Kathleen Kennedy (and her half female/half male executive team) wasn’t in charge of Lucasfilm. I’ve seen enough movies where all the male demographics are pandered to, so frankly I’m perfectly happy to be marketed to for a change.

    As for Ocean’s Eight not having as many people as the dudes, I like to think it will allow each character to have more to do without devolving into stereotypes.

    • Haley Nahman

      Totally get your point! And I agree. I think the full male to female cast switch feels gimmicky, though. So if we have to do remakes, as you said, I’d almost rather they do mixed casts where they played with race, gender, sexuality etc. And used old characters as an interesting opportunity to rewrite them as more complex. That would be so much more interesting to me!

  • PCE

    Totally agree with all of this, and frankly – we need NEW stories in general. I’m so sick of the lack of originality in film (and I dislike change, so original movies are important to me).

    • Haley Nahman

      I agree! Remakes make me crazy.

  • helicopter

    People should stop politicizing everything, specially in fictional movies which are intended for make belief entertainment.

    Lets enjoy the movies for its stories, aesthetics, artistic values and stop counting how many males, females, transgenders, gays, etc actors they have or how they aces the Bechdel Test and all those bs.

    • Haley Nahman

      I wish it were as easy as enjoying it. But representation in movies matters and has far-reaching social impacts.

      • helicopter

        The problem with their “representation” method is that they are trying to brute force their way in to the public notice.

        Instead of actually proving themselves by delivering a product with high artistic value they went full blown antagonistic and tyrannical by imposing various forms of one sided political standards that everyone should observed else they are hateful, backward, unprogressive bigots.

        It was already proven many times that movie giers are indifferent of sex, gender, race, religion, etc… what they want in their movies is quality entertainment not some preachy, virtue signalling, social justice agenda.

      • snakehissken

        I creeped that person’s history and it looks like they go around the internet complaining on Ghostbusters articles. And that’s a big problem – we can’t talk about wanting new stories without feeling like we’ve aligned ourselves with people who act like it’s stupid to want movies starring actors of a wide variety of identities.

        I want to see a variety of people on screen. I just don’t want them all to be in remakes written by white men of stories that were originally written by white men.

  • As an actress and producer I really appreciate this article because this is a daily conversation among my colleagues but I have always wonder about how it affects the world outside of my career. The consumer. I am happy to hear this is something that is on the minds and hearts of everyone not just the woman working in this industry and dealing with this on a daily basis. Thanks for writing this Leandra! I hope to prove that new stories with woman leading are important, necessary, and consumer worthy for men and women. -Javana Mundy http://www.javanamundy.com

  • PaulUk

    The problem with the Ghostbusters reboot is that it forgot that its main fanbase are kids and mainly young boys, who would prefer to see at least some guys in the mix.Sorry to say but an all female ghostbusters made by a studio trying to appeal to feminists and completely alienating the true fanbase is insanity and suicidal when you’re looking to make a profitable movie.
    Woman seem to forget they already have some amazing leads in some of the biggest franchises out there – think Ripley in Aliens and Sarah Connor in the terminator movies. Oh, and those same geeks you all called sexist for not accepting GB 2016 love those characters and movies. The fact is GB simply was badly done.