Wavelength Blog: Busting gender norms with Ghost Busters

Wavelength Blog: Busting gender norms with Ghost Busters


The new Ghostbusters will feature an all female cast including Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Although some people are excited about the change, others have expressed outrage. (Photo courtesy of Lizandro Junior via flickr creative commons)

Last week, Hollywood director Paul Feig sent a tweet to the public about all-female cast in the new Ghostbusters film which is set to release summer 2016. Feig announced that instead of a “Ghostbusters 3,” he will recast the 80s film that starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Let me start off and say that I typically don’t stay up to date with new film releases or Hollywood debacles, but the negative backlash on social media following Paul Feig’s release of the new Ghostbusters cast caught my attention.

I’ve included a shortlist of some the “winning” tweets I dug up  for your reading pleasure:

“Lazy Hollywood film making ‘let’s make a ghostbusters remake but with women!” Only soccer moms and feminist bimbos will watch that trash.”

“New Ghostbusters cast being all female is just Hollywood pandering”

“Mark my words, the Ghostbusters reboot will be both pandering to feminazi’s and completely unfunny to anyone not already a Michael Bay fan.”

“I hear the new ghostbusters movie won’t have proton packs, the women will just bitch at the ghosts until they f*** off.”

“Ain’t a all female cast in Ghostbusters 3 a Lil sexist? The movies gonnae be a flop anyway so maybe it will teach Hollywood a lesson…”

@SonyPictures you are idiots Sony. This @paulfeig feminist movie a horrible idea. You will tarnish #Ghostbusters. We fans will not see it.”

Fun fact: Donald Trump graced us with his two-cents in an Instagram video. Trump said, “They’re remaking Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford. You can’t do that. And now they’re making Ghostbusters with only women. What’s going on?”

These Twitter users  (and Mr. Trump) have a few things in common: they are mostly white male fans of the original Ghostbusters who lack proper syntax. But hey – this is an online platform for public opinion, not English class, so let’s get back to the point.

What I’ve learned from the array of posts is that: women aren’t capable of carrying equipment (let alone doing science), women aren’t funny, an all-female cast will ruin childhood memories of Ghostbusters, casting four women in the place of men is pandering to “feminazis” and the public, casting four women is “a Lil” sexist, and the new cast will cause the movie to flop. Let’s take a moment for that to sink in…

Misogynistic cries and woes from male critics take away from how talented the cast is. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon all have backgrounds in comedy and a strong connection to Saturday Night Live, just like the original cast of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. Plus, Paul Feig directed the film Bridesmaids (which featured Wiig and McCarthy), which proves that the claim that “women are unfunny” is completely bogus.

I didn’t hear nearly the equivalent negativity when Tim Burton released a remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or when a modern version of The Great Gatsby came out. Even after the author of the book Ender’s Game made countless homophobic remarks to the public, people still went to see the film. Yes, there was negative criticism, but why more for the new Ghostbusters cast?

Only 4.4 percent of the top 100 box-office domestic releases between 2002 and 2012 were directed by women. In 2012, only 28.4 percent of all on-screen speaking characters in the top 100 were women.¹

Last year, women comprised 17 percent of individuals working as directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers on the top 250 grossing films in the United States. In 2014, there were fewer female-directed films than in 1998.²

If you think women in movies don’t have much of a voice, you’re right. In fact, if you want another look at the polarized male vs. female representation in film, check out the Bechdel Test.

Bechdel? Sound familiar? Some of you may recall the budget cuts that resulted from the College Reads selection Fun Home on our campus last year. The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985.³ For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing – a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine. Of the 5757 movies in the database, 57.5 percent pass all three tests, 10.3 percent pass two tests, 21.9 percent pass one test and 10.4 percent pass no tests at all. Many critically acclaimed films pass the test, but who’s counting? Passing or failing the Bechdel Test doesn’t necessarily deem a film good or bad, it just gets people thinking about how gender is portrayed on a historically male-dominated playing ground.

You may be thinking, “Is this another angry ‘feminazi’ complaining about women’s rights? Women in America have it good, right, so why are you complaining about something so trivial?” The backlash from male critics shows that our society still needs feminism – not just for women, but men too. The media largely shapes public opinion on gender and gender roles in its projections of American culture, so why do it injustice by excluding women and misrepresenting them?

I’ve been following developments in public opinion about the new Ghostbusters cast, because both the public’s excitement and outrage tells us something about our society. Mainly, it shows that while many see the reboot as a progressive step forward for Hollywood, others are calling on Hollywood directors to put women back in their respective place on the big screen.

In my opinion, the new cast is a breath of fresh air for Hollywood. Weig’s leading cast is a departure from the male-dominated status-quo of the film business. Unlike Charlie’s Angels, this cast is diverse and three out of four of the female leads are over the age of 40. Unless we challenge this male-dominated business, women will continue to be left out of the picture (literally).

While I tend to groan and sigh at the idea of most sequels and reboots, I have high hopes for the revamp of the Ghostbusters classic. Change and cultural shifts are necessary and inevitable, so if that’s not your thing, I’d advise simply not going.

The film will premiere in theaters on July 22, 2016.

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Wavelength is a weekly column that explores social issues, movements, and trending topics through a social justice lens


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Authored by: Kelsey DePorte

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Adrian at 5:13 pm

    All of these Twitter asshats clearly didn’t ask Bill Murray what he thought about the idea. He was on record months before the cast was hired as supporting it (original director Ivan Reitman also said that whenever they talked about a third movie, they always envisioned it to have a bigger female presence), and even outlined his dream cast. Not surprisingly, half of his dream cast was hired.
    These people’s beef is with Bill Murray and Ivan Reitman, not the new cast or Paul Feig.

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