Boys vs Girls
Who doesn’t love Ghostbusters? No. I’m serious because if you don’t, get off my blog! I love Ghostbusters both the original and the new. I will be comparing the two and if at any point it sounds as if I prefer one over the other or that I dislike one for any reason, I apologize. That is not my intent.
As a female, I am going to address the elephant in the room: gender and the attitudes towards it in both films. We’ll start with the 1984 original. When I was a kid all of nine years old when this film opened in theaters, I thought nothing of the all-male heroes. For me, that was a norm. When they announced a reboot with an all-female group, I was excited because I remember the feeling I had walking out of the theater as a kid and feeling like I could be a hero too. I was excited for little girls who would get to see women being the hero and not have to just imagine it. The thing is, it was not hard for me to imagine even with the male cast because I never felt that movie came off sexist or misogynistic in anyway.
This semester, when I watched it with a critical eye, looking specifically for sexism, I still could not find it. Yes, Dr. Venkman was kind of a sleaze ball, womanizer, but that was his character and in no way did that represent the general feel of the film. In fact, most of the buffoonery, questionable professionalism and general ignorance was seen in the male characters. The two main female characters in the film, Dana Barrett and Janine Melnitz were independent, self-assured, take-no-shit women. Even the final “bad guy” Gozer, who could, according to Egon, be whatever it wants to be, chose to be the form of a woman. And she was a real bad ass. If there is any complaint to the film’s treatment of non-white male characters, it would be Winston Zeddemore. He became a ghostbuster only because he needed a job and they were swamped. He turned on them as soon as they ended up in prison and never played much of a role in the end either. He is a character that leaves you asking what exactly was his point to the plot.
In contrast, we have the 2016 female-led cast which brings with it more scares, a different kind of humor and an agenda. From the very start, Erin Gilbert is critiqued on her clothes, told her references from Princeton are not prestigious enough. She is frantic to hide a scientific book she co-authored because it might be regarded as silly. Men in the movie make comments like “she shoots like a girl” or “women…always late”. The mayor wants to use their talents and skills to save the city but never gives them credit for their work. He calls them crazy to the press, has them publicly arrested while continuing to utilize them. These are more “unspoken” parodies of common sexism that women face in daily life. And then there’s Kevin, the quintessential hot but dumb receptionist who happens to be male. The girls interview him asking inappropriate questions—questions many of us have endured even if it is inappropriate. Kevin is the more obvious and humorous example of the movie’s message on sexism by turning the tables on common roles in the workplace and exaggerating (but surprisingly not by much) the inappropriate interactions that can and do occur.
The women ghostbusters actually tested their tools, they made more than just a trapping device, and they fought more and harder. The girls took on scarier and more menacing ghosts more frequently. Collectively, they came off smarter than their male counterparts—except for when Erin made a mistake by releasing the demon when trying yet again to prove herself as legit to a man that she held in high regard (played by Bill Murray). Patty was an important member to the group and she brought a lot to the plot. She was street-smart, sassy, and hard working. She wanted to be a part of their team and she cared about the job. The women didn’t care about color (except for Garfield hair color) and the film-makers cared enough to make Patty essential to the plot.
Venkman became most serious about his job when a would-be girlfriend was affected, all four female ghostbusters took their jobs seriously and even risked their lives to save each other. Bottom line, while 1984 Ghostbusters is a straight up great movie filmed with the intent to entertain, the 2016 Ghostbusters is a great movie too, but those women came in with a message and I heard it loud and clear.