Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY CHARLOTTE BOND
Why all the girls (and boys) should be Ghost Girls now
We’ve all seen that meme “Ghostbusters (2016) isn’t for this guy; Ghostbusters (2016) is for this awesome little lady.” While I appreciate the sentiment and believe that young girls need more positive female heroes at the movies, I did take some exception to that meme. Are they trying to say that, as a woman, there is nothing in the original film for me? Haven’t they seen Sigourney Weaver’s brilliant performance as a foil to Bill Murray? She’s clearly the smarter, more competent character.
But I admit the point is a valid one: there are a lot of films about men saving the day, less about women doing so. But I worried whether a Ghostbusters reboot was the best way to address this imbalance. After all, the whole point of the original was that the men were generally incompetent individuals who happened to have one special skill each which, when they formed into a team and combined their skills, made them unstoppable. I had a horrible feeling that the new film would go along the lines of super-intelligent kick-ass women saving the day. I’m not saying that wouldn’t be a good film – it just wouldn’t be Ghostbusters.
I was delighted to find that my worries had been unfounded; the reboot got virtually everything spot-on. But I was still bugged by this idea that the original Ghostbusters was aimed at men and the new one is aimed at women. After all, I love the original – why can’t guys like the new one too? So, with the DVD released yesterday, I’m here to show how both sexes can fall in love with this new film.
First off, please be assured that this is not a film which vaunts how brilliant women are. The director and writers managed to capture the incompetency of the original characters in a whole new gender. So guys – if you’re expecting to be lectured on the brilliance of women, you can rest easy; and girls – this is not your ordinary female empowerment film churned out by Hollywood. This film has characters as unlikeable and yet impossibly endearing as the original. Each of the female characters is flawed, making them virtual failures alone, but combined they are a force to be reckoned with, and a hilarious one at that.
I was amused to see that the controversy surrounding the #distractinglysexy hashtag was given a nod in the way Wiig’s character is treated by her fellow academics before she’s thrown out. The baggy, practical and authentic to the original boiler-suits they go on to wear is another slap in the face for the negative influences fashion has on women. This isn’t a film like Jurassic World, where the girl does all the stuff the guy does but in a power suit and high heels.
I did feel that, certainly at the beginning, the antagonism between the women bordered on bitchy rather than amusingly scathing as it had in the original, but this wasn’t something that dominated the film. I also felt a bit uncomfortable with the anatomical jokes delivered by the characters at various points, such as “That stuff went everywhere, in every crack” and (following what sounded like breaking wind) “Would it be gross if I told you that came from the front?” Whilst that jarred with me, I admit I don’t really find that kind of thing funny when it’s coming from men either, so I wouldn’t class it as a flaw in the film, just something not to my taste. In fact, for some people it could be a draw. After all, plenty of people enjoyed the “American Pie” series of films, which had plenty of crude, male jokes in them – surely it time the girls took their turn? Girls – if you liked that comedy in “American Pie”, you’ll be doubling over with the honest, crude jokes in the reboot; and guys – how about watching the women being the butt of the crude jokes for a change, rather the ones that look on and shake their heads with a wry smile?
While the girls were brilliant and refreshingly un-stereotyped, I found the weakest link to be the main male character, Kevin, played by Chris Hemsworth. Personally, I found his character quite irritating, but when I reflected on it, I realised that he couldn’t be drawn any other way. Hemsworth’s character is the love interest, proving the reverse of the Sigourney Weaver/Bill Murray relationship in the original; Weaver had been the smart one, Murray the sleazy, persistent one. However, if they’d tried to replicate that exactly in the new film – with a male love interest that was clearly more competent and intelligent than his female counterpart – then that would have destroyed the whole movie and we’d be back to the male rescuing the female in some way. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have a good movie where the man is the calming influence on the ditzy heroine; I’m just saying that we have plenty of those already.
So if you couldn’t make him smarter, you had to make him dumber. He is the male equivalent of the blonde bombshell female secretary, and Hemsworth plays it brilliantly. In fact, it seems that he’s having a great time doing it, and why not? I can imagine the casting call now:
Chris: “So, I’m going to be the love interest. Great. Do I save her at the end?”
Casting: “No. She saves you.”
Chris: “Oh. Okay. But I help her discover herself, right?”
Chris: “Do I have my own subplot?”
Chris: “So, I don’t have any function apart from just to be on screen and look pretty?”
Casting: “You got it.”
Chris: “Wow. I can’t think of any male protagonist roles like that. Can I get a sexy dancing number at the end too?”
And if you, like me, you feel a little weird watching this strange role-reversal, just think to yourself: “That’s Thor. As a secretary.” It’s a mental image that really brings out the humour of the role.
For those (boys or girls) who loved the original Ghostbusters, there are plenty of little nods to it in this film, ranging from cameos by most of the original cast, to part of the opening sequence focussing on a fridge for no apparent reason. Yet even though the plotline closely followed that of the original, the reboot’s story still unfolded naturally; it didn’t feel as if it had been forced into a predetermined story arc. A good example of this is how they finally settle on their iconic logo, but no spoilers!
I felt the reboot was more horror-focussed than the original, but that might merely be the influence of the popularity of horror these days and better advances in special effects. I found the opening sequence of the reboot genuinely frightening; but then, the opening scenes of the original in the library aren’t that short of scares either. But I felt the reboot scored better marks for atmosphere. The music was used to great effect as well, only bringing in the original theme when it had maximum impact for the film. And for me, Holtzmann’s little solo fight scene at the end was made extra special by the orchestration accompanying her moves. Dear Hollywood – I’d like more of that please.
So for those of you who didn’t think it was worth the cost of going to the cinema to see it, grab a copy now it’s out on DVD. Even if you come away feeling that the original was the superior film, there is a lot to take away from the reboot, much of it not what you would expect from a female dominated Hollywood film. Personally, I’m looking forward to more of the same, especially given the final, wonderfully understated scene at the end of the credits…