Months ago there was an uproar on the internet as the nerd community started to lose its shit over the fact they were going to do an all female cast for the next Ghostbusters film. Frankly, it was embarrassing for all of us as we watched parts of our community lose their god damn minds. But, after a while, it started to subside and people returned to sanity where they just stopped giving a shit about what gender their Ghostbusters were. Unfortunately that peace was short lived and this picture came out to light a brand new fire under the ass of assholes.
About now some people are going to roll their eyes and assume that I have some sort of gender politics bullshit reason for seeing these people as assholes. But a lot of these people are failing to recognize the fundamental flaws in the very basic structure of their argument. Not only is casting it as a female group not going to ruin the franchise, it’s probably the only way this franchise was ever going to get off the ground again. A lot of people are crying and saying this is ruining their childhood and destroying the legacy of “Ghostbusters”. But you know what actually “ruined” Ghostbusters?
Yeah, that thing. And I’m going to be honest with you, Ghostbusters II shows us exactly why the cast has to be female.
A Ghost Of A Chance
So as I put on my hardhat and prepare for the flames, let’s establish a couple things. First, I do have some reservations about this production and always have – but none of them have to do with the gender of the cast. Second, I’m pretty sure that anyone who thinks this is ruining their childhood doesn’t recognize that they’re not still in it. And third, nobody wanted a third Ghostbusters movie except Dan Aykroyd until our current culture of monetized nostalgia kicked the campaign into high gear. Hell, for a period of time even I was interested in the concept until logic crept back into my brain. Now I’m fairly confident that a female Ghostbusters is probably the only one that should even be considered.
But, once again, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some reservations.
The first reservation I had was about the casting of Melissa McCarthy. As someone who spends a lot of time writing and analyzing writing, I also spend a lot of time studying patterns around me. And the pattern I see lately is that Melissa McCarthy has become the token funny woman in the industry. This is generally an issue because of how hard it is to get fresh blood into the industry in general. Typically there’s a competition between people of similar demographics for different roles. For every Schwarzenegger there’s a Stallone, for every Ice Cube there’s an Ice T, and for every Chris in a Marvel movie there’s another Chris in a Marvel movie.
But try earnestly to come up with five women in starring roles in comedy films right now off the top of your head and a lot of you aren’t going to be able to do it. Melissa McCarthy was the breakout star of Bridesmaids, but most people would be hard pressed to remember the name of everyone else in that cast. And that’s fine for Melissa, but it means that the studio system we have today is also likely to put her in every role that happens to fit what they consider “unique” about her. In other words, I’m concerned the studios still only see room for one actress to be funny and a star at the same time. This is their usual MO, find something (or someone) that works and then run it into the ground. So the fact I could predict she’d be in this movie before the cast was even announced concerned me a little.
But, you know what? I can actually get beyond that reservation because she has name recognition right now and that’s going to help this production. Having Melissa McCarthy’s name on something right now is the kind of thing that can make a project a little more likely to be green-lit. Sometimes that’s a mistake (look no further than her filmography), but it’s still true. So I can see why you’d want her name attached to it, even if the fact hers is the only name with that kind of influence is a problem. But a far greater problem for me is another name attached to this production…
The thing about the Ghostbusters franchise is the fact that it wasn’t really built to be a franchise. The original film was great and was a pet project by friends who wanted to construct their own star vehicle. This was a thing that happened a lot in the 80s and writing your own novel screenplay was a good way to get yourself ahead. It worked for Stallone, it worked for Cameron, and it worked for Aykroyd and Ramis. But it wasn’t really designed to extend beyond that first film.
When you think about it, what plot was left for them to explore beyond that first movie? It was completely self contained and they had the whole thing tied up neatly by the end. There was one plot detail worth cleaning up, that being the complete unleashing of the ghosts, but that was basically saying “the second film would be exactly like the first.” And, frankly, that’s how sequelitis sets in. In fact, the only place where that works is in television and when you consider where a lot of the modern audience gets their nostalgia for the property…yeah, that’s what happened.
So there wasn’t really room (or demand) for a sequel to be made, but one was made anyway. Full disclosure: I actually liked Ghostbusters II and will still watch the thing from time to time because I sometimes don’t give a shit. But when I look at the movie I can see that it was entirely unnecessary and that I still enjoy the original more than the sequel. Critics agree by and large and, for two decades, everyone agreed there didn’t need to be a third movie.
But that sure as hell didn’t stop Aykroyd from pushing it.
From 1989 onwards, only one man on the planet wanted there to be a third Ghostbusters movie and that was Dan Aykroyd, the man haunted by his movie of hauntings. Harold Ramis and Bill Murray stopped talking to each other for decades after Groundhog Day and Ernie Hudson… no one ever asks Ernie Hudson anything. But Dan? Dan was clearly possessed by Zuul after Sigourney Weaver decided she was above it and Rick Moranis decided he was too dignified for Hollywood anymore.
In fact, Bill Murray did everything he could to prevent the movies from coming to pass. Why? Because Murray didn’t want to work with Ramis again and also knew that going back to that well was a bad move. In fact, the only way Aykroyd could get everyone back together again was by doing it through voice-over work on a videogame. The game was ok, by the way, but clearly the franchise was fucking dead. At least, it would have been dead if nostalgia weren’t more powerful than Gozer and covered in twice as much sparkly shit.
In today’s culture, nostalgia trumps all forms of logic, sanity, and maybe even physics. Nostalgia gets things to screen so easily today that that you’d think it was some sort of angry god looming over film studios with a massive fist at ready. And this isn’t a good thing when you really step back to take account of everything. After all, nostalgia is the only thing that could have possibly gotten Dumb And Dumber To green-lit.
The ironic part being that most people nostalgic for Ghostbusters aren’t even thinking of the movie – they’re thinking of the cartoon. Anyone who was old enough to have seen the movie when it first came out wouldn’t much care for a sequel and don’t exactly drive the internet hype machine anyway. No, this is the brainchild of 90s kids and Dan Aykroyd, who never grew up anyway. And, except for Aykroyd, that means the image in their head isn’t even the original cast of Ghostbusters, it’s their colorful cartoon doppelgangers.
So, of course, the hype started to make the industry budge a little and rumors started to fly again. Maybe, just maybe, the game was a backdoor audience test to see if anyone was still interested. If you buy this game voiced by the original cast, clearly you’d watch a movie with them in it, right? And when the game did “ok”, the movie rumors got more active. So Harold Ramis did the only thing he could to stop this train-wreck from happening, the only choice left for a sane person, and died.
Unfortunately, despite Harold’s best efforts, a dead horse has never stopped Hollywood. You could pile a thousand well-respected corpses on top of the money and they’d dig through every one of them for a quarter. But they’re also not entirely stupid, they know that the franchise was giving diminishing returns in 1989, so green lighting the project wasn’t going to be very likely with half the cast not talking to each other. It got a lot more complicated when it turned out Egon was going to need to be brought on with strings like some sort of Ghostbusters/Weekend at Bernie’s crossover.
So the only respectable way to beat this dead horse would be to start with a brand new cast and reboot that shit with new characters. This is a must, really – the original cast of characters had already run their course in a single film. And to make it really work you were going to need to make the new characters as different from the original as possible. Why? Because if you went and made them similar to the original then you’d end up doing a bad direct to video sequel like the god awful Revenge of the Nerds sequels that no one remembers.
Really, to give this project even a ghost of a chance, you’d have to do everything you could to make it fresh and different from the original. True, nostalgia resurrected the beast, but it wouldn’t keep it alive without fresh blood – as is true of most unholy undead abominations to walk the Earth. And that’s exactly where the women come into the equation.
If you want to make the whole project look, feel, and move differently than the original while still being within the same wheelhouse, why not go ahead and flip the gender of the cast to immediately have a visual change of pace? It’s so silly of an idea that it just might work, so long as you don’t write the characters to be just a matter of “the original characters with breasts”. Though, looking at the promotional shot, I’m curious if that’s what’s about to happen.
You have one looking unprofessional, one looking awkward, one with glasses (shorthand for “the smart one”) and then the one who’s likely to have the internal monologue of “these white bitches are crazy”. There were rumors that these shots were made to try to appease the original fans by suggesting that not a whole lot was changing, but that’s never going to work. In fact, trying to appease that crowd is likely the worst idea possible. Remember, most of them aren’t thinking about Aykroyd’s pet project, they’re hearing the theme music and seeing Slimer flying around in their heads. These people are responding entirely to, ironically, a ghost of an idea.
So I support this female Ghostbusters reboot and I hope to see it do well, but I also think that doing well is going to require they stray from the original characters and make this current crew unique. It’s not simply enough to make them a different gender. They need to be completely different people because this franchise ran out of gas a long time ago and the answer to the infamous question…
Changed a long time ago.