Why Four Women Playing Ghostbusters Is Not A Gimmick

In case you didn’t know –

Paul Feig is rebooting the Ghostbusters franchise with women doing the bustin’ of ghosts.

This with the writer of The Heat, Katie Dippold.

(For the record: I freaking loved The Heat. Not high comedy, and plot holes you could break a leg in, but man did I laugh. I am a tiny bit sad that it seems like it won’t be getting a sequel.)

Of course, with this news, I’ve seen the cry:

It’s a gimmick.

Feig is obviously aware of the criticism, too, because he says:

“I just don’t understand why it’s ever an issue anymore. I’ve promoted both Bridesmaids and The Heat and myself and my cast are still hit constantly with the question, “will this answer the question of whether women can be funny?” I really cannot believe we’re still having this conversation. Some people accused it of kind of being a gimmick and it’s like, it would be a gimmick if I wasn’t somebody whose brain doesn’t automatically go to like, I want to just do more stuff with women. I just find funny women so great. For me it’s just more of a no-brainer. I just go, what would make me excited to do it? I go: four female Ghostbusters to me is really fun. I want to see that dynamic. I want to see that energy and that type of comedy and them going up against these ghosts and going up against human detractors and rivals and that kind of thing. When people accuse it of being a gimmick I go, why is a movie starring women considered a gimmick and a movie starring men is just a normal movie?”

I think this is pretty fucking awesome.

And I think calling it a ‘gimmick’ is a little bit shitty.

Here’s why.

a.) Calling it “gimmick” is very dismissive. A gimmick is a trick, a ploy, a cheap contrivance or tactic designed to get people to buy the product. Putting women in the roles of an iconic franchise is meaningful culturally, in that it’s creating more roles for women. Roles that were once reserved for men. And narratively, it’s interesting, as it lets you tell new stories and attract new audience.

b) Assuming that putting women in the role is gimmicky assumes that women are already in a place of power — it assumes that, “If we do this, this’ll generate ticket sales.” Given how risk-averse Hollywood has been regarding the role of women in film, yeah, I don’t see it.

c) Or, it assumes it’s doing it for the controversy. If making new roles for women — or making diverse roles in general — is controversial to you, that says more about you than about the creators of the work. Also, Hollywood is known for making safe choices more often than controversial ones.

Now, someone might say, with some earnestness, that why Ghostbusters –? Why can’t you create a new cool action-horror-comedy franchise for women, instead? Well, you can (or, at least, you can try). And certainly it’s a noble goal that sounds great in a perfect world.

But here’s why it’s important that it’s this franchise.

Yeah, it’s very nice and good to say that women should be able to have their own iconic roles and not have to get the sloppy seconds of roles established by men. But there’s a danger, there, too — if you say, women can’t be Ghostbusters, or The Doctor, or James Bond, you might really be saying, “These are my toys, go play with your own.” Go find your own franchise is a very good way of dismissing them and saying “but this one’s ours.” It’s also a very good way of ensuring that they won’t get their own movie made or own roles anyway — the sad reality of present-day Hollywood is that it’s easier to make a movie if you have some pre-existing material to build off of. The Ghostbusters franchise is exactly that. It’s a great springboard to tell this new tale.

Plus, putting women characters inside an iconic franchise has meaning because it’s an iconic franchise, one formerly dominated by men. There’s a metaphor, there, if you care to find it, about the workplace — it’s vital women colonize those roles and those spaces reserved for dudes. You certainly shouldn’t say, “A woman can’t be CEO of this company, go form your own company, lady.” Saying that a woman can’t be The Doctor because The Doctor is traditionally male is roughly equivalent to saying a woman can’t be a doctor because doctors are traditionally male. It’s easy to shrug it off because, “oh, ha ha ha, this is just pop culture,” but hey, fuck that shit, George, pop culture is the food we feed our brains. Pop culture is the colloquial language we all speak — it’s the common tongue of the people. We all speak Ghostbuster. We all know the song. We all know the imagery and the story and the icons of it. It’s important for women to be here, not over there.

Anyway.

Them’s my thoughts, do with them as you will.

What I wanna hear from you is –

What women should take the roles? Some of my potential choices include: Mindy Kaling, Aubrey Plaza, Tig Notaro, Katie Aselton, Uzo Aduba, Melissa McCarthy. What, pray tell, are yours?

112 comments

  • The obvious choices: Kristen Bell and Audrey Plaza

    The interesting choice: Aisha Taylor. She’s hilarious and I’d love to see her in something like this.

    The weird choice: Vanessa Hudgens. I watched her in Frozen Ground and was pretty blown away. She’s also got plenty of experience with action (Sucker Punch) and out there-type stuff (Spring Breakers) to bring an interesting dynamic to the role.

    And Chuck, if I may disagree with you for a moment, this is TOTALLY a gimmick…and a really damn good one.

    This franchise has been floundering in ‘Will They Won’t They’ territory for what feels like an eternity. This decision FINALLY gets it off the ground and gets people talking. Even the people who hate it with every fiber of their being will contribute to promotional push.

    We can think it shouldn’t be controversial all we want, but it’s going to be, and that will work in the movie’s favor. Add in a great cast/script, and this thing could be huge (and really damn good).

  • - Gina Torres. Because Gina Torres ALWAYS. She has proven she can be the straight-woman in a comedy team in an action movie. And she’s awesome. And badass.
    – Hadn’t even thought about Sigourney Weaver, but oh hell yes.

    And then I realized I was restricting myself to women who come across as athletic. And I thought, why? Because it’s not like Aykroyd or Murray are/were athletic. Like, At all.

    – Janine Garofalo (I will watch anything with her just so I can say her last name a lot)
    – Sarah Silverman
    – Jessica Williams
    – Emma Watson (because, like Torres, ALWAYS Emma Watson).
    – Emma Stone

    I’m happy with any any of those being ‘Busters. But you know what? I want a heavy woman too. I’m trying to decide if I’m shaming anything by looking at the comedy potential of an overweight Ghostbuster. I know that if I was in a movie as one I would totally play up my weight (I’m overweight by quite a bit). But I don’t know if putting someone else on stage like that is fun or mean. Maybe mean. I should take that back. But it’s no shame to have an actor who at least pretends to be out of shape. She can’t get up the stairs (Murray and Aykroyd played that in the first Ghostbusters, didn’t they?), always in a half-hearted jog to try to catch up… I just want to see it.

    Ok, I’m done. I’m shutting up now. Except to note how sad I am that Ernie Hudson seems to be in the boat of “it’s not Ghostbusters if it has girls.”

  • Sir, your writing on the topic of feminist issues continues to delight, inform and comfort me. So nice to hear a rational, often expletive-filled discussion of why bullshit is bullshit. Never stop.

    Also, it’s gotta be Tina and Amy. But otherwise Aubrey Plaza, Chelsea Peretti, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Silverman, and they MUST MUST MUST bring back Sigourney Weaver.

  • Sigourney Weaver, so hard. She should have an Aliens Ripley style edge, rather than her damsel act from the earlier franchise.

    Also, hoping the Expendabelles becomes a thing. Come on Stallone, grow a pair and do iiiit

  • I’d love to see Sigourney Weaver too. The girls from Pitch Perfect-Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, etc . If they include any British girls-Miranda Hart and Katy Brand.

  • I hope they use only marginally attractive women or older actresses…putting babes or ingenues in the lead roles WOULD be dismissive. Look at the original. Females need to be recognized for their talents independent of their societally-deemed good looks…just like males.

  • I would do dangerous things to see Aubrey Plaza in a Spengler-esque role, and I LOVE the ideas other people are coming up with about Sigourney Weaver.

  • It would be really nice to see a woman of colour or a full-bodied woman in this (or more than one). If the movie is just to show that women can do the same thing as men, only look prettier doing it, it won’t be nearly as useful as one that says real women can kick ass too, and we don’t always have to be the sidekicks.

    • Incidentally, I am not saying she should reprise her role from the original and be all “She was possessed by Zuul… NOW SHE RULES!” (Though that’s funny.) Total reboot, with her as a Ghostbuster, that’s all.

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