Warning: This article contains spoilers for the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters.
The new reboot of Ghostbusters might easily be the most polarizing movie since Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Some love it, some hate it. A fair number find themselves somewhere in the middle, but good luck finding them through all of the internet hullabaloo that seems to have started since before the film even began shooting. And regardless of their feelings on the reboot, fans of the original franchise could have gotten part-time jobs with the amount of time they’ve spent arguing in various comment sections all around the net.
Scrolling through the many debates on YouTube and elsewhere, I have been able to identify ten common criticisms often lodged against the new Ghostbusters. Now, I’d like to go through and give my two cents. I’ll explain where I agree and where I disagree before giving my ultimate conclusion on the film itself. This is not meant to be a total defense nor complete condemnation of the film. But if you don’t mind spoilers and you’re still undecided as to whether or not you plan on seeing it, some of these observations might help you out.
1. “Why isn’t it four dudes?”
I thought I’d get this one out of the way, because it’s become one of the more contentious issues for many fans. And while sexism is pretty much never defensible, it should be said that this complaint isn’t quite as common as the press would have us believe. Many fans have said that, if not for some other issues, they would not care about the sex of the cast. Unfortunately, it’s hard to focus on more open-minded critics when they’re constantly getting lost in a sea of hateful pricks—including a presidential hopeful.
Not all who make this complaint, however, are necessarily sexist. Some have complained because they believe the gender-swapping to be political. An editor at Deadline Hollywood even predicted a dystopian future in which gender-swapping drives a sea of reboots and remakes:
“What’s next, a Goodfellas redo with female mobsters pulling off the Lufthansa heist? A Raging Bull redo with Rhonda Rousey? Brian’s Song, set in the WNBA? Animal House at a sorority?”
First of all, if you wouldn’t watch Raging Bull starring Rhonda Rousey, you’re fucking crazy. Seriously, have you seen her fights?
But back to the discussion, there just doesn’t seem to be any ground for this type of assumption. A few claim that there are leaked emails providing evidence of a political agenda in Ghostbusters, although I have been trying to find them for two days to no avail. And even if I could find them, I’d be finding them on the internet—a medium in which fake images and false information run rampant. So forgive me if I’m not too quick to believe this one. I’ll believe it as soon as I believe that the DNC campaign is fueled by Onion-style satire.
My point is that, if you’re going to assume that the casting of Ghostbusters was a political move, at least consider the source of your information. And if you’re doing it out of misogyny, then just shut up. I understand why the non-sexists are fed up with being accused of chauvinism, but it’s somewhat to be expected in a society where famous “politicians” and successful editors are expressing their hatred in the open without fear of rebuke.
2. “The casting sucks.”
This one surprised me a bit, but I’ve been seeing it everywhere. Never before in my life have I heard a single person criticize Kristen Wiig. In fact, she’s generally considered to be one of the best comedic actors in the game right now. At the very least, she’s successful enough that MS Word didn’t auto-correct her name to “Wig.” And I know Melissa McCarthy has her detractors, but I’ve also seen a lot of those same detractors laugh their asses off at films like Spy and Identity Thief. Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon aren’t quite as well-known if you don’t watch Saturday Night Live, but I’d expect people to give them a chance due to the sheer number of stars that have risen from that show.
If you’ve been reading reviews, you’ve probably seen mixed reactions to each cast member. Many proclaim Chris Hemsworth to be the best by far. And he’s definitely fun to watch in this film. But what about the Ghostbusters themselves?
For my money, Kate McKinnon was absolute perfection in every scene. Even when she isn’t speaking, her facial reactions provide a wonderful sense of character. And when she does speak? Well, let’s just say that there’s a scene in the mayor’s office where she got one of the biggest laughs in the theater just by saying the word “what.” There was nothing spectacular about it, but she has an air about her that just makes her endlessly endearing.
But as much as I like McKinnon, one person can’t carry a film. Which is why it helps that she has a pretty strong supporting cast backing her every move. Wiig and McCarthy—two of the actors Bill Murray wanted to see in the film—have way more chemistry than the reviews give them credit for. They don’t at first, but the story itself provides a reason for that. Over the course of the film, you see a character progression that I found to be remarkably subtle for such an over-the-top comedy. And Jones, the last one to join the team, wastes no time at all in developing a sense of chemistry with the other characters. Perhaps some will disagree, but I thought these women worked really well together. Top that off with the fact that Hemsworth and McCarthy managed to improvised with one another, and this is not what I would call shitty casting.
3. “Patty is a racist character.”
Leslie Jones probably got more crap for this film than anyone else in the cast, and it’s all because of a character she didn’t write. Most of that hate, unfortunately, is due to the trailers. When she introduces herself as someone who doesn’t understand science but knows New York, viewers immediately wrote her off as a “street-wise black woman.” And, yeah…she is that. But she’s also quite a bit more.
Patty Tolan is a fan of non-fiction, and she knows New York’s history like the back of her hand. The amount of history she can recall for just about every single building she enters almost struck me as unrealistic, except for one thing—I’ve actually met New Yorkers like that. Hell, I’m related to one. My uncle once drove me from Columbia University to Grand Central Station, pointing out completely unremarkable buildings along the way and telling me fascinating stories about each and every one of them. New Yorkers are very passionate about their city, to the extent that some of them want to know every single detail about it.
When you compare this to a black man who doesn’t believe in ghosts and simply needs a paycheck, Patty Tolan arguably has more credentials than Winston Zeddemore ever did. Perhaps she has a few stereotypical lines or moments here and there, but her character itself is fueled by passion and a love for her city—not race.
4. “The jokes in the trailer didn’t land for me.”
To be honest, there were jokes in the original movie that didn’t land for me at all. But I won’t lie, I’m somewhat inclined to agree with this criticism. At the same time, it’s hard for me to name too many trailers for which I can’t say the same. I might laugh at a joke once or twice, but months of getting bombarded by the same snippets over and over again leaves them stale. By the time a comedy is actually released—whether Ghostbusters or otherwise—it’s a safe bet that I won’t be laughing at any of the jokes from the trailer.
Ghostbusters had a bit more of a problem, in that many jokes from the trailer didn’t even land the first time around. But remember what I said about subtlety in what appears to be an over-the-top comedy? There’s actually a lot of that here, to the point that none of the best jokes are really trailer-worthy. To provide an example, let’s look at some of the best comedic moments for each of the main stars.
*rubs his eye* – Chris Hemsworth
“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.” – Kristen Wiig
“This looks like dishwater.” – Melissa McCarthy
“He’s gonna be the third scariest thing on that train.” – Leslie Jones
“I’d talk to you at an AA meeting.” – Kate McKinnon
Each of these has been chosen because they got some of the biggest laughs from the audience. And gold star if you can guess the context of a single one of these without seeing them in the movie. I may not have loved the marketing for this film, but I’ll give credit to a movie that put thought into comedy that wouldn’t fit neatly into a trailer. There was definitely a lot of writing that I really couldn’t get behind, but this movie is still far from the utter trainwreck that many have made it out to be.
5. “It isn’t kid-friendly.”
This one mostly stems from a review by Kevin Smith, with which many fans disagreed. People specifically liked pointing to one brief moment in which Holtzmann implies that a fart noise “came from the front.” These same people got very defensive when others pointed to a scene in the original, in which Ray receives fellatio from a ghost. The counterargument most often used was that Ray’s blowjob is merely implied.
Well, to some extent, you can say the same about the reboot’s nontroversial queef. Thanks to one of my exes, I can attest to the fact that the sound effect used in the movie sounds pretty much like a normal fart. Trust me, I was given many opportunities to compare the two. And while you may not like the idea of explaining queefs to your kids, I really wouldn’t worry about it. First of all, there were children in the theater when I went to see Deadpool who seemed to get most of the jokes before their parents even did. Second, I myself mastered the art of dick farts at a very young age. If your kids are as innovative and classy as I was back then, you have nothing to worry about. They might even know some things that you don’t.
6. “It’s not a sequel.”
Many have said that they would totally support this movie if not for the fact that it were a reboot. And as many know, they almost got their way. Ivan Reitman’s original plan for Ghostbusters 3 was to have Oscar lead a team of male and female Ghostbusters. They would be mentored by the original team, with Venkman as a ghost. Then Harold Ramis died, and it was decided to simply reboot the franchise rather than write Egon out of the plot. Surviving members appear in cameos, which have gotten mixed reviews. Some say they’re among the best moments in the movie, others say they feel completely shoehorned. My personal feelings lie mixed in both camps, although I frankly lean toward the latter.
One thing I’ll say, however, is that the reboot allowed for some neat plot devices that would not have worked in a sequel. For instance, this take on Ghostbusters replaces the EPA with Homeland Security, which is kind of perfect for a modern take on the series. On top of that, we learn that the government has known about ghosts for some time. A central conflict in the film involves the government trying to discredit the Ghostbusters in order to keep the cat from staying out of the bag. This idea was great, and would not have worked for a continuity in which the Ghostbusters had saved New York on two separate occasions.
Honestly, the biggest thing that bugs me about the film being a reboot is the post-credits sting. It seems to imply that the sequel might wind up being a remake of the 1984 film, which strikes me as highly inadvisable. Many complained when the new Star Trek established itself as a new animal, only to turn its sequel into a loose remake of a classic. If Ghostbusters goes the same route, it won’t be doing itself any favors.
Unless, of course, they can get Paul Reubens to play Gozer. In that particular instance, I would be behind it 100%. Bonus points if they replace Fall Out Boy with Huey Lewis.
7. “Its sheer existence ruins my childhood.”
No it doesn’t. It’s a fucking movie. It didn’t go back in time to run over your dog or shit on your birthday cake. Your childhood is safe.
8. “They kill a ghost by shooting it in the dick.”
Just to nitpick, the ghost doesn’t even have a dick. Also, it’s technically not how they kill him. There’s some much bigger stuff going on at the time. But they do shoot a ghost in the crotch region and make a quick joke about it afterward, so let’s talk about that for a second.
Let’s not pretend for even two seconds that no male-led movie has ever attempted to derive a cheap laugh by shooting, punching, kicking, or otherwise pestering a man in the nuts. The same goes for movies aimed at both sexes that have tried to do the same thing by punching a woman in the bazooms. It’s a tired tactic, but one that gets used quite often. Even Preacher, one of my favorite shows on TV right now, used a similar joke in the most recent episode. So in no way do I believe this to be an example of sexism. I do, however, believe it to be somewhat lazy writing.
I’m not about to defend laziness—even though I should, seeing as you’re reading a first draft right now. And I’d be lying if I said that this was the only scene in the movie that I found to be a bit lacking in inspiration. But I can forgive a few cheap laughs if the rest of a film is solid enough for me to have a fun time. In the case of Ghostbusters, I feel that it was. I see a lot of people citing this five-second scene as “proof” that the movie is terrible, and that just seems asinine. This scene probably won’t make your dick hurt the way that it hurt during that one scene in Casino Royale, and it definitely shouldn’t offend your delicate sensibilities when we see this sort of thing all the time. You may or may not laugh, but your entire movie-going experience should not rest on a single blow to the nards.
9. “All men are portrayed as assholes or morons.”
First, let me say that this simply isn’t true. The first man we meet is never portrayed as stupid, unless soiling yourself when scared is somehow indicative of a low IQ. The second man we meet is also portrayed in a rather neutral light. We see a few neutral men in the middle as well. Yes, there are many prominent men—and women, for the record—who are portrayed quite negatively. But in no way do I believe that this is indicative of misandry on the part of Ghostbusters. Why? Simple—because I’ve seen the original.
Outside of Dana, name one non-Ghostbuster character in the original movie that was portrayed in a positive light. Janine was rude, Louis Tully was a putz, the hotel manager was a whiny cheapskate, and the male volunteer for Venkman’s experiment was an impotent loser. Then you have the mayor and the EPA, who came across as both assholes and morons in every sense. Even Venkman himself is only likable because he’s played by Bill Murray. In actuality, he’s kind of sleazy. And Ray is, to put it nicely, a bit of a wuss.
The general worldview pervading Ghostbusters—both the original and the reboot—is that if you live in New York and you don’t bust ghosts for a living, you probably suck. Is that cynical? Extremely. Is it sexist? Not so much. Add that to the fact that the biggest asshole in the reboot is played by Cecily Strong—at least, the biggest asshole who isn’t trying to incite the apocalypse—and this particular criticism loses a lot of credibility.
10. “Sony and Paul Feig insulted us.”
This one really has nothing to do with the movie itself, but I can see where people are upset. They feel that a few comments made by Feig indicate that all critics of the film are sexist or misogynist. Thing is, I can’t actually seem to find a quote like that. He talked about receiving some of the most misogynistic responses he’s ever heard. But that is not the same as saying that all critics are misogynists. In fact, very few people seem to have listened when he said this:
“The bullies are not the norm and I would dare say they are not even true geeks. They are the micro minority.”
Literally the only reason that should offend you is if you happen to identify as a misogynist and don’t like being told that you’re not a true geek. Perhaps, in something I didn’t see, Feig or someone else involved with the film accused all naysayers of misogyny. Heavens know that many of the film’s defenders certainly did. But many also didn’t. They criticized the misogyny while simply saying nothing about the other viewpoints. And many were verbally assaulted to no end for it. It even happened to my all-time favorite Let’s Player, who received a ridiculous question about it on ASKfm.
As for Sony’s part, many have accused them of removing well-written criticisms from YouTube to provide the appearance that all naysayers are sexist. But scrolling through, I see heaps of critics who say nothing sexist about Ghostbusters at all. With that in mind, it’s hard for me to believe the nefarious conspiracy that so many have told me about. Perhaps they deleted some comments, but I won’t proclaim to know the reason.
And as for the few who have said that Sony is also removing dislikes—well, I have a YouTube channel, and I can’t see where that’s even possible. But considering the number of people I’ve seen openly campaigning for outraged fans to set up dummy accounts and try to reach a million dislikes, I wouldn’t even blame them if they did find a way to remove them. If any dislikes vanished, my guess would be that either a) YouTube identified and deleted excess dummy accounts or b) some people just changed their minds. Either way, if failure to reach a million dislikes saddens you, I’d say you might be in need of a new hobby.
The new Ghostbusters was not the best movie I’ve ever seen, but I don’t regret seeing it in theaters. Most of the criticisms fall flat on their face when comparing this film to the original. Some do hold up to an extent, but they still don’t strike me as a source for anger. Nobody should find their blood boiling because a movie committed the ever-so-terrible crime of existing. And Leslie Jones definitely shouldn’t be receiving non-stop harassment on Twitter (#FuckMilo) just because she didn’t turn down one of the biggest opportunities of her career. If people don’t like that a classic movie was rebooted, that’s perfectly acceptable. But anger and hatred are taking it a bit too far.
By the way, the trailer for the new Ben-Hur has been up since March and has less than eight thousand dislikes at the time of writing. Those who claim the hatred for Ghostbusters is simply a campaign against remakes in general are picking some very strange battles. Or perhaps people simply don’t take Ben-Hur as seriously as a film about people shooting orange beams at ghosts and marshmallows. To each their own.