I’m worried about Ghostbusters. Not the 1984 movie. It’s a classic and it’s not going anywhere. And not the 2016 Ghostbusters, either. It will be great. Or it will be terrible. Or it will be somewhere in between. What worries me is whether or not we’ll even be able to see it for what it is — great, terrible, or whatever — when it comes out in July, given the atmosphere in which it will be released. Has any movie in recent memory arrived to such hostility before anyone has seen it? Can we take a step back to ask why?
The preemptive backlash to the 2016 Ghostbusters has been building pretty much from the moment it was announced and hasn’t changed all that much since. On August 2, 2014, The Hollywood Reporter published an item with the headline “‘Ghostbusters 3′ Targets Paul Feig As Director.” An update filled out the details thusly: “Sources say the film will be a reboot focusing on female Ghostbusters.” And we were off. Here are some select comments posted below the article:
“So basically I can ignore this? Because no Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore means no Ghostbusters”
“Also, making the leads women instead of our classic heros? [sic.] That’s an insult to this franchise.”
“Why stop at an all-female cast? Toss in a talking dog and maybe a gregarious orangutan. Oh, and make sure to have a cameo by the Spice Girls, screaming ‘GIRL POWER!'”
Depressingly, nearly two years later, the discourse hasn’t changed even if the details have. Since the release of the film’s first trailer, the focus has shifted to some hard “evidence” that the movie will be terrible. It became the most-disliked trailer in YouTube history, and a magnet for more negative comments. Most of them vary on the themes laid out above, differing only in intensity and obscenity.
The trend reached new heights a few days ago with the much-passed-around Cinemassacre clip “Ghostbusters 2016. No Review. I Refuse,” in which host James Rolfe (a.k.a. Angry Video Game Nerd) took what he seemed to believe was some kind of principled stand against the film by refusing to see or review it, a declaration delivered with the squinty, clenched-jaw righteousness of a protester standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square while offering a series of increasingly fragile justifications: that it shouldn’t be called Ghostbusters because this might confuse children; that it wasn’t the movie he wanted, a direct sequel in which the original cast handed off the Ghostbusting business to a new generation; etc.
With the clip, Rolfe became the public face of Ghostbusters resistance. He has plenty of unsavory allies. It’s quite possible that Rolfe’s objections have nothing to do with Ghostbusters being remade with female leads, but there’s no denying the unvarnished misogyny of others, or the way objecting to the film opens the door for, in Devin Faraci’s phrasing, a lot of “soft sexism.”
“What about THIS movie is different from, say, the movie that featured the third reboot of Batman (depending on when you start counting) against the third reboot of Superman (same),” Faraci asks. “Or the movie featuring the third reboot of Spider-Man? How about the movie last year that soft rebooted Mad Max? Why not boycott these movies? Why wasn’t there a wave of angry, militant men on message boards, Twitter and making YouTube videos in their basements about how they were boycotting the remake of Total Recall?”