As of late, it's been impossible to separate the poor feedback of the Ghostbusters reboot trailers and it's countless accusations of sexism. The first official Ghostbusters reboot trailer is now the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube's history, with a similar like-to-dislike ratio emerging for the second. Director Paul Feig has fanned the flame of controversy by calling out the fans as a bunch of sexist jerks who hate everything, whilst a number of so-called news sites have reported this apparent misogyny as fact. And finally, just this week, Angry Video Game Nerd himself, James Rolfe, came under serious fire for refusing to watch the new movie. It seems, then, that an abhorrent subculture of misogyny is rampant in the geek world.
But is this actually the case? Or is there far more at play here than is being reported?
Which leads me neatly into my first point:
The Press Damage Control Is Utter Bullshit
Unlike the majority of the online press, apparently.
Holy fucking shit, these are NEWS SITES. Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Business Insider, Jesus Christ, these people are supposed to be revered news sources! And they're reporting that this sexism is complete, undeniable fact! That's not only incredibly bad journalism, it crushes the sites integrities. This is not a report of fact, this is spin. At least The Guardian attribute the sexist argument directly to Paul Feig rather than present it as fact. And once you read that article, you can see the ripples of repeated buzzwords across the press.
Now, I'm not one to say that spin doesn't exist in the modern press, I'm not totally naive. This is why I always research things for myself in order to make my own opinions. At its core, journalism is going to have some degree of personal spin, because stuff like this can't be written as plain fact by robots, because that shit doesn't sell. To paraphrase director Max Landis, people crave drama and stories and we consistently seek out distraction and entertainment. And right now, it seems that the story that is selling surrounding the Ghostbusters reboot is that the hate surrounding it stems from sexist ideals and that supporting the movie is supporting a progressive feminist ideal. Which is, at it's core, inherently spun in favour of Feig and the girl-power movement that has spun out of the project.
Criticism is NOT Sexism
From what I have seen of this movie, I don't think I will like it. I probably won't pay to see it in theatres, but I might check it out on home release when someone else can buy the DVD so I don't have to pay for something I won't enjoy. Let me be clear, I have paid to see other works from the people involved in these movies. I have not found Melissa McCarthy funny in the movies I have seen her in (The Heat, Identity Thief and TV show Mike And Molly), I didn't enjoy Feig's Bridesmaids, I don't find most of the SNL cast funny outside of The Lonely Island and I am ambivalent towards Kristen Wiig. Speaking directly about the trailer, the jokes didn't land with me and I personally hate gross-out humour, so the ghost vomit gag didn't sit well with me. Partly because I think it's cheap writing and partly because I just don't like gross things. Slapstick is a thin line with me and I don't think it is done as well here as it has been by other movies and TV shows, like Kingsman or Bottom. The effects don't look half-bad, they're colourful for sure, but it screams of a Nickleodeon kids movie to me, which I'm not a fan of. And finally, it's a reboot, which I'm mostly divided on, but I feel like the opportunity to tie this movie into the narrative of the previous two was totally squandered. There is no part of this movie that resonates with me other than the recognisable brand of Ghostbusters, which is a brand that has movies I have enjoyed in the past. The trailers are relying on the strength of the property to draw in people like me, but based on the comedic style of it's cast, the film-making chops of Feig and his previous movies, the writing that has been demonstrated in trailers and the overall pitch of the movie thus far, I don't think this movie is something I will enjoy.
Can I say that it definitely sucks? No. No, I can't. I haven't seen it. It might surprise everyone and be a flawless movie. We live in a world of infinite possibilities. Mad Max: Fury Road was supposedly going to suck, but that became a fan and critic favourite and it's one of my favourite movies of all time now. Shit, I passed on Spy, which is directed by Feig and stars McCarthy because I disliked both of their previous works. Yet, critics and audiences seemed to love it. I still don't know if it's any good, because I have no desire to watch it. And that's the feeling I have toward Ghostbusters. I have no desire to watch it because the talent involved and content released so far hasn't spurred me into being interested. It's not like my mind was made up before the trailer. I had apprehensions, yes, but I had apprehensions about The Force Awakens, and I love Star Wars from the very core of my being. But after consideration from all sources, Ghostbusters isn't something I will be watching when it releases later this year.
My arguments for not supporting the movie are exactly the ones above. There is no hidden meaning or agenda behind them. And yes, I can't say for sure that everyone who is hating on the movie online come from such a considered potion as me. People will hate things just to hate them. And yes, some people are sexist. I don't deny that there are awful, awful people out there who have targeted Ghostbusters given it's now prominent role in the press.
HOWEVER, to imply that the main criticism of Ghostbusters is a gender issue is fucking moronic. It dismisses all of the other reasons that people don't like the look of this movie. There are a multitude of concerns for this movie. Here are just a few of them:
- Some people don't like reboots
- Some people wanted to see a continuation of the Ghostbusters 1 & 2 story
- Some people didn't even want another Ghostbusters movie at all
- Some people want the original cast to be involved more than just an obligatory cameos
- Some people don't like Paul Feig's back-catalogue of directorial credits
- Some people don't like the past work of the main cast
- Some people don't like the style of comedy
- Some people are concerned about the racist stereotypes that have come out of the trailers
- Some people are concerned that this movie has been made with a hidden agenda
- Some people don't like the stylistic choices of the visual tone and music choices
I could go on, I really could, but we would be here all day. Point is, there are a multitude of factors that inform someone's decision about a movie. And that is ABSOLUTELY OKAY.
Sony Have Been Censoring Criticism To Heighten The Issue
So maybe, just maybe, this is what Sony WANTS.
Theory: The Creatives Behind Ghostbusters Want To Embrace Or Actively Push Gender Politics For Positive Press Coverage and Profit
So, I think there's a case to be made that Sony wants this to happen. I've been delving into the WikiLeaks Sony email dump and I've found a bunch of emails from Sony execs and Paul Feig himself that supports a hypothesis that Feig, producer Amy Pascal and other members of the creative team have made this movie with either the express purpose or a reactionary purpose of riding the feminist gender politics news wave straight to the fucking bank. Let's take a look:
Now Paul Feig, who is also a self described 'feminised geek'. Whilst not an out-and-out feminist, he does believe in prioritising women in comedy roles and changing scripts in Hollywood to include women or recast roles for women. Feig puts this down to his early life growing up around women and being more in touch with his feminine side due to this. Feigs last four directorial outings have also been female-centric. Oh, and Paul Feig is also a fan of the infamous Anita Sarkeesian, publicly supporting her Feminist Frequency project.
Now, let's take a look at some emails. Firstly, this one, that Amy Pascal sent to herself, which is a huge list of the then-Sony Controlled IPs and franchises, which curiously includes a separate list at the bottom titled 'Female Franchises/Movies'. A month later, this email from Amy Pascal is sent to a bunch of Sony execs, seemingly discussing potential directors for the Ghostbusters reboot, which also seems to suggest that The Lego Movie directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord were once interested in the project.
Then, this fun little tidbit. Feig sends Pascal a link to an amatuer BlogSpot blog and shits on it for disagreeing with the all-female route for Ghostbusters, saying it's worthy of a piss-take dramatic reading. Pascal responds, clearly on the same wavelength, saying she may forward it to Mike Flemming. And who is Mike Flemming? The guy who was supposed to announce the involvement of Feig and the all-female direction for Ghostbusters. Oh, who also wrote this feminism-charged parody article about the initial backlash that very same month.
Later that month, speed picks up for multiple Ghostbusters movies in the form of it's own cinematic universe. There is buzz in these emails for an all-male centric movie set in the same, rebooted universe that was to be directed by Joe Russo and star Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt. The execs were buzzed, clearly seeing dollar signs.
Later in October, the press is clawing for details on the movie. This email thread shows the utter disaster the execs at Sony have in having a line to pitch for the movie. They can't commit to any description, because they fear calling it a reboot, something which Feig is vehemently trying to make fact. This also involves Ivan Reitman, the producer and director of the original Ghostbusters, who shows signs of disdain for the mess of the direction of the PR surroudning the movie,
I don't think it's a stretch, then, to suggest that this movie has it's roots deep set in using a well-known IP in order to push the personal feminist agendas of Pascal, Feig and feminist members of the press at sites like Deadline, Washington Post and Vanity Fair. Whether or not this was planned, a happy accident or a mixture of the two, the creators of this movie have opened this discussion with intent and with a clear skew toward the socially active feminists that work in the entertainment industry.
AND ALL OF THIS WOULD BE FINE IF IT WAS MADE CLEAR TO US. But the misdirection of the discussion of quality and content to the debate of gender politics has only served to cover the backs of an out-of-touch studio, offer an easy defence for the cash-in contributions of those involved and betrayed the people involved in this would-be war of ideals. If anything, the gender issue that has surrounded the movie has been used by both sides of the debate to bully, belittle and bash people left, right and centre who just have thoughts on the quality of the product, rather than it's message. This has been done moreso by the feminist camp, however, which is clear to see in fully realised action, when people like Patton Oswalt, Dane Cook and a variety of 'news' outlets and Twitter users come out to shit on James Rolfe (Angry Video Game Nerd) just because he doesn't want to see the movie.
Again, I CAN'T PROVE THIS, but these cards stack up awfully well in my eyes.
So, What Now?
That's the one thing we should remember about this whole debacle that people are sort of missing. It's a movie. People are getting up in arms over everyone elses decisions, but it is, after all, a movie. There are probably movies you've heard about and wanted to see and equally not wanted to see. That's your freedom in action there. Can we just focus on the that for a moment? I'm having to explain the concept of freedom of choice. Is that not, in some way, entirely fucking backwards?
And to be frank, I don't care in the least bit what people think of me and how I choose to spend my money. If I want to spend my money on Ghostbusters, I will. But I really, really don't want to. I'll probably put that money toward a game that I have more chance of enjoying or towards a day out with the friends that I have that won't judge me entirely on my decision to watch a goddamn Paul Feig movie.
So, in short, I don't want to watch a movie and if that deeply offends you, that's fine. Whatever. But just understand that your taking offence means nothing to me. Feel free to state your opinions, but realise that they are just that; Opinions and nothing more. And to those on the fence, exercise your human right of free choice and do whatever the fuck pleases you. Life is short enough as it is without being guilt-tripped by either side of this ridiculous argument, so do whatever the fuck you want with your time and money, like a normal, rational person would. There you have it. Ghostbusters: Busted.
The Editor in Chief of Foul Entertainment, Mike edits most of what you see on the site. He runs the production of our podcasts, and currently pens Pop Culture Club and The Death of Video Games