What Paul Feig's Battle With Sexist 'Ghostbusters' Trolls Says About Fan Culture

The online "assholes" could turn talent away, but it's up to the majority of the geek culture to fight back.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty

Are the trolls winning?

If you’ve been following the overwhelmingly bipolar response to director Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters reboot, then you might at times think that the internet mouth-breathers have the upper hand. Luckily, every response from steadfast directors like Feig goes a long way to convince you the battle is not hopeless — and in fact, that the trolls will one day retreat beneath their sad digital bridges.

The insults hurled at Ghostbusters, including making its latest trailer the most unliked in YouTube history, come from a certain set of people who, in actuality, don’t know the first thing about true fandom. And unfortunately, these so-called fans, who masquerade behind the anonymity of the internet to harass and antagonize, might ruin the fun for the silent majority of enthusiastic fans who just want to see fun movies.

The Ghostbusters situation came to a head when Feig was quoted in the Daily News, adressing the negative response to the trailer. “Geek culture is home to some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met in my life,” he was quoted as saying, “especially after being attacked by them for months because of this Ghostbusters project.” As it turns out, Feig had uttered those words in a completely different context almost a year and a half before the publication posted the response.

As Feig clarified in a tweet, that particular answer was from an abandoned book on geek culture Feig was interviewed for that ended up being sold to the Daily News to mine for quotes. Either way, Feig’s response came after the question, “Has the paradigm shifted to a point where (because geek culture is currently so popular) the geek is the asshole now?”

The Daily News has since printed a correction, but the response was nevertheless applicable to the present day situation. Just think about what Feig and his cast — which includes ridiculously talented comedians like Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones — have gone through just for appearing in an update of a beloved film.

Most of the animosity comes from the simple fact these Ghostbusters goofball scientists who fight paranormal goofballs — are women. For some reason, the backwater haters believe that Ghostbusters can only be male, because it takes a dick to battle giant Marshmallow Men. Let that sink in for a second. Was there any point in the original ‘80s films when Bill Murray’s reproductive organs proved decisive in combatting a big sloppy green spirit? Of course not.

The vitriol speaks to the contradictory nature of contemporary fandom itself, which is supposed to celebrate creativity — not serve as an army of baby men who send mean social media messages about the perceived desecration of their childhoods. It’s almost impressive that such strong hatred can spring from a movie studio trying to revive a tired franchise with some of the most talented comedians on the planet.

Feig’s response to the Daily News story did offer some clarification. The “assholes” he was referring to, he said, weren’t the people with whom he’s met face to face on the press and convention circuit, i.e. the real fans who are “the vast majority of wonderful, thoughtful people who make up our geek community.” Instead, the assholes were the faceless ones who spread their hate online.

Even though the haters largely reside online, at some point, this behavior could drive away creatives like Feig, his cast, and screenwriter Katie Dippold from ever wanting to take on huge opportunities like blockbuster reboots, remakes, or sequels in the first place. Is the paycheck worth all that loathsome treatment? It’s inevitable that established brands will be recycled over and over by movie studios, so it’s endlessly preferable to have people of Feig and co.’s caliber involved, to at least make these reboots at least enjoyable.

To his credit, Feig — a guy who created the loving tribute to the awkwardness of adolescence in Freaks & Geeks — also pointed out that he wanted to celebrate the good people within geek culture, instead of giving in to the trolls. He even asked that the more progressive fans take “our community back from the bullies.”

It’s obvious that, even before his film hits theaters, Feig has become exhausted with Neanderthal-grade responses to the concept of lady Ghostbusters. Hopefully, he and his talented cast are able to hold out until the film can receive a fair hearing by critics and interested audiences, and be judged on its merits. Until then, let’s hope the good geeks and Ghostbusters are able to blast the trolls back to the ectoplasmic hell holes from whence they came.

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