The new Ghostbusters film fills two hours with weird, delightful, energetic fun, and delivers some great characters, goofy ghosts, and action laced with laughter and bizarre, ectoplasm-y humor. It’s a fantastic ride, a worthy addition to the Ghostbusters franchise, and it’s delivered some new fictional heroes into our broken, sorrowing world.
One such hero is Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), who’s already proven to be a deeply important and impactful character for audiences. She is, in the words of Paul Feig (and McKinnon herself), a “glorious weirdo.”
Holtzmann is a brilliant scientist and hardware expert who creates and improves the ghostbusting equipment (from proton packs to a device called “The Chipper) and it’s evident from the moment she appears onscreen that she’s every bit the glorious weirdo we were promised. Donning goggles and developing dangerous spirit-wrangling tech, Holtzmann makes no attempt to fit into the small boxes that women are forced to inhabit – both onscreen and in the real world.
If you’ve ever been frustrated by the way that female characters are treated by movies, Ghostbusters is a welcome and imperative departure from the norm. Patty Tolan, Erin Gilbert, Abby Yates and Jillian Holtzmann are all significant and cheer-worthy additions to the landscape of female heroes, but to me, Holtzmann stands out as a particularly important character.
McKinnon’s work – breathing life into a character that’s so assured in her weirdness – is inspired, and it’s a big part of what makes Ghostbusters succeed. As Wired’s Angela Watercutter says, “What McKinnon brings to Holtzmann is a sui generis abandon that’s simply indescribable. She’s part mad scientist, part super freak, and all heart. Not kidding about that last part; there’s no crying in Ghostbusters, but the one almost-monologue McKinnon gets is the only time you might feel an actual feeling.”
As a cinematic, contemporary character, Holtzmann is unprecedented. Confident in her brilliance and comfortable in her strangeness, Holtzmann is bizarre and leans into her oddity with enthusiasm. Given full permission to own her weirdness, McKinnon’s Holtzmann is transformative when it comes to female characters, particularly in big-budget franchise films. When so many of our female characters are made to fit into a narrow mold of femininity and allowed to exhibit only certain non-threatening, agreeable or attractive facets of female strength, watching Holtzmann work brilliantly and live in her adorable oddball truth unapologetically is powerful and moving.
Did we mention it’s been all but confirmed that Holtzmann is gay? Though it hasn’t been expressly confirmed in so many words, Paul Feig’s sort-of answer to the question is about as close to proof as we’re likely to get.
With Ghostbusters being a huge studio film (and ignorance being a pervasive and problem, even in 2016) it unfortunately doesn’t come as much of a surprise that we didn’t recieve an outright confirmation.
Even so, the non-answer is pretty much a yes that Holtzmann’s gay even if it’s not technically or explicitly film canon, and that’s a big deal. Her casual flirtation with other characters brings a really fresh dynamic to the film, and though her character doesn’t have any romantic involvement, the romantic element doesn’t really come into play for any of the characters (beyond a few jokes about how attractive Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin is).
It would’ve been incredibly significant for the studio or creative leadership (or, better yet, the film itself) to announce that Holtzmann’s queer. It certainly would’ve been our preference. But as far as most are concerned, it’s as good as canon, and it’s something LGBTQ audiences are loving.
Long after Ghostbusters leaves theaters, Holtzmann’s beautiful oddity, her confidence in her singular strangeness and brilliance, and her enthusiasm for being herself and living her truth will remain with audiences. Holtzy is a powerful, fun and moving character, and watching her inspire kids (and adults) to embrace their weirdness and to answer the call is going to be one of the greatest things to come out of Ghostbusters.