When news first broke that there was going to be Ghostbusters reboot starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, the internet had a mixed reaction. Response ranged from downright misogynistic to jubilant, to circling back around and making fun of sexist reactions.
The issue is, while much of the criticism was sexist, a lot of it was merely disappointment at a childhood favorite getting remade — albeit in somewhat graphic sentiments.
On the one hand, it’s great that if we must rehash old movies we at least don’t do it in the manner a dog returns to its own vomit. A new Ghostbusters is pointless to remake without reimagining it. Further, acknowledging that women are egregiously underrepresented onscreen is a good thing. A study at San Diego State University found that to this day, only 12 percent of film protagonists are female. So casting them onscreen, where they can talk to each other and pass the laughably easy Bechdel Test — these are all good things. But. But. It’s harder to combat sexism when it’s mixed with legitimate nonsexist dismay, and most importantly, why can’t women star in their own original movie? Why does it have to be echoing a movie with impossible shoes to fill — regardless of gender?
The new Ghostbusters is making the same mistake Death at a Funeral made. The comedy worked because its irreverent British humor kept it from devolving into American-style slapstick. It was ridiculous and out-there and iconic.
A few years later, America remade it with an all-black cast. Black people, like women, are egregiously underrepresented onscreen, holding a paltry 10 percent of movie speaking roles. So giving them representation and voices onscreen is a good thing, but Death at a Funeral was a dud, with 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. And it’s not surprising it was a failure, because the first movie provided a model that couldn’t be replicated.
Hollywood’s efforts to diversify its speaking roles are a good thing. But dooming these films to exist in the shadows of previous films — ostensibly damning them by comparison — does no one any favors.
Don’t get me wrong. With the likes of Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver making appearances in Ghostbusters along with Chris Hemsworth — who showed a surprising aptitude for comedy on SNL — the reboot is bound to be entertaining. But rather than setting themselves up to be measured against a pop culture landmark, why can’t an all-female cast star in a kickass original movie, where the only thing they’re competing against is themselves?
It’s not as if it hasn’t worked before.