GHOSTBUSTERS: I Ain’t Afraid of No Girls

Any moviegoer would have predicted Ghostbusters to become one of the most sequelled movies ever, but the 1984 comedy’s live-action hopes fizzled after 1989’s poorly-received follow-up—which had fun moments, but was ultimately a pale shadow with a dumb villain. Since then, rumours of a third Ghostbusters have floated around almost continually, with creator and star Dan Aykroyd fanning the flames of idle gossip to increasing frustration.

Over the years, numerous scripts have been commissioned, rewritten, and ultimately rejected for Ghostbusters III. Bill Murray danced around the subject of reprising his role as Pete Venkman for years, before co-star Howard Ramis sadly died and the future of a third movie looked unlikely. However, ironically, it was the loss of the chance to reunite all four original paranormal investigators that galvanised development of the currently-filming reboot: the “all-female Ghostbusters”, directed by Paul Feig of Bridesmaids fame.

It’s been demoralising to see just how many people are condemning Feig’s remake before a second of footage has even been glimpsed. An early draft of the script hasn’t even leaked. In fact, even once excellent photos of the new steampunk-style proton packs, a faithful update of the Ghostbuster overalls, and an Ecto-1 built from a 1983 hearse hit the web, it only seemed to make a certain section of fandom angrier. And then the first official cast photo was released, showing new stars Kristen Wiig (as Erin Gilbert), Melissa McCarthy (as Abby Yates), Kate McKinnon (as Jillian Holtzmann), and Leslie Jones (as Patty Tolan) dressed in their costumes and looking bad-ass. Were fans happy now? Not in the slightest.

It’s easy to apportion blame for all this negative reaction on sexism from middle-aged men who never grew up, and in certain quarters that’s hard to deny. I just don’t think the majority of negativity is driven by a pathological dislike of women; just bitter frustration we’re not getting the Ghostbusters III most fans have dreamed of. And the most apparent “reason” for this is Feig’s decision to cast women in roles everyone’s accustomed to seeing as male.

Fans have had over three decades of keeping their fingers crossed Bill Murray’s going to be sent a script he’ll (a) actually get around to reading, and (b) like enough to rejoin a franchise he doesn’t have any financial or artistic need to. Aykroyd’s and Ernie Hudson’s careers are in very different places right bow, so their eagerness to return to the scene of their biggest hit has never been in doubt. GBIII anecdotes would keep them in coin for another few decades on the chat show and convention circuits. And until Ramis’ untimely death in 2014, it always felt likely the writer-director-actor would have no qualms about revisiting Egon Spengler—if the quality of material was there.

(c) David M. Buisán

But a full reunion simply isn’t possible now. That boat has sailed. Ghostbusters has acquired an all-female cast, and many people’s dream of seeing the ’80s Ghostbusters back in business have thus been crushed. The fact Feig’s movie is being termed a reboot appears to remove the slim chance of a torch-passing sequence between the remaining old and new characters, too. Aykroyd will apparently be playing a nondescript New York cabbie in a very brief cameo alongside Wiig.

I actually think the new Ghostbusters stands a strong chance of being good, and will almost certainly improve on the entertaining but slapdash Ghostbusters II. Nothing I’ve seen or heard gives me reason to doubt a worthwhile film’s very possible, and perhaps even likely—as Feig’s directed some of the better comedies of the past five years, and the writers presumably had dozens of unused scripts to cherrypick the best elements from. Ghostbusters III was in development so long I’ll be astonished if that time’s gone to waste when it comes to harvesting a good story and fun set-pieces. And the cast is very promising, too—anchored by established funny women like Wiig and McCarthy, while introducing lesser-known stars like McKinnon and Jones to the world. There’s a Saturday Night Live link between those actresses, just like there was with the original team, which also just feels right.

Ghostbusters fans should definitely count their blessings and learn to keep an open mind, but are they all truly sexist for hating the idea of Feig’s version? It’s a strong claim. And, for the most part, I still think not. It’s mainly just stupid people lashing out at the only hard fact they have about this new Ghostbusters. A lot of people are upset that Aykroyd, Murray and Hudson won’t be back on-screen, but in a roundabout way that’s a promising sign fans recognise it was the characters they fell in love with in ’84—not the special effects, which will almost certainly be much-improved. I just wish more fans would recognise this and get excited to see some new characters they might love just as much—regardless of largely irrelevant gender issues. Right now, I’d argue American comedians are some of the funniest people on the planet—as even the film’s rumoured cast members would’ve been fun to watch: Ellie Kemper, Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, etc.

Most fans of the original film are in their thirties, forties, and fifties, so they should know better than to lazily attack a movie over the sex of its cast. You’re not angry about an all-female Ghostbusters (unless you’re incredibly uneasy with equal rights), you’re angry you’re not getting to see Egon, Peter, Ray and Winston again. I understand that. I get it. I’m a little disappointed myself that Feig’s version isn’t a straightforward sequel that would allow for the old favourites to return for a few scenes—but clearly that idea wasn’t working on paper, so we’re instead getting a redo of the original idea with a group who just happen to be women. I mean, what, you’d be happier seeing someone like Channing Tatum play Pete Venkman, just because he’s a man?

Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters opens in the U.S this month, next year, on 22 July 2016.

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