Ghostbusters And The Nostalgia For Male Privilege

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Ghostbusters-1

The tricky thing is that they aren’t wrong in their argument: the movie does not look very good, and Hollywood has forsaken the holy nostalgia of our collective youth. The problem is that a shit load of movies look bad, are bad, and have absolutely terrible trailers and no one says anything about them — at least not on this scale. And many of these awful movies are remakes and reboots of sacred childhood relics: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Karate Kid, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Conan The Barbarian, a whole host of comic book movies, and a boatload of TV shows — not to mention the dozens in the pipeline.

Yet nothing else has received the same sort of virtual thrashing. In fact, for Rolfe, the quality’s got little to do with it. “It’s not the fact that it looks bad,” he argues, “The real problem I have with it is the title.” The title, he explains, “is a shameless attempt to bank on the name.” Not to mention it means we’ll be forced to forever refer to the original as “the 1984 original,” a toil if there ever was one.

The logic in both of his title-centric points, while limp, seems to ignore the reality of every other remake (or reboot or re-imagining or sequel) ever: a title has IP, it has name recognition, and it’s going to get people into the seats. Really though, the most absurd point Rolfe makes is that using the title “takes advantage of the younger generation who might not have even seen the original.”

With an argument like this, it’s hard not to imagine that Rolfe views himself as the guardian of some sacred artifact. In his mind he might truly believe that he is fiercely defending a nostalgic relic of his childhood. And in a way he is. Only the relic is not Ghostbusters, but white male dominance.

Now, my intention here is not to accuse Rolfe — or all of the 840,000 plus people who clicked the thumbs down on YouTube — of being sexist, but rather to point out the cognitive gap in understanding. Intention, while not a get-out-of-jail-free card, is an important thing to consider in such situations. Certainly not all of these people (more specifically: men) knowingly denounced a movie sight-unseen because women took over the lead roles from men. But pardoning such sexism, intended or not, is allowing the continued and systematic repression of women and the perpetuation of gender inequality.

Ghostbusters may be a bad movie, but it sure as shit isn’t going to be worse than Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (which hovers around barely 25,000 dislikes, for all the trailers combined) or Alice Through The Looking Glass.

My real issue with this idiotic and absurd outcry against Ghostbusters is that it has missed something that is actually worth talking about: Leslie Jones’ character. Jones plays Patty Tolan, and, as the one black member of the new Ghostbusters, she is the only one who is not a scientist. The decision has sparked some minor discourse, to which Jones responded via a Tweet: “Why can’t a regular person be a Ghostbuster?” Her remark seems to miss the point all together; it’s not that a regular person can’t be a Ghostbuster, but rather that black women can’t be scientists (the other three principal cast members, all white, play scientists and doctors).

But because of the vial and cacophonous uproar of the Internet (a space about which The Atlantic just asked, “When Will The Internet Be Safe For Women?”), a worthy conversation has been forgone. It’s 2016, the dominance of white men, while still grossly apparent, is finally being tested, if tentatively. And if nostalgia means relegating women to minor roles and love interests (the Bechdel test, low bar as it is, is still almost always failed), then it’s time we renounce those outdated notions and embrace the progress — limited as it may be — that Ghostbusters is.

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