To say that I’m a fan of Ghostbuster is probably an understatement. Among the many things that I was exposed to as a child, Ghostbusters probably remains one of the most cherished, quoted, and resonate. Something about the franchise (minus Extreme Ghostbusters, that is), is so perfectly captivating. The original film is an undeniable classic—as a comedy it is beyond reproach in intelligence, writing, and execution. As a film has managed to hold up visually and artistically; and from first viewing manages to slowly suck you into an increasingly absurd faux-horror world that you don’t storm out of the theater in bewilderment at the sight of a 100 foot marshmallow man careering through Columbus Circle—you buy it. So when news that the long awaited third installment has finally been ditched following the death of Harold Ramis earlier this year, suffice it to say that my dreams were dashed.
Now, with the news that an all female cast of characters will be rebooting the series, many fans (including myself) are wary on a number of levels. For one, reboots are a horrible movie fad at the moment. I’m not generally a fan of them, though I do understand their necessity—particularly for comic book franchises and science fiction stories. However, bending the gender of the Boys-in-Beige, at first, seems like a shameless gimmick. And a risky one to boot.
There is a general stereotype that women simply aren’t funny—despite their need to be. This stereotype is of course totally false and one need look no further than Ellen, Whoopi, Roseanne, and Joan—all hilarious women that you know by first name alone. And certainly there are many, many more funny women out there who are fresh and relevant enough to be cast in the movie. Besides, the original Ghostbusters was great because the actors—Bill Murray included for the most part—played the movie straight. In an absurd world, with absurd situations going on, the characters are played like human beings that are, perhaps, slightly off kilter…but generally normal all the same. To suggest that this movie needs to be an absurd gross-out comedy would tarnish the franchise and really add no value to anything except becoming a Ninja Turtles III “Let’s never talk about this again” kind of event.
However, this movie has the general potential to have a huge impact in general, if they can manage to catch lightning in the bottle a second time and capture the spirit (wakka wakka) of the original Ghostbuster movie. You see, not only would an all female cast hinge heavily on the ability of the actors to be funny but it would even more depend on them being intelligent. The original Ghostbusters were all wickedly intelligent men—even Winston who was brought in as an everyman, and whose role was severely diminished after Eddie Murphy backed out of the movie, was sharp, clever, and observant. He had seen shit that’ll turn you white, you see.
The other three Ghostbusters were all scientists, each in their own right a genius. Peter had two doctorates—one in Parapsychology and one in Psychology—and he was undeniably a hack at that. Ray and Egon were engineers, physicists, occultists and who knows what else. Their knowledge vast and authoritative on a wide range of topics from quantum mechanics and particle acceleration to a quotable Tobin’s Spirit Guide. Personally, I know that I’ve many times daydreamed about correcting someone that I’m a doctor, much in the way that Bill Murray’s Venkman does when frist confronted by Walter Peck. I’m sure that I’m not alone in that, and even if many or most of us don’t go on to get a doctorate out of spite or need for sarcastic ammunition, we did have fictional characters to aspire towards in one way or the other.
The women who are cast in these roles have the opportunity to shine as fictional examples of women in STEM careers (who yes, chase ghosts).
The fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has no shortage of women with degrees but does have a tangible lacking of women in career positions, and next yet supervisory ones. While the numbers vary drastically from field to field, the fact remains that Colleges and Universities are actually giving full rides to young women who are looking to pursue their careers in these fields for no other reason than to bolster equal representation in the field. While the female cast members of an all-women squad of Ghostbusters would likely not have advanced STEM degrees (unless they cast Mayim Bialik, which isn’t a bad idea) they could still serve the role as positive models in fiction for our girls.
Especially considering too many of the mass media messages for female empowerment seem to stem from the opposite site of the female figure than the brain, as our girls are constantly bombarded with shaking derrieres, plunging cleavage, and conscientious promiscuity it would be nice to see a representation of females in empowered roles that doesn’t require them to shake what their mamas gave them, rather than to use their minds. That is of course, considering that they don’t needlessly fill the movie with cheesecake and gratuitous sex scenes. Our girls can be scientists—and they can be attractive too. But that doesn’t mean they have to be in “sexy Ghostbuster” outfits like the Halloween brochures sell.
Now, I don’t mean to say any of this in diminishment of any real scientists, female or otherwise, but rather from a statement in point-of-fact…Americans idolize sports and entertainment icons above and beyond people of real consequence. If we are to promote fictional characters, then, while not dealing with that most absurd phenomenon, then we might as well promote fictional characters of realistic value to someone. That isn’t to say that I want kids, boys and girls alike, rushing to cross the streams (in fact for boys that might have more than one connotation), but rather that its important that there are some sort of fictional characters that smart girls can identify with too. There are some, but not enough.
So while I am wary, as a fan of Ghostbusters, at any kind of reboot and any addition to the franchise in general there is great promise in this otherwise gimmicky seeming take. We can have a movie that shows women as intelligent, empowered, funny, and not over sexualized and we can continue the great fun of Ghostbusting all at once. It may not be the Ghostbuster movie I’ve been waiting most of my life for, but it might be a good one all the same…and as long as there’s no bar pick up lines ending with “Who Ya Gonna Call” we might have a couple of no-groan laughs too.