The way Paul Feig’s 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters was treated was unforgivable. What should have been a fun reboot of a nostalgic comedy favourite became the platform for an entire misogynistic right-wing hate movement to rally against every grievance they’ve ever had about a fandom that refuses to default cishet white men as the standard. That film had to deal not only with the sheer vitriol of a sexist backlash that was conveniently empowered by alt-right figures and noted harassers looking for attention, but also the faux-concern of every think-piece writer who tried to middle-ground an issue that could not have been clearer. Yes, the backlash is silly, they said, but maybe this film will be bad so that all evens out, right? No. Not even close.
Sony has decided to deal with this toxic rot at the center of pop culture essentially by ignoring it and bringing back Ghostbusters once more, only now they’re pretending the 2016 film didn’t happen. It’ll all be OK as long as we pretend the silly lady version doesn’t exist, okay? And look, Jason Reitman is directing this one. Surely bringing on the son of the original director will alleviate those fans’ fears? We’re sure they’d be this excited if an obvious act of nepotism was benefitting a woman.
Reitman is here to assure the fans he’s on their side. in an interview on Bill Burr’s podcast, Reitman wanted fans to know ‘I’m not making the ‘Juno’ of ‘Ghostbusters’ movies.’ Good to know you don’t want your new film to be like that Oscar-winning indie smash that made over 30 times its budget back, landed you a Best Director nomination and paired you up with your greatest collaborator, Diablo Cody, for the first time.
Reitman also wanted fans to know the sequel will be very reverential to the original films, describing in detail the lengths they went to in order to make the teaser trailer. Then he said this gem:
‘We are, in every way, trying to go back to the original technique and hand the movie back to the fans.’
So, let’s unpack this.
You’re making a movie that’s a new addition to a beloved franchise, one directed by your own dad. Regardless of your own merits as a director, it’s hard to dispute the fact that you probably got that gig because of your surname and the nostalgic buzz that inspires. You bring up the near-fetishistic lengths you went to in order to make the teaser, kick down the woman-centered film you made your name on, then assure fans that this movie is for them.
But what fans? Do the women who loved the 2016 film count? Do the women who got harassed endlessly for even expressing mild enthusiasm for that reboot get to be part of the fandom you’re handing the movie back to? Who are the ‘true fans’ here? The ones who ran Leslie Jones off the internet with racist and sexist slurs? The ones who organized mass down-votes of the trailers on YouTube and screwed with the movie’s IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings, months before it opened? Are you even aware of the sheer problems behind the rhetoric that ‘hand the movie back to the fans’ inspires? Because that immediately insinuates that the 2016 one wasn’t for ‘the fans’ and encourages further hostility towards that stupid ‘you ruined my childhood with the women movie’ narrative.
I’m not expecting Jason Reitman to in any way acknowledge how he’s essentially become the one-man messiah for this franchise or how horrendously Feig, his actresses and countless women were treated for daring to associate themselves with a gender-swapped Ghostbusters movie (although frankly, I think he should). I’m just so damn exhausted with how the most benign aspects of pop culture became this ridiculous war, fostered by misogyny, right-wing politics and a desire to attack anyone who dares to question the often poisonous mindset the idolizing of nostalgia fuels.
The truth is that it almost doesn’t matter how good Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters film actually is. It doesn’t even need to be a film so much as a slavish recreation of the original movies, all in an attempt to sate a demographic whose fury was never justified or authentic in the first place. And in the long-term, it’s not good for pop culture to be so stuck in the past, clinging to archaic ideas and representation for fear that people’s childhoods will be ruined. If your childhood is truly irrevocably spoiled by a remake or reboot of a movie then you must have had a seriously cushy life up unto that point.
Header Image Source: Sony Pictures