In the long months of mediocre trailers and fantastic interviews, leading up to the release of the new Ghostbusters, I’ve been hearing a surprising number of men asking if they’ll be branded sexist if they don’t like the movie. Some are genuinely concerned. Many are playing at obstinance. I’ve heard the question from men I like and respect, and many more that I don’t. It’s those in the former group that have me surprised, though, as I thought the answer to this was more obvious than it apparently is.
Because here’s the short answer: Not necessarily.
Longer answer, no, of course you’re not a sexist simply because you don’t like a movie. If I didn’t like the original Ghostbusters, it wouldn’t make me a misandrist. (It would make me wrong, but not a misandrist.) I thought I would save this piece for tomorrow, after I’ve actually seen the movie, but the quality of the movie actually has nothing to do with this. Especially as more and more middling reviews come out, the movie might not be great. You might love it, you might hate it. You might fall somewhere in between. If you don’t like the movie, that opinion does not need to be borne out of sexism.
However, there are some related feelings that definitely are.
Not liking the movie doesn’t make you a sexist. But if you refuse to believe that there are people (a lot of people, if YouTube comments sections are to be believed) who won’t like this movie because they are sexist, that’s a problem.
If you refuse to even consider the idea that maybe the gender of the protagonists DOES play into your opinion of the movie, even a little bit, that, in itself, is a form of sexism.
If you refuse to believe that men and women, both audiences and critics, can and do view movies differently, based on their gender, you’re wrong and you’re part of the problem.
If you are so resentful of this idea that you have to like the movie to be a good person, to the point that you’re determined NOT to like it, yeah, that’s sexist.
If you hold every female-led or made movie up as an example of whether female-driven movies are “good” or “bad” (or weak or not funny or anything at all) in general, you’re holding them to a different standard, and— you guessed it— that’s sexism. You didn’t like The Hangover 2? Did that opinion make you wonder why they keep making male-driven comedies? Of course not. Because “women” (just like “men”) is not a genre or a trend.
If you’re thinking about sexism (and this applies to racism, too) as a thing you have or a thing you don’t, you’re thinking about this wrong. Not liking a movie doesn’t make you sexist and liking it doesn’t make you NOT sexist. But beyond that, sexism isn’t a black & white characteristic, and it’s definitely not an off/on switch. So if you think your Ghostbusters opinion will make you sexist, calm down. But if you think you can’t have sexist thoughts or tendencies because you’re definitely not a misogynist (because you don’t physically abuse women, or hate them, or leave YouTube comments on their movie trailers), then go back and start reading from the top. We all have biases, and they play into our opinions, unconsciously or consciously, all day, every day. It doesn’t make you a bad person. If you willfully choose to ignore those shades of gray, though, that kind of does.