Director: Paul Feig
Screenplay: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
We don’t really do hot takes here at AGR, apparently. Now that you’re all done talking about Ghostbusters and probably never want to hear about it again, here are some thoughts.
MRA pissbabies should be even madder about Ghostbusters than they are. Though that would probably kill them. Which, I mean, ok, if they have to go, literally burning up in a column of incandescent rage over a movie that has girls in it is probably how they’d want to go.
MRAs, or Men’s Rights Activists, are people who have noticed that sometimes things are bad for men, and have decided that this is women’s fault. They believe they are entitled to sex on demand from the women of their choice, and that the fact that they don’t seem to be getting that is the greatest injustice currently occurring in the world. Though they occasionally point out genuine problems suffered by men, these problems are all created by the patriarchy, and MRAs can’t be bothered to do anything about them because they’re too busy threatening to rape video game reviewers. And screaming death threats at trans women. And bemoaning the fact that for some reason, no one wants to shower them with blow jobs. They are beneath contempt. They are the political equivalent of a three year old lying on the floor kicking their feet and screaming until their face turns purple because they wore a bowl of pudding as a hat and it wasn’t as much fun as they expected and now they have no more pudding. Reality doesn’t work the way they imagined it would, and they are just unbelievably pissy about it.
Which brings us to Ghostbusters, and the recent wave of MRA wordpuke.
MRAs are the villain of the new Ghostbusters. His lair is in a basement, at one point he makes a weird statement about class, and he constantly talks about his actions as being some sort of revenge, though we don’t see anyone treat him particularly badly, apart from people at this shitty job calling him weird, which, to be fair, he definitely is.
MRAs are mad that there is a new Ghostbusters remake, and that it stars women. This is predictable and not particularly noteworthy. Here’s the thing though. They should be way, way, way madder. They don’t even KNOW. Because this movie, while not being feminist (you can’t be feminist without fighting for black women, and this new movie falls pretty fucking short there, more on that later) is a satisfying smack in the face for MRAs. MRAs have given us the dubious gift of allowing even half-assed feminism to seem triumphant, because even a bare minimum of female non-oppression sends these infantile fedora-fuckers into a tantrum, and there’s something glorious about any piece of art that makes terrible people angry. I just wish it wasn’t so easy.
The first and most obvious reason that MRAs should be angrier is that they are the villain of the new Ghostbusters. I don’t expect them to know that, because they either haven’t seen the movie or were watching it through too thick a cocktail of tears, ragesweat and sexual confusion to process things like “characterization,” but the villain of the piece is a lonely, disaffected white man who decides to fuck things up on a supernatural level in exactly the same way that the average horrible disaffected white man decides to dash off a manifesto and become a mass shooter. (Note that I am talking specifically about horrible disaffected white men. There are plenty of relatively benign disaffected white men). His lair is in a basement, at one point he makes a weird statement about class, and he constantly talks about his actions as being some sort of revenge, though we don’t see anyone treat him particularly badly, apart from people at this shitty job calling him weird, which, to be fair, he definitely is. He is a total victim-complex MRA, complete with some sort of half-baked philosophy and the belief that he’s the smartest person in the world and therefore entitled to whatever he wants. I’ve seen criticism of the character as being a weak and uninteresting villain, but I feel like that’s kind of the point. He’s not cool, he’s not scary, he’s not interesting. He’s dangerous, but apart from that, he’s not even notable.
The character is given one cartoonishly outdated sexist line to further cement his MRAness, and in a movie full of great jokes, this one is written and delivered in so unfunny a manner as to make it impossible for even the most determined sexist to laugh along with it. It’s basically the only unfunny line the actor who says it delivers in the whole movie. The MRAs are not only firmly identified with the villain, they don’t even get to be an entertaining villain.
The most sexualized female character, played by Kate McKinnon, is sexualized with such pure and glorious queer swagger that she basically renders herself immune to the male gaze.
There’s more, though. MRAs are pretty much fine with women being in movies, as long as those women are passive, conventionally attractive and scantily clad. The women of Ghostbusters are none of the above. They are active, hilarious (much more so than they came across in the weirdly bad trailers for this movie), and fully clothed. The most sexualized female character, played by Kate McKinnon, is sexualized with such pure and glorious queer swagger that she basically renders herself immune to the male gaze, and while I don’t claim any particular insight into the workings of straight male minds, I’m willing to bet there were more than a few dudes in the theaters during Ghostbuster screenings wondering why the two women sitting next to them were giggling and possibly fanning themselves so much every time the ghostbuster in the vest and goggles was on screen. She is magnificently queer, is what I’m saying. Maybe there are straight guys out there who are like “I thought she was hot too.” That’s allowed, but know that what you’re enjoying was not intended for you. Which isn’t to say there’s nothing here for straight people; Thor is in it, and he’s hilarious, and as chiseled as usual, but there’s nothing here for straight dudes, unless they’re able to actually, like, enjoy a movie with the non-looking-at-butts part of their brains, something I know almost all straight men are capable of, but which moviemakers seem oddly unwilling to come to terms with. Ghostbusters trusts men to be able to do that, or to not see the film, or, I guess, to spew rancid hate all over the internet.
So that’s what they would be mad about, if they had seen this movie. But then there’s the thing they actually ARE mad about, but not admitting. That’s what this movie changes about the old movie.
Ghostbusters, the original one, is a really good movie. Even a great movie. But there’s stuff about it that is not great. There’s the fact that Winston is the only black character, who is specifically not a scientist, not one of the original members of the group, and the only one who seems to be religious in inclination, in a movie where science ends up triumphant over religion. The new movie does quite a bit better with Leslie Jones’s character, Patty, casting her as a local history nerd rather than as some random person in search of a job; I think it’s particularly telling that Winston’s line when he shows up to become a ghostbuster is “if there’s a steady paycheck in it, I can believe in anything you want,” whereas Patty’s is “you need me.” Though she’s the latecomer to the group, she’s essential to it. This link has some great points about how the trailers were misleading on Patty’s role, suggesting she was a stereotypical “street smart” character, rather than the dork who knows the history of every building in Manhattan. That said, it’s a total bummer that she isn’t a scientist. It sucks that they cast the one black character (and, while we’re at it, why only one non-white character?) as the only non-scientist of the group. I’m hoping the sequels do better with that, especially considering that she is the one who comes up with the science-based fix for the big doom problem at the end of the movie.
So that’s a thing that the old movie did badly, that the new movie does a little better, if still not particularly well. It’s not one I think the MRAs will care about, because they can only think about one thing at a time, and that one thing is screaming about their nightmares of vaginas taking over the world, like some kind of de-metaphorized HP Lovecraft.
The main thing about the old movie that just really fails to hold up today is a huge part of Bill Murray’s whole schtick. I know legions of fanboys will be mad that I’m criticizing the original film at all, let alone Bill Murray, but his whole sleazy dude who hits on women and is unaccountably successful with them is equal parts gross and implausible, and it has not aged well. It’s also, I’m guessing, one of the things MRAs love about the old movie. It’s how they think the world should work, after all, and they undoubtedly imagine themselves to be Venkman every time they belittle a woman, the way he does Janine, or openly creep on one, the way he does every other woman who appears on screen. And Venkman gets to end up with Sigourney Weaver after creeping on her the whole movie. Her shutting the door on him while smiling non-threateningly is a terrific acting moment from Weaver, by the way; basically every woman watching the film has done that smile. But in the end, she decides he’s not so bad, since, I guess, he declined sex with her when she was possessed, and broke her out of that scary statue, but mainly she ends up with him because women in movies are often treated as rewards for a job well done, no matter how skeevy the man in question has acted towards her. That’s how MRAs think reality should be, which is part of why they’re so angry all the time, but it’s also how they think fiction should be, and the fact that Ghostbusters is full of that kind of shit is, whether they admit it or not, one of the things that shitty, gross dudes really like about it.
This movie doesn’t do that. It does a kind of reverse homage to it, in the form of Kristin Wiig lusting after Thor, but it’s never played as anything but a joke, and Melissa McCarthy pointedly tells her that her behavior is not just inappropriate, but illegal, fairly early on, and it’s hard not to view that as a bit of an eye-roll aimed at Venkman. The attractive male character is played as a complete ditz, and while Chris Hemsworth is supposed to be incredibly attractive, he’s not charming or seductive, he’s just good looking. The Murrayesque sleazebag “lady’s man” routine is simply ditched as unfunny, unsympathetic, and anachronistic, not fun enough to continue or bring forward into 2016.
And that, along with the movie skewering their identity and the claiming of space in movies for women with all their clothes on, is what should really be pissing the MRAs off about Ghostbusters. It sees the biggest flaw in the original, and tosses it out without a second thought. Casual misogyny and rape culture are discarded, as they should have been years ago. If the MRAs pull their heads out of their asses long enough to hatewatch this movie, they will definitely throw another tantrum; on some level, these brats have to feel they’re losing their favorite toy.
Not that they’re losing anything, obviously. The original Ghostbusters still exists (fun fact! When a movie is remade, it’s actually more accurate to say it’s “made a second time,” because contrary to apparent handwringing popular belief, the original film is NOT, in fact, melted down and resmelted into the new movie, it actually just goes on being watchable in every format you used to be able to find it) and basically every big movie besides Ghostbusters that came out this year had a mostly male cast. MRAs are losing nothing; they never have been. Other people are gaining things, which is exactly what they’ve always been so upset about. They don’t like when other people get nice things.
Stay mad, bros. If this movie were bad, you wouldn’t be pissed, you’d be triumphant. I don’t want to call your whining an endorsement of the movie, exactly, but it’s definitely a positive sign.