Remember a couple of months back when the internet erupted into a digital shooting war because some women and some men argued over something each of them felt they had to defend with the ferocity of a million hungry Bengal tigers? I realize I could be talking about almost any day of the week here, but I’m specifically referring to the back-and-forth over the new all-female Ghostbusters reboot.
Maybe you felt that Sony Pictures and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig’s announcement that they’d be creating a new Ghostbusters with Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones was a great idea; maybe you thought that putting a legendary comedic property in the hands of some very funny women was both a bold move and a no-brainer, since women can be very funny. Or maybe you believed that the “guy’s humor” aspect of the original Ghostbusters was integral to it and to give it over to an all-female cast doomed an iconic brand; maybe you thought Sony’s decision was a political one rather than a respectfully comedic one and your childhood was going to pissed all over because of it. Or, if you’re like me, you just thought the idea of a Ghostbusters reboot was infuriating regardless of who was going to be directing and starring in it.
Well, get ready for an entirely new round of the Ghostbusters Wars on social media now that Sony has announced there will be a second reboot and, according to several sites, it will be “guy-themed.” The studio is reportedly creating a production company called “Ghostcorps” with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd that will oversee the development of movies, TV and merchandising for the Ghostbusters universe. Go back and read that sentence again and see if you can somehow convince yourself that North Korea isn’t still holding Sony hostage and forcing it to make painfully embarrassing decisions. The movie which will reset the universe’s delicate balance by making the Ghostbusters men again will likely star Channing Tatum, who’s also producing, and possibly Chris Pratt, and will be directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. The Russo brothers have a lot of studio and audience cred right now because they helmed the exceptional Captain America: The Winter Soldier and, if you’re dead set on doing another Ghostbusters, they’re a good choice simply because have both strong action and comic chops. From a technical aspect, they’re better directors than Paul Feig and no one should even try to argue with that.
But see, that’s the problem. I’m already drawing a line between, and comparing and contrasting, these two movies — two movies I’d just as soon go to my grave having never seen made. Even though a separate reboot of Ghostbusters is in reality nothing more than a cynical cash-grab aimed at making as much money as possible by “Marvelizing” the franchise, it still feels like a vote of no-confidence for the “female” film, the movie that hasn’t even shot a frame of film yet. It reads like Sony blinked when it recognized the online backlash by male fans of the original film, even if a lot of those male fans are fucking idiots. The studio is about to relaunch what’s sure to be a hugely lucrative brand, bolstered by pop culture clout you couldn’t buy with a billion-dollar promotional budget, and it’s not going to take the chance of alienating part of its target audience; it’s going to hedge its very big bet. What’s more, to dodge accusations that the studio is playing identity politics here, it can use its own previous statements. Feig and Sony were the ones who claimed that by putting all women in Ghostbuster grey, they weren’t making any kind of social statement but were simply making a movie that happened to have female comedic actors in it rather than men. If you follow that logic, then it can also argue that the new-new reboot is just a movie that happens to have men in it, even though it’s not as simple as that and everybody knows it.
Whether or not the studio wants it that way, the Channing/Aykroyd/Reitman/Russo Ghostbusters will be seen by many as the legitimate heir to the throne while “Bridesbusters” will be viewed as non-canonical, even though Sony says both films will take place in the same universe. The female Ghostbusters, simply by virtue of the existence of a “back-up” announced before it even gets off the ground, comes off as an inferior model of a popular make — an experiment nobody has any faith in at the top. If you’re turned off by it because you can’t get your head around the idea of female Ghostbusters or whatever, at least you’ll know that everything will be put right soon (with two of the original Ghostbusters team, no less). Again, maybe this isn’t the way it actually is, but it’s damn sure the way it looks. Sony may be doing nothing more than trying to install the world’s biggest ATM on its lot, complete with a neon Ghostbusters logo right overtop of it; the existence of two movies and an expanded universe could be nothing more than an attempt to cater to every potential target audience. Still, there’s a lack of trust implied in the earning power of a female cast versus a male cast in a movie like Ghostbusters.
But then there’s this: When the all-female reboot was first announced, a lot of its proponents attempted to quell criticism by making the argument that a female Ghostbusters didn’t ruin anybody’s childhood because the original Ghostbusters wasn’t going anywhere. Now the same can be argued about the new female reboot: It’s still going to be made and that’s a pretty big deal. No one particular gender was ever guaranteed ownership of this legendary property. If you’re like me, you think Ghostbusters shouldn’t be rebooted by anyone, because while the original movie that had such a profound impact on my childhood and my life maybe isn’t going to suddenly disappear, it’s still possible to water down a brand and tarnish a good name by turning it into just another stupid franchise made by a studio that’s out of original ideas.
When they announced the Feig movie, I knew I wasn’t going to see it, not because it was going to be all-women but because it wasn’t going to be Ghostbusters — not to me. Now that they’ve announced a movie with a bunch of guys playing the parts, I feel exactly the same way.
Update 3.10: There’s much more to the story than was first reported and Latino Review is now breaking it down completely.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.