Take THAT Michael Eisner—the former Disney CEO who famously declared in 2015 that funny women usually aren’t beautiful. Not that beauty is at all relevant to the four heroines of Sony’s latest blockbuster. These women, in all their quick-witted, action–crazed, slap-stick-ery, are on an ectoplasmic mission: they are…the Ghostbusters!!! (cue Ray Parker Jr’s bad-ass, circa 1984 theme song—yes, they leave no stone unturned.)
Although in 2016 this revelation is a tiresome one, the representation of women in Paul Feig’s hilarious reboot should be an example to the rest of the media and entertainment world. Not once is a single female character in Ghostbusters, which premieres in US theaters this Friday, male gaze-ified. In fact, whether they have husbands or boyfriends, are heterosexual, bi or gay is never even mentioned. They could care less. And guess what? So could we! These are hard working, warrior women who ain’t afraid of no ghost.
But they’re not girl-power action chics in the way we’re accustomed to seeing on screen (think cleavage plunging, leggy Lara Croft). There’s just no attempt at sex appeal, period; the Ghostbusters wear the same practical jumpsuits as their male former counterparts and are equally–if not more—nimble, tenacious, and goofy. In fact, as the ultimate gender subversion, in this remake, the sexy bimbo secretary archetype is played by a man—Chris Hemsworth—who is far from the Viking hero (or is he a god in The Avengers?) in this ‘the future is female’, fuck-yeah flick.
While Feig’s remake brings with it a palate of fresh cultural and political perspectives (#progress), he gleefully remains loyal to the franchise’s roots. All at once feeling new, the 2016 Ghostbusters submerges its audience in a sort of throwback carnivalé. And it’s not just the theme song that does it. The technology that the Ghostbusters have developed and use to swat the paranormals feel adorably big, fluorescent, clunky, and old-school; their ghost-mobile is an 80s classic; and even the green slime that seems to follow Erin Gilbert (played marvelously by Kristen Wiig) like a bad hair day is just as gimmicky as the original. And did I mention that not a single iphone exists in their ghost Gotham world?
Certainly the cast is what makes this zinger really zing. Melissa McCarthy plays paranormal obsessive Abby Yates with full aplomb; her old school mate and co-author of ‘Ghosts from the Past: Literally and Figuratively’-turned super serious physicist at Columbia is infectiously played by Wiig; studio newcomer Kate McKinnon plays tech specialist Jillian Holtzmann with a sort of androgynous, wacky-wild and unpredictable swagger; Patty, a New York subway employee–played delightfully by Leslie Jones–joins the team in search for a weekend club, but soon finds herself in full-time heroism.
While the relentless jokes surrounding Hemsworth’s Kevin pop (Wiig announcing “You’re hired!” after just moments of meeting him and his dog named “Mike Hat” which sounds suspiciously similar to “my cat” are particular zingers), of all the main characters, this one seems to miss the mark a little. His ‘dumbness’ was perhaps a little too dumb..?
In the face of Hollywood’s recent fierce lack of diversity criticisms, Ghostbusters also delivers: we are presented with four ordinary women—who represent real people in our society (physically and racially)–doing extraordinary things. There’s a slo-mo tableau in the midst of the climactic ghosts-are-taking-over-the-city sequence where McKinnon powers through a storm of rumbling chaos as if she were Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2. I think I nearly squealed!
But political correctness aside, what’s so good about Ghostbusters is that it’s just really bloody good. And funny!