Ghostbusters 2016 Is Not a Battleground

Off the EdgeThis week James Rolfe, who’s probably best known as the “Angry Video Game Nerd,” posted a video stating he doesn’t intend to see the new Ghostbusters movie because he thinks it looks bad and discussing his plans to release another video explaining the doomed history of Ghostbusters 3.  He threw no insults and, in typical James Rolfe fashion, kept the comments succinct, lightly humorous, and classy.  And in response the internet lost its collective mind.

Many of those who claimed to support his opinion crept out from the dark side of the internet and began to spew vile hate speech about how wrong the so-called “SJWs” were and how awful it was women had been cast in a “guy’s” movie and used Rolfe’s short, low-key video as more evidence they are right about the gender-swapped Ghostbusters being an awful idea.

Many of those who claimed to oppose his opinion began to heap equally hate-filled speech on him.  Accusing him (and anyone who even said they supported his statement not to view the film, like “MovieBob” Chipman) of misogyny and of supporting the “anti-female Ghostbusters” movement; posting personal attacks on him and immediately insulting his opinion and work.

My thoughts as this all went down?  How on earth did this movie become the battleground for gender equality in the media and why has it become such a controversial issue?

There’s plenty of blame here to go around as fires were lit, stoked, and spread by the worst elements of both sides.

To be honest I have no idea why a studio would want to remake any movie and then just change the genders, races, or ethnicities of the characters.  By doing this the makers, though probably unintentionally, cast aspersions on the original by declaring that it was actively not diverse enough and that it is something in need of great correction.  Sometimes the original film wasn’t very diverse.  Whether that is in need of massive correction though is debatable.  As I’ve stated in remake posts in the past, nothing angers an audience more than telling them what they loved wasn’t good enough and that it will be corrected.  This is especially true if the original is a classic and cherished property.  And that’s exactly what the filmmakers here have done.

When the news of an all-female cast was announced the actual misogynist movement, fresh off the deplorable behavior on display during the “gamergate” nonsense, immediately jumped into action insulting the very idea of a female cast; as though a made-up job in a made-up world can be defined by any gender.  They then set about their normal internet troll actions of flaming anything to do with the new film with more misogynistic, anti-LGBT, and racist hate speech.  This escalated as more and more information on the film was eventually released and, no matter what, this crowd jumped on it (with almost preternatural cognizance) to blast anything about it as being terrible…because it was about women.

The filmmakers responded by releasing their famous “girl power” set photo, which, while understandable, merely stoked the flamers more and unwittingly cast anyone who ended up not liking the film on what was known about it automatically in league with those who hated it for gender reasons.  And on and on it went like this.  Back and forth.  Until the first trailer came out.

I’ve already posted about the first trailer (and the second, the so-called international trailer didn’t help matters) but the vast majority seems to agree that it, well, just wasn’t a good trailer.  It didn’t make the film look good.  It wasn’t funny.  Max Landis pointed out that the original film and other films that are comedies that cross over into other genres tend to present themselves as the adjoining genre first and save the comedy for characters and situations (Men in Black was another of his examples).  Something this film didn’t seem to do.  YouTube creator StoryBrain posited many of the aspects of the trailer make the entire production “feel” phony, from the lighting to the character reactions.  Even the filmmakers themselves seemed to distance themselves from the film, promoting it very little.

The problem is a ton of the negativity assigned to the film is the horrible hate speech being spread by the actual misogynists and so-called “men’s rights advocates” (a movement that strikes me as strange.  It’s like when a panel of white, middle aged men on Fox News claim they are being discriminated against because they have to settle for having almost everything instead of the complete cultural domination they so crave).  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t valid criticisms of the trailer.

It was lame on comedy.  It seemed to miss the point and tone of the original.  It looked like a cartoon.  It didn’t feel like Ghostbusters, and those of us who grew up with it can define what Ghostbusters is the same way Justice Potter Stewart defined pornography, “I know it when I see it.”  And what they showed decidedly wasn’t it…

Many have automatically defended the trailer, and attacked Rolfe, stating that other reboots(such as Batman, Star Wars, etc) haven’t received so much hate and inflaming the situation further by assuming the all-women cast is the causality.  They rather conveniently forget the fan reaction to the Michael Bay-Produced TMNT.  The general reaction and failure of Robocop.  The total failure of Jem.  Apparently fans just aren’t terribly excited about revisiting some properties in a reboot.

Though it hasn’t helped that the film and studio have made some choices that are a bit questionable.  In a follow up video to her original trailer reaction, YouTube personality Alachia Queen broke the news that the studio has been accused (and there has been considerable evidence about this) of deleting valid criticism of the trailer and its construction but leaving the worst hateful rhetoric in the comments section in an effort to drive a public narrative that only anti-feminist haters are opposed to the movie.  This narrative has been happily picked up by the media more interested in drama than accuracy.  The studio’s behavior in this case makes it excessively difficult to fully denounce those who claim the movie is using sexism as a tool themselves.

Which leads me to the point that this Ghostbusters movie doesn’t push the movement toward gender equality in films at all.  It actually works against it.  What it is showing is that something done by a male cast can also be copied by a female cast.  What’s the point in that?  It is the regressive propping up of “anything you can do I can do better” or “Man Smart, Woman is Smarter.”  I agree with YouTube reviewer Comic Book Girl 19 who states that to make something really progressive why not a diverse cast of people working together?  All the “gender swap” does is show people continuing to work apart.  It’s really…well just another form of sexism.

So how do you progress the need for gender parity in media?  We need more Furiosas, more Ellen Ripleys, more Peggy Carters, more Ramona Flowers; all in movies showing women and men and of various sexual orientations treating and being treated equally by other characters and the narrative.  Where neither gender is shown as better.  Cooperation is displayed rather than separation.  Parity rather than dominance.  That’s what media needs more of.

Instead we got Ghostbuster 2016 and the debate around it has become toxic.  No one can support or denounce the film without being immediately and childishly branded as a party to either militant feminism or rabid misogyny.  When, for most of us, neither is true.  It’s just the most vocal of the crowd co-opting the argument completely and dominating the stage.  Movie review personalities are actively avoiding discussing it because of rhetoric on both sides and even a single comment leads to long, tedious defenses with prefaces of “I’m not bothered by the all-female cast but…” being necessary to distance themselves from the ongoing assault from that side and attempt to mollify quick-draw criticism from the other.  How does that help the progression of equality or even engender a positive discussion in any way?  And how is anyone even able to give this film any kind of genuine criticism without being labelled or branded something they truly aren’t?

I suggest we take a step back.  We absolutely can discuss this movie and its place in the franchise as a movie, not as a social experiment.  And as it turns out, after numerous, hateful, and even high-profile call-outs on Twitter, that was essentially what James Rolfe did.  A relatively concise, calm, well-thought out history of the failed attempts to create Ghostbusters III with some very brief opinions of how he thinks the new film looks, where he never mentions gender once nor does he criticize anyone in particular or anyone’s view.  He never even says people shouldn’t go see it.  Just that HE won’t.  And yet you’d think from the response after his first post, he was going to go full sexist rant on them.  Some even ridiculed his opinion, putting words into his mouth that were never there (satirically claiming he was using the “destroying my childhood” argument or sarcastically claiming his willingness not to buy a ticket was “oh such a BIG statement.”)  All he said was he wasn’t going to see it.  And yet the side calling for MORE equality and understanding has rather cruelly attacked him personally and his position.

James Rolfe is a filmmaker.  He makes videos saying what he thinks of video games and movies and is a massive Ghostbusters fan (in fact his three-part AVGN Ghostbusters videos were my introduction to his work).  He’s allowed to have his opinion.  Of course people are allowed to have opinions on his opinion, but what people shouldn’t do is hang signs on him and everyone else who voices a pro or con perspective on the film as being either “with us or against us.”  Healthy debate is fine, but people should NOT ridicule or attack each other personally based on what we think about an upcoming movie.  Because we should not a turn everything into a petty binary mudslinging contest.  And we should absolutely NOT be broken into two diametrically opposed revolutionary movements based on Ghostbusters 2016.

I’ll say it now.  I don’t plan to see this film either unless some trusted reviewers give it positive reviews or incredible new information is released about it.  You know why I’m not going to see it?  It’s not because of the all-female cast.  I wouldn’t have gone to see a Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill Ghostbusters directed by Judd Apatow either.  It’s because based on all three trailers we’ve seen it looks unfunny and poorly conceived.  Can I tell if the entire movie will be bad based on the trailers?  Not for certain, but I have a pretty good idea after three of them it’s not looking good and I tend not to go to movies that have advertising that make it look bad to me.  That’s even more true of a remake…especially one of a great franchise.  I love the original film.  I don’t want to see what appears to be a bad remake use the name of an absolute classic to make money and even worse to use the divisiveness of gender politics for publicity.  But here’s the thing.  I shouldn’t HAVE to clarify that I like or don’t like the look of a movie based on anything other than my own tastes and the merits I can ascertain.  Not because of the politics heaped upon it by factions who have descended on it like a Tyranid hive fleet, stripped it of its biomass, and left only a dried husk behind waving the flags of both factions at once.

Ghostbuster 2016 is NOT a battleground for gender issues.  It’s a movie.  A product, designed by a studio around a beloved franchise, given new life through questionable decisions, irrationally hated on by the arrested adolescent gender IN-equality crowd, and incomprehensibly revered by the more militant wing of the “girl-power” movement.  Both sides are guilty of hate speech, both sides are guilty of brain-washed group think, both sides have initiated and reacted to uncalled-for vitriolic assaults, and both sides have been totally played by a film studio who just wanted to make some cash on a well-known film franchise and has now seen its efforts rewarded by free publicity (yes both good and bad, but you know the saying “there’s no such thing as yadda yadda yadda”). Ghostbusters 2016 looks like another bad remake from a studio and in a culture of historically bad remakes.  Some people may like it and they’re welcome to like it.  I wish I could too because, like Jim Sterling says, I can’t see a downside to liking more things.  But I don’t.  I don’t think it looks good at all.  And no, the girl-power movement doesn’t get to brand me, or anyone else who wants to call out what we think is a bad movie for being bad, as a sexist, misogynist, or anti-equality henchman just because we have different opinions on how a movie looks to us.  It doesn’t help endear anyone to your cause and makes you as extremist, brutish, and thuggish as the actual racists and sexist you rail against.

I don’t think it’s too late to debate this movie on its merits.  Its success won’t be a victory for gender equality.  If it turns out to be as bad as many of us think it will be going to it doesn’t mean you’re showing your support for the equality cause, you’re just helping a studio make money on a poor film and even prove that there’s profit to be made in exploiting good causes and bringing out the worst in human nature.  If it actually turns out to be a good installment and people refuse to see it they’ll have missed out on a good experience and helped to kill off any hope for a revival of a great franchise.

We’ve moved past this jingoistic, binary attitude.  It’s a film folks.  It’s entertainment.  There is work to be done in the realm of gender parity, but we shouldn’t turn the release of a comedy remake into the hill we all die on…

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