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Has Ghostbusters Hate Crossed the Line?

Is that a fair way to embrace a movie remake? Or is the team behind the movie, and the assembled press scribes, responsible for turning a Summer comedy into another front in the Gender Wars?

Has “Ghostbusters hate” gone too far?

HiT invited freelance journalist, writer and editor Rick Gershman to discuss that hate in the latest edition of Critic vs. Critic.

Toto: The “Ghostbusters” reboot doesn’t hit theaters until July 15. No one, save a very select few, know if it measures up to the 1984 comic classic. What’s crystal clear, though, is the abysmal marketing behind the wannabe blockbusters.

One awful trailer. A second, slightly better sneak peak. And, sadly, an orchestrated campaign amplified by the press to label anyone not thrilled at the prospect of an all-female “Ghostbusters” as a misogynist.

What a mistake.

Yes, there are some Internet trolls who love trashing the project for its gender swap. Pick any topic, and there are dolts who flex their Twitter feeds to embarrass themselves. And some others proclaiming their “childhood will be ruined” by anything less than a Bill Murray-led “Ghostbusters” should be banned from Comic-Con for a year as punishment.

It’s still entirely credible to say the project looks iffy at best despite some serious talent on both sides of the camera.

ghostbusters-hate-wiig-painting
A group of paranormal experts must save the say … again … in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS

Gershman: Christian, I just want to make sure the rules are set right up front: no rabbit punches, no hitting below the belt. Scratching and biting, along with uncontrollable sobbing from a fetal position, are all fine. Now that we’re clear…

Of course, being pessimistic about the potential quality of the new Ghostbusters certainly doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a misogynist. I haven’t been impressed at all either! I have eyes and ears. I know when a trailer’s not funny.

But I also have common sense, which allows me to understand that it’s just a trailer. Lots of movies had lousy first trailers and turned out amazing. Remember the first trailer for a little movie called “Star Wars?” (Millennials, that’s what decent people still call “A New Hope.”)

That trailer is hot garbage. But in 1977, we didn’t have Twitter or Like buttons, much less feel a profound duty to spit venom at early production footage.

Toto: It’s not fair to compare trailers of yore to today’s snippets. The stakes are far higher now than ever before. With two trailers you should get a sense of a project, or at least feel like the potential for greatness is there.


That said, I’m aghast at how the studio, the stars and the press have turned the film into a Gender War fight. it’s such a lousy idea for two reasons. One, it will weaponize the movie and make those who might be on the fence about it leery of checking it out. Two, it’s bad for progress.

A movie like this should exist because four funny ladies and a smart director got together to make a film. Period. We shouldn’t be guilted into seeing it for progress’ sake. Or rush to its defense, sight unseen, because it’s “important” women star in a blockbuster comedy.

The gender scales in Hollywood are unequal. Yet over the years we’ve seen plenty of female-led movies that did big business – “Aliens” “Wanted” and “Lara Croft” come to mind.

ghostbusters-chris-hemsworth
The Ghostbusters new receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS

Make a great comedy, Drop a few killer trailers. Rake in the cash. And, by doing so, remind us that women can be box office draws just like men. Hollywood suits will hopefully take notice. Just don’t shame us into supporting a project that looks iffy on the surface.

Gershman: Let’s table the trailer issue for the moment — I have some more to say on that, but I don’t want to go too long here — and stipulate a few things where I think we’re (at least mostly) in agreement:

  • The Ghostbusters marketing has been lousy.
  • Saying women have a “duty” to see the new Ghostbusters sight unseen is utterly ridiculous. See a movie because you want to see it.
  • Marketing a movie as a political cause — unless it’s a political documentary or something like that — is dumb.

Granted, that was a bit of a trick, because I’m now going to use those points as a platform for criticism. I’m a bastard like that:

  • Movie marketing is very often bad, even for huge tentpole pictures. Paul Feig has directed funny films that won over critics and audiences. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. No one tearing the movie apart has actually seen it yet. Books and covers, people.
  • The hubbub over “duty” is a perfect example of irresponsible journalism. From a right-wing website, that is. It comes from an L.A. Times op-ed contributed by an unabashed feminist writer — not a critic, not a reporter, not anyone affiliated with the Times. That’s an imperative point. But (whoops!) Newsbusters conveniently left that out in its post and its hilariously deceptive headline: “Media: Women Have Responsibility to Go See ‘Ghostbusters’.
  • Marketing a movie as a political cause might be dumb, but it’s also done all the time, because it can be effective. And it’s done at least as often on the conservative end of the spectrum, particularly with faith-based and military-focused films. Hollywood doesn’t make money by being subtle. If your movie stars four women, you’d be stupid not to go on Ellen.

Toto: I’ve set up a Google Alert on “ghostbusters” and every day I see yet another news story unabashedly rooting for the film and smiting its so-called “haters.” These aren’t op-eds. Here’s a few examples:

Who you gonna troll? Ghostbusters trailer awakens the haters

There’s No Reason to Be So Mad About Remakes

If Only Feminists Saw the New Ghostbusters, It Would Still Be a Smash Hit

This remains my favorite:

People hate the ‘Ghostbusters’ trailer, and yes, it’s because it stars women

There’s much more out there. Essentially, the press is rooting on the movie, site unseen. And yes, going on “Ellen” makes total sense for the film’s cast. But with Hillary Clinton? In an election year? While playing up the Gender Card?

The 'Ghostbusters' Cast's Past

A movie can do all over the above and succeed. “Ghostbusters” isn’t meant to succeed. It’s meant to crush the competition, reboot the franchise, sell a gazillion toys, etc. The entire campaign is hurting that cause.

Just look at Marvel.

That studio doesn’t insult its viewers in its ad campaigns or star interviews. It doesn’t get political with its storytelling. It tells political stories at times, but in a balanced, fair fashion that make the movies more compelling.

They do all this because the movies’ price tags are so high … and so are the stakes. If “Ghostbusters” makes $100 million — and there’s little chance it won’t — that’s not a win in today’s Hollywood. It has to do much more to justify the costs.

Gershman: Christian, you say “the press is rooting on the movie, sight unseen.” (Yes, I left out “essentially,” because I don’t fight fair.) That’s an incredibly broad brush. Two of the four links you included come from the same free Houston alt-weekly.

That’s not representative of mainstream media at large. A Google Alert doesn’t differentiate and the New York Times and the Hells Canyon Journal in Halfway, Oregon (yes, it’s real).

But even if I cede that point, how is it so much worse than the people tearing down the film — also sight unseen? The press is doing what press does: It’s responding to a vociferous backlash from armchair critics who curiously don’t get their jumpers this big of a bunch following mediocre trailers for movies that lack the same gender-swap conceit.

Granted, your “favorite” of the bunch came from a big paper, the Washington Post, whose critic made the outrageous faux pas of… what exactly? I’m guessing the issue is with the headline, which makes the blanket claim that “People hate the ‘Ghostbusters’ trailer, and yes, it’s because it stars women.”

GHOSTBUSTERS - Official Trailer (HD)

Far too broad of a generalization? Definitely. Any worse than the intentionally deceptive Newsbusters “responsibility” headline? No. And you know there’s truth to it.

I feel certain that a lot of people hate this movie sight unseen because they believe it’s representative of Hollywood trying to turn their icons female — or black, or gay, or whatever. (God forbid.) The ugliest depths of comment sections don’t even try to camouflage that fact.

Also, the size and intensity of the backlash prompted the media articles and posts, not the other way around. The press responded to a trend; it didn’t create it.

I’m certainly not defending the movie. Like everyone else, I haven’t seen it. Could be good. Could suck. Could be somewhere in between. I just find the constant hot takes about the subject — from every perspective — ridiculous. Let’s try a radical new notion and actually see the movie first. Then we can praise or bury it.

Please follow Rick Gershman on Twitter @RickAfterDark

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6 Comments

  1. Good debate. I’m completely in line with “if it’s a funny movie, it doesn’t matter the gender (skin color / political opinions / pet ownership status) of the cast”. Let’s SEE the darn remake before we decide it’s a huge win for feminism or a ghastly abomination. 🙂

    1. But really … it shouldn’t be a ‘win’ or a ‘loss’ for feminism. If it stinks, so be it. That doesn’t mean women are less qualified to lead a blockbuster comedy. Just says the creative team blew it.

      1. Totally agree. A good movie is a good movie, no matter who the cast is. It should stand on its own without all of the “cards” that various people like to throw at us in rebuttal.
        It is just that when you get two trailers and they both smell to high heaven, what other impression do we get then it is a bad movie?
        Maybe this particular company that did the trailer should be fired if they are misrepresenting the facts.
        Another thing that is getting people upset is the lazy tendency to remake instead of create from scratch.

    2. Hollywood has always churned out whatever combination of existing memes they can throw together without any regard to issues. The few times they “make a statement” is when they think that will get people talking about a film before it comes out.

      If they can get this “reboot for demographics groups” thing down, just think of how easy their jobs would be. Grab any film that sold well with all white, all male, or whatever and recast.

      All depends on the box office

  2. I really like the back and forth. Both Toto and Gershman have made excellent points. At a time when half of the population in the U.S is complaining about PC during a highly charged election year, I think this movie was bound to become controversial. Even if you concede Gershman’s point that Right-wing websites started the flame wars, one has to concede that this movie was right there for the taking.
    The fans of the original are always skeptical. And this reboot does not just add “diversity” to the cast, it reverses the gender roles with Hemsworth as the hot secretary. Even a toddler can be led to believe that the movie has an “agenda”.
    So, the only winning strategy is to keep the expectations low. So, start with a low budget. Place promo material in such a way that it keeps everyone guessing. Ask your allies in the media to ‘play it cool’. Pray that it will be a sleeper hit. And then go full guns blazing for the sequel.

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