It's open season on the new "Ghostbusters" film, a movie that doesn't even open until next month.
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.
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.
The vigor with which people have been defending the new #Ghostbusters movie is quite astonishing.
— Julie Monroe (@Noin007) June 1, 2016
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.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) May 30, 2016
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.
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:
This remains my favorite:
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?
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.”
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.
#Ghostbusters HATERS and MISOGYNISTS should be dragged through the streets and forced to see the movie. ITS THE BEST MOVIE EVER
— Bizarro Stormy (@MrMaXimo10000) May 19, 2016
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