It feels ridiculous that we even have to say this, and yet here we are. A new Ghostbusters movie is coming out this week, starring — gasp! — four women instead of four men. This is not, and we can’t stress this strongly enough, something to freak out over.
In case you missed it, mankind’s been having a rough past few weeks, dealing with a number of unspeakable tragedies. Just to be clear, the new Ghostbusters is not one of them. See, remakes of beloved classics can be bad (Robocop, 2011’s The Thing). They can also be good (True Grit, John Carpenter’s The Thing). The one thing remakes cannot do, however, is magically cause the original to cease to exist. It’s not like buying a ticket to the new Ghostbusters is conditional on destroying your DVD of the original. (Unless Cineplex is running some new promotion we haven’t heard of yet.)
It’s 2016. If you are an adult who thinks that a movie can somehow “ruin your childhood,” you are being ridiculous. It’s as simple as that. And yet, both the stars of the new Ghostbusters and its director Paul Feig have been dealing with months of misguided backlash and surprisingly hostile trolling ever since it was first announced that the beloved ‘80s franchise was getting a reboot featuring four funny women in jumpsuits in place of the original’s four dudes.
It’s kind of hard to overlook the fact that much of the anti-Ghostbusters vitriol is sexist. And by now, the movie’s stars are getting understandably tired of being billed as the “all-female Ghostbusters,” like a summer blockbuster starring women is some kind of traveling sideshow. Or a trail balloon for all future female-driven movies. (“How many litmus tests do we need? I’ve been hearing this for five years. Sorry, I’m finished,” Kristen Wiig told the New York Times last month.) And we can’t blame them. Again, it’s 2016. Shouldn’t we be done with all this by now?
But somehow the hate train keeps rolling along, gaining strength likes there’s some kind of underground river of hateful pink slime fuelling it. At this point, that seems like the only rational explanation for all these bad vibes. Metacritic was forced to shut down their user reviews section for the film until further notice. IMDB has been flooded with one-star reviews from dudes who don’t seem to realize that they’re the only ones who actually care about IMDB’s User Reviews. Feig has been forced to become an expert at wielding Twitter’s block function.
Nostalgia can make us do funny things. Like treat the Power Rangers like it’s Hamlet, or wander into traffic playing Pokémon Go, or hurl vicious hate speech over the Internet at people we’ve never met. But contrary to how it must seem from this outsized overreaction, the original Ghostbusters is not the be all/end all of human cultural achievement. It is simply a good movie that many people (myself included) still love and enjoy, and will continue to do so, even if they reboot the movie another 20 times.
Still, eventually the backlash got to a point where it became impossible for the filmmakers to ignore. So Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold worked it into the movie via some clever meta commentary about not reading or replying to online comments like “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.” It’s at once both funny and self-aware. And a sad reminder that that’s just the PG-13 version of what they were actually hearing.
The new Ghostbusters works best in moments like this though, when it doesn’t have to worry about the same problems every remake runs into: giving us forced origin stories for all the elements we’re already intimately familiar with, like the team’s proton packs, the souped-up Ecto-1, or their iconic logo. Instead, much like the original, the movie’s at its best when it’s just four funny people with great chemistry riffing off the inherent comedy of the premise – that, believe it or not, ghosts are real, and they’re creating mass hysteria in New York City.
Yes, there are legitimate criticisms to be made here: the movie stumbles a bit in an overlong third act, retreads some familiar territory, and not all the jokes land. It’s by no means perfect. But it shouldn’t have to be. Unless we missed the memo that said movies about women must be held to a higher standard than all the other summer blockbusters out there.
Because in the end, that’s all this new Ghostbusters is: fun, perfectly enjoyable summer entertainment, meant to re-introduce the franchise (and a whole new set of toys) for a new generation of kids to enjoy. And if that sounds familiar, well, it should. Because in that respect, it’s exactly like the original movie, as much as certain corners of the Internet don’t want to admit it.
See, just because you’ve grown up doesn’t mean that your favorite childhood franchise has to age up with you. Or that you’re somehow entitled to throw a tantrum about it. Again, we really shouldn’t have to say this, but… Maybe it’s time to stop living in the past and grow up already.