The All-Woman Ghostbusters Movie:
A Reparation Payment to Every Girl Who Grew Up in the 80’s
This week the world finally learned the names of the women who will star in the Ghostbusters reboot. The reactions were what most of us expected: reasonable people collectively expressing sentiments along the lines of “Oh wow, yeah that should be pretty funny and great” on one end of the spectrum and on the other end manbabies soiling themselves with futile rage poops about how GIRLS RUIN EVERYTHING GOOD and how women aren’t funny anyway and how dare anyone desecrate the sacred space of a movie that was super special to us when we were ten that had a twenty story marshmallow man bad guy? I mean, that shit is Bible book holy.
Plenty can be said about women in Hollywood, particularly funny women and the earning potential of an all-female cast in the post-Bridesmaids era. For me though, none of that matters. For me, this is the final act in a twenty-five year Boyhood the Movie style epic, the scene that makes all the drama and exposition and tightly wound narrative finally seem worth it, this is the payoff. Hollywood owes me this; it owes me this big time.
Growing up in the 80’s I was movie obsessed. We had a VCR and because this was pre-Blockbuster we would rent our movies from the back of the Curtis Mathis store, a place that sold enormous console televisions and fine stereo components. I would load up every weekend. In between I would study the HBO guide with more passion and focus than I ever did a college textbook, planning out my monthly viewing with care. Weird Science, Mannequin, Better off Dead, Summer School, Just one of the Guys, Teen Wolf, Star Wars, Ghostbusters. I loved the shitty ones as much as I loved the good ones. I swallowed them whole and then watched them again dissecting the scenes and the dialogue, I absorbed them into my existence in a way I imagine most kids of the 80’s did. Having color televisions in our homes with 24-hour programming we were the first generation to be able to consume media to this degree and more than any generation before us it was what informed our ideas about the outside world.
Children now living the on-demand life don’t seem as obsessed with it as we were then because they can have it whenever they want it. Without a DVR we planned our world around those one-time showings and mom driving us to the video store. We had to wait for it so the moments counted more. You couldn’t pause HBO. HBO waited for no one. So we lived very much in that moment and subsequently the movies stayed with us longer. Or maybe they didn’t. They sure seemed to for me. And this is why Hollywood owes me.
As my kids have gotten older I’ve enjoyed introducing them to the things that I really loved when I was young. Some things have been wildly successful, The Simpsons, Ren and Stimpy, the original Star Wars, Nintendo. My favorite movies though? The ones that I remember sprawling on the brown shag carpet of my parent’s den and re-watching until the tape got thin and even the tracking button didn’t work anymore? No way. Why? Boobs. But not just boobs because there is nothing at all wrong with boobs, I have boobs and I think they’re wonderful. The movies of the 80’s now are totally unwatchable to me because without fail the only time a woman ever shows up or is meaningful to the plot is when it somehow relates to her boobs, either 1. The boobs themselves or 2. The hero finally being heroic enough that the female character implies that she will finally grant access to the previously mentioned boobs. When this happens it’s almost always a thumbs up style cut-away shot with our smiling hero giving a knowing wink to the audience, “Dude, we did it!” and then the credits roll. Of course, this has been common knowledge for decades. Allison Bechdel first came up with the Bechdel test in 1985. But as a kid in the middle of it, I just took it for granted that this was how things had to be.
Women are almost wholly absent in any meaningful way from every movie of the 80’s. If they are there they only service the plot in the shape of the prize to be awarded to the male hero at the end. Even Princess Leia who served as the only rational and truly heroic character of the first two movies of the original Star Wars trilogy is minimized as Jabba the Hutt’s slave in Return of the Jedi when she is costumed in that conspicuously lacking bikini and jerked around on her chain, George Lucas having served her up on a platter to the gods of nerd peen.
And I resent the shit out of that. I resent the fact that me and every other girl of my generation were fed a steady diet of misogyny disguised as entertainment and are now told that any reboot of our collective childhood treasures that will boldly make it less shitty to women is somehow a desecration. If you can let George Lucas piss all over Star Wars by giving us I-III and still buy your collectible Darth Vader’s tie fighter Lego set and you can let Indiana Jones make a number 4 with Shia Labeauf and still buy an extra large tub of buttered popcorn and Mountain Dew on opening night, then you can let us have this one. You can let us have back at least one treasured thing from a childhood that treated us like we were always less, like our bodies were a plot device, like we weren’t capable enough to fight the enemy on our own. Every girl of my generation deserves it.