Edit: in case there’s any doubt that misogyny is a major problem in Hollywood, here’s an article you might want to read: Paul Feig Responds to Being Called a “Women’s Director.”
I will tell you this gross thing, which was I’d had so many producers and stuff pull me aside and go like, “So, you don’t want to get pigeonholed into this. You’re going to be, like, this women’s director.” Like, what the f*ck does that mean? Do you pull Scorsese aside and say, “Mmm…you’re working with a lot of men…”
This movie is important.
I need to tell you how important.
Before I continue, I want to show you something:
Do. You. See. That. Little. Girl’s. Face.
Yeah. It’s THAT important. Read on.
=============There are a few big spoilers. You have been warned.==============
Ghostbusters Is Important. Here’s why.
I have seen so many ridiculous reviews of this movie. I’ve seen people rip it apart, claim it was poorly written or acted (it wasn’t), claim it was somehow an insult to the original (again, it wasn’t, and the presence of the original actors in this movie kind of proves that point). I have seen folks try to claim it’s boring or unfunny (it’s not), or somehow claim that it’s racist or sexist (seriously?).
What this movie actually is can be summed up like this: I have been waiting to see women do the things onscreen that this movie does since I was a small child.
The Power of Ghostbusters
When I was a kid, I played alone in the woods all the time. I didn’t have friends, and any who were willing to play with me were too far away for regular meet-ups. It was just me and my imagination in the woods.
And who did I pretend to be? Why, boys, of course.
No, I don’t struggle with gender identity. I simply didn’t see any females in the media worth emulating.
Wonder Woman was cool, and Princess Leia rocked, but they were really it. Who else did I have representing my gender? (And never mind the fact that I’m white, and all of the females were white. That’s a whole other hideous can of worms that still desperately needs to be addressed.)
Any strong characters were men. Women always either needed to be saved, OR they were jealous and spat at each other for no reason, OR they existed in some perpetual state of sexiness that was unattainable in real life and yet defined their worth. Who the hell would want to be one of them?
Of course I wanted to be a strong character, a smart character, a hero. And that meant I had to pretend to be a guy.
The fact is that until The Christmas Dragon, I never wrote a decent female character in my life because I never saw one represented. Yes, the women in my first book are poorly written, and I know it; I had no idea how the hell to do it. That’s why Dragon holds such an enormous place in my heart. It represents overcoming a lifetime of poor female characters, of something I feared was impossible. I can write good females now. But it took me two decades of trying to figure out how.
Hear me now: This movie would have changed everything for me when I was growing up.
I know it’s changing the lives of little girls now. They have female heroes who are just heroes, not crazy sex-bombs or two-dimensional inserts to make men look good. (Do NOT get me started on the second Independence Day in which females only exist to move men’s plots along. I will start screaming, I freaking swear.)
Ghostbusters REALLY DOES MATTER.
This movie is a game-changer.
I don’t know if Hollywood will follow suit. I doubt it, honestly; but I also can tell you that I’m crying as I write this.
I have waited all my life to see women onscreen doing something worthwhile.
I’ll end with the summary.
- No female “tropes” are used in this film.
- No one was catty.
- There was no weird female competition for men or who knows what.
- No one was body-shamed.
- No female made “the one dumb decision” that sent everything into chaos.
- The one and only unwise action was taken at a point when ANYONE WOULD HAVE TAKEN IT. That was not a gender-based decision. It was an exhausted and angry one.
- IT PASSES ALL THE TESTS!!!
- The Bechdel: Two or more women talk to each other about something other than a man.
- The Mako Mori: At least one female character exists with her own narrative arc that is not about supporting a man’s story.
- The Sexy Lamp: The inclusion of a female character who cannot be removed from the plot and replaced with a sexy lamp without destroying the story.
- The “Women In Refrigerators”: No woman is assaulted, injured or killed to further the story of another character.
- The “Strength is Relative”: Complex women are defined by solid characterization rather than a handful of underdeveloped masculine-coded stereotypes.
- (Proposed): The Furiosa Test: The movie/game/book/play passes if it incites “men’s rights” supporters to boycott.
- Women with different jobs, different backgrounds, different math or social or physical skills worked together and functioned as a team and as good friends.
- No one’s job or skills were rubbed in anyone else’s face.
- There was no point at which being a girl became the reason for the film. These were just characters. Just people. AS IT SHOULD BE.
- Females can, in fact, be friends without made-up tension for the sake of faux “drama.”
- This deserves repeating.
- This REALLY deserves repeating. (Because sometimes I think those who write female characters have never actually met one.)
- Women can have sexual appetites without being sexualized. You know, like people do.
- Gilbert’s crush is completely reasonable. I have done pretty much that. Ask my husband. Geek flirting is awkward flirting.
- The other women didn’t mock her for it.
- The other women didn’t compete with her for it.
- She simply had a crush because that’s what people do, and it didn’t define her or Hemsworth (or anyone else) as a person.
- Speaking of “just people,” did you realize that this movie successfully portrayed a lesbian character without making her die or suffer unduly just to advance the plot?
- Seriously. If you’re unaware of this bizarre trope, please read up on it. It’s like folks can’t write a sexually diverse character without killing them off.
- Holtzmann did not die. In fact, she was awesome. More on that in a moment.
- Women have to put up with bullsh*t all the time to keep jobs that men don’t have to fight for, and that was fairly shown.
- I’m sorry, but this is true.
- One woman kissed up to her boss in an attempt to keep her job. She still lost it.
- The other woman didn’t kiss up to her boss. She still lost it.
- That’s because being a woman in the workplace is effing hard.
- Yet that wasn’t the point of the movie. It just happened. Like real life.
- These women were not believed, even though men who saw the same things were.
- Do I need to even go into that point?
- (Erin Gilbert as a little girl not being believed ripped my heart up. That is all.)
- Hemsworth is hilariously funny as a guy who exists to be pretty and has no intelligence at all.
- And if that bothers you, it damn well better bother you when women are put in that role.
- Which they are all the time.
- I’m looking at you, Hollywood.
- Females can save people without needing to be saved.
- I fully expected Hemsworth’s character to show up and be the Savior at the last moment.
- Guess what? He wasn’t.
- HE NEEDED TO BE RESCUED. WOW.
- The women were allowed to shine.
- In fact, women can have epic action scenes SO AMAZING that Marvel needs to take note.
- Oh. Oh, I am not kidding.
- There is this THING. With whips. This thing that Holtzmann does. WHEN YOU SEE IT YOU WILL FORGET TO BREATHE.
- It is EVERY INCH as epic as ANYTHING I have ever seen in a superhero movie.
- Use your mind. If you saw that scene alone without any context, you would know it’s freaking awesome.
- Women on screen who are NOT SEX OBJECTS just don’t get to be this epic for this amount of time without being knocked down, tripped, disabled, knocked out, ineffectual, or promptly outshone by “more” awesome men.
- Women can be sensible in awesome ways:
- They called the authorities when it was warranted.
- They didn’t act foolishly out of pride or ego. They were even fiscally responsible.
- They swallowed that pride in a big way while continuing to do good. And it cost them. And it showed. But they made the choice. (Hello, role models.)
There’s more. So much more. However, for now, it might be good to just read up on female tropes and why they’re so bad:
- A quick summation of the Bechdel Test, the Sexy Lamp test, and the Mako Mori test.
- The Bechdel Test and a Sexy Lamp: Detecting Gender Bias and Stereotypes in Mainstream Comics.
- Tropes Vs. Women.
Thank you, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Paul Feig, and all the other extended and amazing cast. You’ve done something that really matters here. I think you know that. From where I sit, you folks worked hard to make sure this movie was done right.