‘Ghostbusters’ criticism misses point on gender politics

Natalia Ruiz

Unless you were so traumatized by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that you avoided all topics pertaining to “Ghostbusters,” you know that the 1984 classic was rebooted with women as the leads this year. Filmmakers work under the radical but underwhelming concept that women are normal people, and critics are so distracted by this that they only see the merit or lack thereof of the movie through the use of gender.

The humor in “Ghostbusters” does not depend upon the gender of the comedian delivering the lines. The filmmakers aren’t interested in proving that women can do a man’s work. They already work under that assumption. Three of the main characters are scientists and presumably hold Ph.D.s, but there is no fanfare around this, nor is there any question as to whether they have the balls to hunt ghosts. The most poignant display of how gender reversal impacts the movie is through a running joke that is refreshing for approximately 50 percent of the movie, in which Kristen Wiig’s character, Abby, ogles Chris Hemsworth’s character, a bumbling secretary who looks like Chris Hemsworth.

“Ghostbusters” 2016 was not advertised as a movie for women, but the reception before its release demonstrated a huge amount of misogyny. Fivethirtyeight found that on IMDB, before the movie’s release, on a scale of 10, thousands of men rated “Ghostbusters” an average of 3.6, while women rated it a 7.7 on average. Even if you want to chalk the negative reception of the trailer up to the fact that people don’t want to see classics ruined through reboots, this discrepancy between ratings based on gender reveals a large amount of gender bias.

The naysayers who bashed on the movie before it came out display a flat type of misogyny and are easily ignored. What's more difficult to ignore are those who have actually seen the movie. Before it came out, many had risen to the movie’s defense, so those writing reviews after viewing it are aware that they are under scrutiny for how they address the role of women in “Ghostbusters.” It is perfectly acceptable for a critic to say that the jokes fell flat, but why the jokes did not resonate with them and whether their lack of amusement stems from a dislike of female comedians is difficult to pin down.

In their reviews, critics focus more on the gender politics surrounding “Ghostbusters” than the movie itself. A large portion of the critics who wrote positively about “Ghostbusters” centered their pieces on the gender of the stars, specifically how the movie shows women in empowered positions, rather than the flow of the movie or how it compares to the original. Some well-meaning reviewers go so far as to applaud or call for more “girl power.” Their reviews are supportive of the decision to cast women as leads, however the very use of the phrase “girl power” when referring to a movie remake swapping out men with women is absurdly patronizing. It is ridiculous for critics to focus on the capabilities of the characters in “Ghostbusters,” when they are merely doing what men before them have done, albeit with their own style of humor.

Regardless of whether it is an Abby or a Peter pointing the oversized laser, both versions of “Ghostbusters” provides the audience with the same kind of entertainment and plot. In both movies, gender is mostly irrelevant, but that doesn’t stop people from focusing on that aspect more than the remake itself. Hopefully, more movies starring women that don’t focus on that fact will come out so as to normalize this concept.

Ruiz is a Plan II and English junior from Houston.