15 March 2016

Who You Gonna Call?

I don't watch a lot of movies. I like movies, I just don't make/take the time to watch a lot of them, certainly not in theaters. I definitely don't follow the movie industry, short of watching trailers because trailers are like lottery tickets: the expense is worth the excitement, even if it isn't going to net you anything.

So I was extremely excited, and excited for my own excitedness, when I caught the Ghosbusters 3 trailer last week on the Facebooks. It hit so many cool notes, was so well put together, and nodded back at the original films without yelling, "Hey! Hi! I know you!" I had only a passing interest in the movie until I saw the trailer; now I'm genuinely looking forward to it and geeking out a bit.



It came as a bit of shock, then, when I began taking time to learn a bit more about the production history of Ghostbusters to find that people hate it. Like, they really hate it.

I had been struggling to come up with something to blog about until now.



This crybaby loathing was vaguely somewhere on my radar before. It was probably just intuited: people always have a problem with everything. Hell, people had a problem with a black Stormtrooper. And yet I was still borderline stunned when I saw the number of dislikes on the YouTube page for the trailer. At last check it was over 400,000 dislikes, compared to only 190,000 likes. And the comments, as you just saw, are insane. I had to find out why.

And so I dug. I read. I watched interviews, perused Tweets, and weird, sexist memes. And I have no answers.

The best I can do is this: people hate Ghostbusters 3 because of (1)loathing of PC culture, (2)misplaced nostalgia, and a (3)dislike for contemporary SNL (which actually goes back to #2). Let's go over these in brief.

1) Politically Incorrect

People well and truly hate the politically correct culture. I get that. It's tiring to feel like you're walking on eggshells with every conversation, that someone is hiding in the bushes preparing to leap out and yell, "That's offensive!" if you say something off-color. But if we look at the heart of the matter it's largely positive: people just want to take part without fear of being hurt because of who they are or what they look like. They (not us) get to choose what's hurtful to say and what isn't, even if it seems excessive at times.

The vitriol at the female cast is still mind-boggling. And, more importantly, what is really taken away from us men when women get the hero role? I don't know. I don't feel threatened; I just want to see a cool movie. It reminds me of a Marc Maron line: "Whenever a man has yelled at a woman, he should probably have been yelling 'Why can't you be my mommy?!'"


Women heading a scifi/action/horror reboot isn't a problem, though. As my wife wisely said, "I'm a feminist because I want an even playing field". And if being politically correct means I want it to be okay for women to be Ghostbusters, then I'll be politically correct. Otherwise you're rousing socio-politcal rabble when you should just be saying, "Girls can't play in my sandbox! They play in the girls sandbox!"

Besides, you have hardly any control over anything beyond yourself, your community, your family, and you definitely have no control over a film that's already finished post-production. If you want some effect on Ghostbusters 3, do this: once it's out you just DON'T GO SEE IT.

This whole business lands us in another discussion about the internet giving everyone a voice and whether those voices would be better spent at a bar after a drinks, rather than on public and global platforms, but I digress.

To call Ghostbusters 3 a 'SJW' or 'feminist' movie seems a bit extreme. Putting a label on everything and trying to make it about something other than what it's about is very troubling and, in the end, creates hatred rather than solving anything at all, even if the issue is standing against SJW or feminist movies.

The weird thing about that is how so few online 'activists' have noticed (or spoken up about) the black character being the MTA worker, rather than a physicist or paranormal expert. Bigger fish to fry, I suppose.

2) But, my childhood!

Nostalgia is a funny thing. Let's start with what is, I think, a valid argument against Ghostbusters: there are too many reboots, so do something original. I get that. I roll my eyes until I see a remake/reboot that I'm actually interested in. The whole "This is about my childhood" thing, however, is a bit confusing. How does this movie have the power to delete or reframe or pollute the experiences of your childhood?



I want to understand all this, I really do, and so I put myself in those stinky, well-trod shoes. The only examples I could come up with from my own experiences were The Hobbit, Prometheus, and Star Trek. Let's start in the stars.

The 2009 Star Trek was an enjoyable viewing experience. It wasn't Trek as I remember it, because it's Trek now. The same thing goes for Ghostbusters and all the other remakes/reboots: they're an updated version of classic genre films. There were plenty of little gripes to be made at 2009 Trek, but I still enjoyed myself and I still enjoyed seeing 'new' versions of my favorite characters. They even set it in a different timeline to help justify the differences (which, it seems, Ghostbusters is doing).

Into Darkness was a little different because it was a direct riff on Star Trek II, with the big added twist of Kirk dying to save the ship rather than Spock. A friend told me it didn't sit well with him and, upon reflection, he realized it was because it cheapened the long relationship between Kirk and Spock. When Wrath of Khan came out we had three long seasons of Trek, the animated series, and one motion[less] picture. That's some history not only between the characters but between the characters and the audience. When Spock bites it, we feel his sacrifice. When there is an attempt to recreate that, the value is in the spectacle ("OMG! They flipped this one on us, didn't they?") rather than the emotion of the moment. I kind of agree.



That's been probably my only outrage at such a reboot and I can't see such a moment with Ghostbusters.

Prometheus is a good example of taking a path around a reboot/remake: create a film in the same world that hits many of the same notes as the original. If  Alien is remade it will lose some of its charm because the 70s era effects are part of what make it the weird, wonderful thing that it is. Besides, there's already a film universe of Alien/Predator movies for Prometheus to land in. But Prometheus was just bad. It looked great, and created some fun food for thought, but that's about it. It wasn't trying to redo or one-up Alien, it was (again) a modernized take on a classic genre film.

I'm too tired to even touch The Hobbit so let's crack on.

The fact of the matter is that Prometheus did not ruin Alien for me. If anything it enhanced it a little bit. Into Darkness did nothing to hinder my enjoyment (past, present, future) of Wrath of Khan. One part may have bugged me a little, but that's ultimately my responsibility: I'm the one to decide how I receive it and what I do with said reception and I'm the one to decide if I see it at all.

Let's say the same for Ghostbusters. Bill, Dan, Ernie, and Harold will remain in their forever 1984 suspension even if the new one is terrible, just as Shatner, Nemoy, and Kelley will remain as they were in the old days. If that's the common thread then so is fanboys' ceaseless bitching about their memories and cultural artifacts being violated. Which is funny when thinking of female Ghostbusters: men complaining about masculinity being stripped from the world in rather 'unmanly' fashion, that being pedantic comments on the internet.

3) Mr. Bill

Along the same lines as misplaced nostalgia is a hatred of contemporary SNL. Part of the joy of SNL is that everyone has their SNL cast. When a new flock comes flying in there's immediate dismissal. "Darn kids doing their comedies on my lawn!" That kind of thing. So if Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones aren't your cup of tea, then that it just is what it is.

But whenever we feel a piece of our culture shifting away from us we feel threatened. I don't know why, we just do.  Perhaps it's a feeling of being left behind and out of the picture.

We defend ourselves, and our domain, by thrashing out against the new thing that may or may not be nudging our little corner of the universe out of our grip, rather than enjoying that thing or learning to enjoy the new thing.

And, really, that's what this is about. Whether it's a definition of masculinity or gender role, or the alteration of a treasured bit of childhood media, or the feeling that the dominant culture is no long going one way, it's centered in fear. And fear is the mindkiller.

I could be wrong. I like to admit that I'm probably wrong about a lot of things, but that's how I see it. People feel threatened and so they do hateful things. But what's at stake is, really, nothing at all. A movie is made and will be released this summer. No one's civil liberties are being stripped, no one's family is (to my knowledge) in danger. The universe will spin on and God will remain on his throne.

If you'll excuse me, I have a call to make.

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