One of the defining films of the ’80s was Ghostbusters. Blending the comedic with the paranormal, this former blockbuster still remains a classic. So, when news of a remake came out, many fans were both ecstatic and a little concerned. The ensemble cast of actresses who were called to lead – Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones – were announced in late January. While those four are the only members of the cast to be officially confirmed, the prospect of reuniting Bridesmaids co-stars Wiig and McCartney has whipped fans into a frenzy.
There has, however, been some serious backlash from men concerning the all-woman lineup. Some are of the opinion that it’s a cheap ploy, nothing more than a gimmick to draw women into theaters, riding on the coattails of Bridesmaids — because seeing more than one woman-driven comedy succeed would be too much.
While the choice to cast four women in the lead will freshen up the franchise, calling it a “gimmick” specifically pandering to women discounts the talents and abilities of the four actresses in question. It implies that the only reason they even landed the gig is because they’re women – which is both insulting and incorrect. The real reason why it was revamped as an all woman-led film is because we know women – these women in particular – to be very funny when given the opportunity.
Time and time again, women comedians have made us laugh ’til we cried; from Carol Burnett and Joan Rivers to Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman, we’ve seen dozens of women take the stage and out-funny their male counterparts. We’re lucky to have so many hilarious women in the industry right now, and that’s why it’s an all-woman cast. It all has to do with talent, not what’s underneath their clothes.
It’s also worth noting that, unlike the early 80s when the original Ghostbusters took place, we’ve gained some ground in terms of gender equality. Just watch Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II (find them both on platforms like Netflix or DTV) and you can see their dated approach to relationships between men and women. The whole thing starts as a classic damsel-in-distress case, with the lines, “I’ll take Miss Barrett back to her apartment and…check her out,” uttered by a flustered Bill Murray to the poltergeist-plagued Sigourney Weaver.
For contemporary viewers, the tired premise of a group of men leading a film can clearly be improved upon. One only has to look at the recent string of successes from women in television to see the women comedy takeover in full swing. We’ve got women like Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lisa Kudrow, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and many more earning awards, accolades, and new fans for their fantastic work in television. We’ve got shows like Scandal, Orange is the New Black, Broad City, Two Broke Girls, New Girl, Veep, The Comeback, How to Get Away with Murder, and many others that have massive fan bases beyond just women.
It’s clear that television viewers want to see women, and viewers of both sexes believe in woman-driven shows. So why are film studios so slow to catch on? Of course, money is a huge factor, and many studios simply don’t think women can lead successful comedies or films in general. Today, while women make up half of film audiences, only seven percent of directors, 13 percent of writers, and 20 percent of producers are female.
Films for women, written by men, are usually all about romance, love, and hetero-normative relationship troubles (looking at you, The Other Woman). With that said, there have been impressive strides made in independent film recently, with Appropriate Behavior, Tammy, Obvious Child, and Pitch Perfect depicting more realistic versions of the female condition. Media darlings they were not, nor were they on par with anything from the Avengers franchise in terms of box office success. But it’s enough to know that the sexist Ghostbusters backlash will one day be a funny footnote in the grander tale of woman-driven films, if today’s comediennes have anything to do with it.
Films still haven’t caught up with television in terms of providing us with dynamic and independent scripts for women, by women, with a lead whose entire life doesn’t revolve around a man. But the latest rendition of Ghostbusters just might be a start.