“Safety lights are for dudes.” — Jillian Holtzmann, Ghostbusters (2016)
We saw the new Ghostbusters movie last weekend (spoilers herein).
It was AWESOME.
AND, importantly, it was a movie about women: a lesbian, a fat woman, a black woman, and a hopeless nerd. I was asked a few months ago how I could possibly be excited to see this movie just based on the knowlege that it was a gender-swapped reboot, and the answer is, because gender MATTERS.
We’re not talking about Charlie’s Angels. This was a movie about women being the main characters, driving the plot, existing for their own stories rather than being the decoration or the macguffin in someone else’s. There were no gratuitous shots of cleavage or pantylines, no slow-motion walk-ups in full hair and make-up, no jokes or lines about the characters’ attractiveness.
The jokes were about female experiences: Kristen Wiig’s character is taken aside by her boss and immediately assumes he wants to talk about her attire being inappropriate for the workplace (even though she is dressed very conservatively). There’s a practical joke that features a queef. There are jokes about high-heeled shoes being impractical and getting stuff stuck in your bra.
The tension is also about female experiences: A white dude is given a media platform to crucify the Ghostbusters as an “expert,” to audit their narrative “objectively.” The GBs are told over and over again that their work is a hobby, amateur, unprofessional, unnecessary, poorly-conducted, and that they should expect to be publicly shamed and disavowed even by people who know about ghosts (which Melissa McEwan at Shakesville sees as an extended metaphor about feminism).
I was excited to see this movie from the first time I heard about it. I wanted to see a woman in a major motion picture who was as much of a sexual being as Venkman, as much of a hopeless nerd as Ray, as scary-smart as Egon, as frank and relatable as Winston.
And this movie DELIVERED on that. Robert said it was like they put the original GB characters in a blender and poured out four new characters– but it’s more than that. Each of the four is her own person, with her own priorities and her own story arc. All of the important aspects of the Ghostbusters as characters carried through to the rebooted characters, in new but simultaneously familiar ways.
And, like Brave and Frozen, little girls are going to see this movie and it will expand their horizons. They’re going to see that science is cool, that femmefolk can be friends without being catty and spiteful, that they can be funny, powerful, irreverent, strong, smart, scary, sexual, fat, brown, and heroic, just like guys can.
They’re going to see that, even if The Man doesn’t recognize your accomplishments, people will still see you and value what you did.
They’re going to see that they can be the heroes in their own stories.
And little boys are going to see women doing and being all that stuff, too. And that will change the world for them.
Because media representation MATTERS.