Ghostbusters busts more than ghosts (five of five stars)

It's a woman thing. A spectacular, epic, groundbreaking feminist anthem that happens to be funny as hell.

Ghostbusters

Opens July 15.
PG-13; 1 hr., 57 min. Directed by Paul Feig. Executive producer: Dan Aykroyd. Producers: Ivan Reitman and Amy Pascal

The big deal about this — other than the obvious — is how you don't think about it until a bunch of guys get so upset at a movie that has women where they think men should be. Then you realize, hey, this movie kicks ass and here's why it matters to women.

A woman, a straight man and a gay man all went to see Ghostbusters.

Two of them hated it.

The other one was me, and I couldn't have loved this movie more if it had been rolled in breadcrumbs, deep-fried, covered in cheese and dipped in sour cream. What's more, I wasn't shocked the straight guy didn't like it — not because he's straight but because he didn't really enjoy the 1984 version — but the gay guy (who also happens to be CL's editor-in-chief)? Come on. This movie kicks testosterone where it lives (in one scene, literally), challenging the male action movie stereotype and setting it aside in favor of a new type of film: Real girls. And then I realize this: While gay men have their own struggles, growing up a girl is not one of them. And growing up a girl in a man's world is why I fell so hard for Ghostbusters.

Fuck the chick movies where the homely girl (who isn't homely at all) gets a makeover from the popular girl, which is the best thing ever, amIright? — and transforms into 1993 Jennifer Aniston and gets the guy, who was a total douche to her until she got pretty. Yes, I just described every girl movie aside from perhaps Bridesmaids, and even that relies heavily on bullshit we all know doesn't happen in real life.

Girls — women, womyn, whatever — have never had a well-written, well-directed, well-edited, big-budget movie with strong female characters who have a mission that doesn't involve finding love and self-acceptance.

Until now.

The new Ghostbusters is a goddamn feminist anthem, y'all. And — as much as it crushes me that both my beloved and my beloved boss both couldn't stand the movie — I'm glad it makes men uncomfortable. Because it shows that finally, maybe, Hollywood has begun the painful process of pulling its head out of its largely male ass and looking around at the world. Men hate it. Women love it. That's part of what I like: It's exposing our biases about women's roles, which maybe some folks didn't expect in a comedy about ghosts hunters. That's OK; while we should take equality seriously, that doesn't mean it's not OK to treat it humorously.

Look, I've never been a "fuck all the men" type of gal. I love men. Men are fun. But if you watch enough movies, you realize Hollywood tends to put women in one of three roles: the love interest, the one seeking love or the mindless idiot. Every. Damn. Movie.

Until now.

Flashback to 1984: Me, wearing acid-washed black jeans, jelly shoes and carrying a purple purse shaped like a mini-duffel bag. Ray Parker Jr.'s on MTV with "Ghostbusters" because the movie by the same name has made America lose its shit. It was funny, it was clever and it had a great title song. Bill Murray? Dan Aykroyd? Harold Ramis? Ernie Hudson? Yes, please. I watch it now, I still love it, although now I notice things I didn't notice as an 11-year-old in seventh grade trying to define myself. I notice the highly sexualized Sigourney Weaver, I notice the machismo, I notice the way the Ray Parker Jr. video has a hot lady in baby doll pajamas — and not that any of this bothers me, but was it all necessary to tell the story? Did the hot lady make the song better?

No. But that's OK. It's one type of movie, and I'm not saying we should trash it. However, men don't seem to know how to handle women behaving the same way even though — brace yourselves, America — we totally do. Here's why I loved the movie. Yes, most of these reasons have to do with strong female characters. Your mileage may vary. 

They don't pander to the old movie, but they don't forget it, either. This movie does its own thing but pays heavy homage to the original. You'll love it more if you loved the original, but you won't be lost if you didn't. This is not a remake, exactly; think of it as another way the story could have gone.

Bill Murray. It's no secret he has a role. What I loved about his role is how his character (unintentionally, apparently) embodies the voice of all the dudes pissed off that Paul Feig dared to use ladies in the lead roles.

The way the women look. Bluntly put: Big black lady, big white lady, sorta-hot-blonde chick, frumpy nerdy girl. They don't really fit types, beyond that. It's almost as though the director wanted to portray real women. Weird.

The way the women are. The movie lacks a love story. You don't have to sit through 90 minutes of women finding themselves or learning to love themselves or accepting themselves. These are — shocker — grown-ass women who have already dealt with their shit. I can't think of another commercial film that does this. The big deal about this — other than the obvious — is how you don't think about it until a bunch of guys get so upset at a movie that has women where they think men should be. Then you realize, hey, this movie kicks ass and here's why it matters to women.

The way they objectify men. Behold: the mimbo secretary. The ladies treat him with respect but also objectify him like he's a Hooter waitress at an all-male college kegger. No, this isn't a giant "fuck you" to men who have done this to women in movies since, well, the dawn of Hollywood: If you don't think I can't point to five women right now who have looked at a guy (or girl) and turned to me and said, "I'd totally hit that" or "Break me off a piece of that!", you're living in a fairy tale world.

They make fun of the trope. One criticism I heard involved Kate McKinnon's character spouting jargon and acting goofy. Newsflash: we all have that friend, OK? Does McKinnon go over the top? Yes, and I believe she does it on purpose, to mock every dude who does this in a movie ever. It's subtle — apparently too much so, for some — which makes it work.

It's funny. Here's the thing: If I hadn't seen so much pushback about women in this film, I would have given you a different review, because the negative comments heightened my sensitivity to the feminist elements in Ghostbusters. Seriously, you can watch it, forget this review, and it won't matter: It's still funny. Ectoplasm makes me laugh. Dorky humans fighting maladjusted specters makes me laugh. Four humans driving a hearse through Manhattan makes me laugh. If you don't like stupid-funny comedy (as with one person who watched it with me), this is not the movie for you. That's OK; I hate art films. If you don't like it because you thought it could have been funnier (as did the other person who watched it with me), well, that's OK, too. To each her own.

But if you don't laugh because you're too pissed off about women ghostbusters, well, 1915 called; your D. W. Griffith movie is waiting. 

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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