I've had a bit of a break from my usual university work this week, and on Monday I managed to get a lot more done in the morning than I initially expected, leaving room for a movie. I wanted to find something fun so I decided to look at something everybody else seemed to talk about but I hadn't seen since I was in Grade 3: Ghostbusters. It's a hugely popular film with some witty humor and a few amusing ideas that sort of blur the line between science fiction and supernatural. I might have even been able to enjoy it if not for one slight little issue, and frankly I can't even tell if I should have a problem with it or if my feminist side is getting overly paranoid (it happens sometimes).
The ironic thing is that the distressed damsel character, Dana Barrett, was played by none other than Sigourney friggin' Weaver. You know, the actress who made her name playing what is often considered to be one of the strongest female characters ever put on film? How come she doesn't get to bust any ghosts? All she gets to do is hang out in an apartment she knows is haunted when she should be getting the heck out of there and then because she foolishly decides not to move out ends up being possessed by extra-dimensional beings. The secretary meanwhile never really got a whole lot of depth either (she mentions being a psychic at one point, but that ability never got put to any good use) and seemed to be there only to make snarky comments in a rather irritating voice.
It could have been a cool development if they had Dana maybe learn to stand up against the ghosts in her apartment. She wouldn't need to don a proton pack right away but she could have grown to understand it and perhaps become one of the team by the end. But no, that would have made her an interesting character. Far better to reinforce outdated ideals of masculinity and have her needing to be rescued by an all-male team. Alternatively it could have been interesting if they'd given the secretary something to do, maybe having her becoming a ghostbuster in her own right before hand instead of keeping her at the desk.
For that matter, could it have worked if they'd just written one of the ghostbusters as a woman? Even if they wanted to keep the first three guys (Venkman, Spengler, and Stantz) as men, they might have still been able to make it work. There was a plot point about them recruiting new ghostbusters (and by "recruiting" I mean just taking the first person that walks in), which is how Ernie Hudson's character, Winston Zeddmore, enters the picture adding some racial diversity. Perhaps instead of just him they could have had two recruits, have Winston show up and perhaps a woman who expresses interested in busting ghosts and then they'd have five people in the climax instead of four. But who needs that? Racial diversity is great but apparently gender diversity is not according to these filmmakers.
Fortunately, the good news is that there is word going around about a reboot of ghostbusters that will feature an all-female cast. This should allow some balance at least and I guess seems fair. Since the writers of the original couldn't bother to let any women bust some ghosts why should this reboot allow men to do it? So far not much has been said but there are apparently a ton of actresses who want in on it and not without good reason. I just hope if it does end up happening they actually make the female ghostbusters strong and don't oversexualize them (I'd prefer it if they didn't modify the uniforms to accommodate exposed breasts, miniskirts, and high heels). If they can pull it off, I'll certainly be first in line to see this one. Still, that question remains: why are there no female ghostbusters and why did it take a full reboot for it to happen?