What Ghostbusters Backlash Means (Hint…It’s Not Misogyny)

In about a week, the Ghostbusters opening weekend box office numbers will roll in. More likely than not, the remake to the 1984 classic will be underwhelming. The film has already faced a tremendous amount of backlash from fans of the original. Take a look at the reaction to the trailer:

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Almost one million people have disliked the trailer thus far. Why all the outrage? I’m sure you’ve heard the chatter about misogyny surrounding the film. A cast of four women headlining a summer blockbuster? Blasphemy! I can already see the countless think pieces if the film is underwhelming on its opening weekend. What Ghostbusters Disappointing Opening Weekend Means for Studios Moving Forward.

Then again, I remember a movie not so long ago that faced the same criticism.

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Bridesmaids didn’t star four women. It starred six. It was also directed by Ghostbusters director Paul Feig and stars Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Given the numbers, it’s safe to say misogyny didn’t derail Bridesmaids. The main difference here is that Bridesmaids was original, while Ghostbusters is not.

Look, I get that there are still sexists out there and that YouTube is a breeding ground for people to post hateful comments. Look at poor John Oliver. But they are a vocal minority. The real problem here is the abundance of remakes, sequels, and the lack of originality in Hollywood.

Look at Independence Day: Resurgence. On paper, it also looked like a slam dunk. It tapped into the nostalgia of the mid-90’s, was sure to feature some kick-ass CGI & explosions, and had a male lead oozing of sexuality. And I’m not talking about Liam Hemsworth.

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Goldblum, you cunning son of a bitch…

According to Box Office Mojo, the film has grossed only $92.4 million domestically after two weeks. In fact, it failed to reach $50 million on its opening weekend, a feat that the original met back in 1996 when tickets were much cheaper. It’s also sitting at an aggregate score by critics and audience members of 34% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yikes.

It looks like it has already turned a profit on its $150 million budget (with about 70% of ticket sales coming from overseas). But for an American audience, it’s just another lazy sequel that is just meh.

The same goes for the sequels/remakes of 2016 including Alice: Through The Looking Glass, Tarzan, Barbershop: The Next Cut, Zoolander 2, and even My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.

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Crushing box office disappointment? Put some Windex on it!

In fact, let’s take a look at this year’s top domestic films.

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Six out of 10 movies are either a sequel or a remake. The rest are easy cash grabs like superhero movies, animated movies, or inexplicably, a Kevin Hart movie.

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This dude craps out more $100 million movies than Adam Sandler.

Audiences are probably just fed up with sequels. According to Box Office Mojo, of the top 50 movies this year 19 were sequels or remakes. Compare this with 2000, when 7 of the top 50 were sequels or remakes for the entire year.

There can still be good sequels and remakes. I realize that they are an easy way for studios to turn a profit. But for every Mad Max: Fury Road, there’s a Point Break. For every Jurassic World, there’s a Dumb & Dumberer.

I hope Ghostbusters is a good movie. Initial reviews are actually pretty good. The movie currently has a 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe it will release to great word of mouth and be the summer hit that we’re still waiting for. But if it does fail to meet studio expectations, let’s not blame it on the “women aren’t funny” narrative.

Just this week, I read an article in my beloved Entertainment Weekly. The article was written by Nicole Sperling and was titled – Ghostbusters and Women: What’s at Stake. In it, Sperling points out that there is an underlying sexism in Hollywood and that there is a “belief that female stars cannot open giant blockbuster movies the way that men can.” She then goes on to write that of the “100 highest grossing global films of all time, only eight had a sole female protagonist.”

Okay, fair point. I know of the old adage that women over 40 can’t get a part in Hollywood. I realize that only half of all movies pass the Bechdel test. Even in the enjoyable Chef, I had to suspend reality to believe that Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson would be romantically linked to a guy like this:

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However, when I looked at the aforementioned eight female driven movies, I noticed a trend. Here’s the list:

Frozen (2013), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Inside Out (2015), Maleficent (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014), Gravity (2013), The Hunger Games (2012), The Hunger Games – Part 2 (2015).

All of those movies were released within the last four years. According to the article, they also each made between $653 million and $1.28 billion worldwide. The fact that The Hunger Games is outselling a plethora of superhero movies is a good sign.

Take Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s the highest grossing domestic movie of all time. The main protagonist is Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. It’s obvious the movie wasn’t hurt by a female lead. It also did well because it was universally accepted as a good movie.

People pay to see the new Star Wars because it either beckons childhood memories, they want to see the continuation of a complex story, or they want to see cool space explosions. They accepted decades ago that this was a story best served with sequels and new inventive CGI. It has nothing to do with the gender battle.

People aren’t attracted to Ghostbusters because it doesn’t seem necessary. This is a story that felt like it had ended. Maybe if they integrated Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, in the way that Star Wars brought back Carrie Fischer and Harrison Ford, this would be a different story.  Maybe if the CGI in the trailer didn’t look like it came from Sharknado we’d be in business.

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I’ll concede that sexism in Hollywood is still a problem. But even looking into the box office numbers from the last decade shows that there’s a trend in the right direction. Creating the narrative that the only reason this movie can fail is because it’s driven by women is just putting another wedge in the gender debate. Movies fail because they aren’t good. More often than not, that’s the case with sequels and reboots.

Time will tell if the new Ghostbusters is successful. But for millions, it’s a cherished classic that should remain unadulterated and pure. Then again, maybe it’s just a movie with dick jokes.

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