Why Ghostbusters May Be The Feminist Movie We’ve Been Searching For

My thirteenth birthday party was Ghostbusters-themed. We carved pumpkins, ate marshmallows (obviously, in honor of Mr. Stay Puff) and watched the original 1984 Ghostbusters, gleefully laughing at the “bad” special effects. It became one of the most-quoted movies in my middle school. I have always loved the original, so when I first heard there was going to be a remake, I was skeptical.

That is, I was skeptical until I realized they were casting four phenomenal comedians: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones (a hometown favorite: she was born in Memphis,TN) and Kate McKinnon. It was only a bonus to me that all four of these comedians are women. Of course, immediate backlash and doubt arose from male fans of the original film, because they were concerned about how well the film would do in the box office due to its female-centered cast. I ignored this.

When I saw the movie during its opening weekend, I was bouncing-in-my-seat excited…and then I was worried when I realized how much the special effects had been updated since 1984. I knew that even if I enjoyed the film, it needed to meet a pretty high standard for me to love it.

It met that standard—and more. In fact, it surpassed my love for the original. I never once grew bored and my mind never wandered—I was hooked from the first few scenes! As of writing this piece, I have seen the film three times, and each time there was a new joke I’d missed or a facial expression I hadn’t seen.

I wholeheartedly love this film, not just because it is a good movie (which it undoubtedly is), but because it serves a larger purpose. Allow me to explain:

Some critics have complained that this movie isn’t feminist enough or political enough, that it doesn’t address real-world issues and doesn’t draw enough attention to the fact that the Ghostbusters are women. To me, that is what makes the movie ultra-feminist. They do not spend time nitpicking the fact that these characters identify as women—that isn’t the point. They are Ghostbusters, and they have a job to do. There is no need for feminist grandstanding (and, odds are, people wouldn’t listen anyway). No, this is a much more productive way to produce a feminist mindset, because this film is living proof of equality.

This is a film that celebrates women in the sciences, particularly physics, and women as pioneers in scientific fields. This film celebrates female friendships and destroys the idea of anyone being a “damsel in distress.” These women are strong and tough, and yet, still get their feelings hurt when people don’t believe in their work and in their mission as Ghostbusters. These women eat two boxes of Papa John’s pizza without any qualms. They have ponytails and wear glasses and earrings and sweatpants, and never once do they have to change anything about their appearance to achieve their end-goal. They also constantly defy the men who tell them “no”—from the collegiate dean, to the paranormal expert, to the mayor of New York City. Above all, these women are genuinely funny without making any self-deprecating jokes. These women love and believe in themselves.

Even at the end of the film, it really didn’t matter that these Ghostbusters are women—they are just people who fight ghosts. And for me, that in itself is a very feminist move because these women are equal in every possible way to the original all-male Ghostbusters cast, who never had to defend anything about themselves except their belief in the paranormal.

I'm not a professional film critic—I couldn’t say whether the special effects were realistic (I thought they were, considering the multiple times I screamed and jumped at the ghosts) or whether the acting was award-worthy (probably not, but the original was even worse). What I can say is that I walked out of Ghostbusters feeling good—more than that, feeling confident. As I left the movie theater, I was humming the theme song and laughing with friends, and I spent the next day at work feeling totally prepared to take on whatever was thrown at me.

If, at twenty years old, Ghostbusters can make me feel more confident about life and work and the world, than what can it do for a seven-year-old, or a ten-year-old, or even a sixteen-year-old girl? It can do wonders, and that’s why this movie matters.

 

Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2, 3