I never saw the original Ghostbusters film. I think it was partly that I was just a little bit too young to coincide with it as a generational phenomenon, and partly that it didn’t really cross my family’s radar. There are many, many films that people consider essential to their childhoods that I’ve never seen, most Disney movies among them. I was mostly a reader rather than a film-watcher as a kid, although I was absolutely obsessed with Star Wars for a while.
When the new film was announced with its all-female line-up I was interested because I have strong opinions about representation in pop culture and because it was making a lot of entitled dudebros very angry, but I still didn’t have any particular interest in the film itself — largely because the franchise had never featured in my life before.
Then the first reviews and gifs appeared and I realised two things. One: a lot of people were praising the film as being both awesomely feminist and funny. Two: I’m a lot gayer than I usually think I am, and the character of Holtzmann (played by Kate McKinnon) was beautiful.
So. I went to see Ghostbusters with some friends of mine. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
None of the women in this film are sexualised. There’s no body shaming, at any point. It doesn’t even seem to cross the characters’ minds. There are no boring romantic subplots to get in the way of the central story which is about female friendship and finding the brand of weird that meshes with yours (okay, and maybe saving the city in the process). Nobody wears high heels and spandex; they’re in jumpsuits and boots.
It was a revelation. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. And as someone who doesn’t entirely engage with traditional ideas about sexuality (not to mention femininity), I think the unsexualised way the characters were portrayed made them a lot more attractive to me, as someone who likes girls. I can promise you that I am way more interested in a character with cool hair and dungarees than someone who has been dieting to within an inch of their life for the unnecessary lingerie scene.
There’s a line in Community where Troy says something to the effect that he prefers women in pyjamas to lingerie because he just wants to know they’re comfortable. I feel that. Watching this film, I felt like I was watching characters who had agency, who decided how they wanted to appear and went with it, not characters constructed to satisfy the male gaze and meet certain standards of attractiveness.
Nothing in this film was catering to the male gaze. And it was GREAT. I felt like I was watching a film that wanted me to enjoy it, first and foremost. That wanted me to have a good time. I wasn’t an afterthought, I wasn’t secondary. I felt like the filmmakers wanted me, and others like me, in the audience, and I enjoyed it a whole lot more as a result.
Also? I clearly have a type. Looking at Steph from Pride, played by Faye Marsay, as the last character who caught my eye like this, and comparing her to Holtzmann: I clearly like dungarees, big hair, sarcasm, and a willingness to dance. (Honestly, I deeply identify with Holtzmann’s random dancing. Just ask my friends. I’m an embarrassing person to go shopping with because I dance to all the piped music.)
I was fairly settled in my assessment of myself as someone who was asexual and aromantic but insofar as I liked anyone, I liked girls. Holtzmann did make me question that slightly, not gonna lie. Maybe let’s edge that marker a bit further towards the ‘gay’ end of the spectrum, shall we? I’m mostly resigned to the fact I will never figure out my exact sexuality at this point; it seems far too complicated. Fact is, though, this character is amazing and although I know very little about science and was never interested in it, I would listen to her talk mad science at me all day. Yes please.
I’m… gonna stop, before this gets weird. I read somewhere that the director has confirmed Holtzmann’s character as gay, which is very cool, and I think it’s safe to say the queer female gaze had a lot more influence on this film than the straight male gaze that normally dominates the film world. It’s amazing how much difference it makes to my enjoyment of something. Straight guys really don’t realise how much the world caters to them: I didn’t even register that I felt secondary to other filmmakers’ visions until I experienced something else.
This film is funny — I didn’t ‘laugh like a drain’ as one Twitter user said they did, but I did grin like mad in a few places, and laughed aloud in others. It’s got plenty of slime and a few bits that made me jump. Things that were tense and scary even though they were clearly not real also featured, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty rigid in my chair after one or two of the jumpscares. All the actors looked like they were having the time of their life, especially Chris Hemsworth — no spoilers, but there’s one scene where he was clearly having so much fun. It’s a scene that was expanded in the credits and I absolutely loved watching it. The credits themselves were a delight.
I can’t compare this film to its predecessor, and I have no real interest in doing so. But I don’t know how those fanboys can say their childhood has been ruined. They can keep their version. I’m happy with this one, and I can’t wait for the sequel.
And I’m mildly obsessed with the track “Good Girls” from the soundtrack. I may or may not be listening to it on repeat — it gives me some serious character feels for one of my WIPs, as well as being an awesome song in its own right.
I just reread this review before posting it and I think I’ve found a Pride gif that sums up my attempt at writing about this film:
Achievable goals, please, Jeff.