Ghostbusters gives patriarchy a proton-fueled kick in the nuts
The reboot of Ghostbusters is delightfully comedic, full of ectoplasmtastic effects, and buoyed by a focus on female friendship and general badassery. Best of all, it asserts that women can not only bust ghosts (duh!) but also can support one another in fighting for our dreams and against patriarchy in all of its earthly and supernatural forms.
The movie, after almost two years of brotastic abuse for simply casting women, is a practice in upending the status quo. A few meta jokes about idiots leaving YouTube comments ("Ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts") p0wned that malevolence, and they didn't stop there. Tropes are bust more frequently than ghosts. Women are shown supporting one another with attention paid to how much it hurts when female friendship and professional relationships dissolve. They are neither rescued by a man nor performing for the "prize" of a relationship with one. The eye-candy role is a guy. Stunts are gleefully delivered without being performed for the male gaze. None of the Ghostbusters die in punishment for the transgression of independence. There's not even a fat lady joke in sight.
Stripped of all old patterns, Ghostbusters had a new and exciting openness. At times, the simplicity felt unsettling, but ultimately, it sinks in that what is missing is as toxic as the unleashed spirits. Unladed, the women were free to just rock. In fact, a key scene has the squad fighting a demon ghost, where the Ghostbusters overtake a stereotypical metal rock concert stage and drown out the dumb boy band with their awesome busting. When Kate McKinnon grabs and smashes a guitar in scene-stealing celebration and then says she can't afford to replace it, she's enacting only one of the movie's many notices to patriarchy. We will grab your power symbols and make them ours, the movie says. We rock, and we can't afford to go back to the way it used to be.
Leslie Jones' character often mentions events from history as they correlate to ghosts, subtly making the point that connection to injustice is the real thing that haunts us. The ghosts in the subway seem to have been created following their gruesome death sentences by electrocution. And before that, the ghost of a woman who died while being imprisoned by her family reunites the power team of Kristen Wiig's Erin and Melissa McCarthy's Abby in an inversion of classic fairytale plots. "She's so beautiful!" coos McCarthy. The imprisoned baron daughter's Lilith-like bid for freedom and revenge essentially conjures the female Ghostbuster team.
But just as that ghost may have represented the beautiful power of becoming free from patriarchy, the city-threatening ghosts stand in for patriarchy themselves via their summonsing overlord. The villain was a great representation of the type of Gamer Gate bro or hyper right wing nut who bemoans his loss of privilege. The dude's abuse of the book written by Erin and Abby is a great symbol of this theme. He literally took their work, learned from it, defaced it and then intended to gain paranormal power of an army of ghouls from it.
But sorrynotsorry, basement buddy. He meets Busters who ain't afraid of no patriarchy, and it is fantastic to ride along as they take him down. Among the best of the fight scenes is one that brought the house down with laughter and cheers: all four Ghostbusters firing straight into a ghost crotch in a highly rewarding and much-deserved proton kick to the balls. Take that, sexism in Hollywood, on the internet, in academia and frankly sexism every-damn-where. May you melt into ectoplasm and fall into the vortex, never to be seen again.
I would love to see more of Wiig, Jones, McCarthy and McKinnon fighting ghosts. We have plenty more cultural baggage for them to fight in the form of spirits with or without pants. Bring it on in the form of a sequel. These bitches sure can fight ghosts, no question. If you didn't see it opening weekend, make a plan to see Ghostbusters soon. Show Hollywood, and all the old ghosts out there, that you are willing to fight for a new city of our own.