The Growing Gender Divide Over 'Ghostbusters': Why Movies Starring ...

Feminists, you always knew this about movie reviews, didn't you? As Meryl Streep says,

“Women are so used to that active empathizing with the active protagonist of a male-driven plot,” Meryl Streep said during a 2015 panel. “That’s what we’ve done all our lives. You read history, you read great literature, Shakespeare, it’s all fellas. But they’ve never had to do the other thing. .... It’s very hard thing for them to put themselves in the shoes of female protagonist.”

Movie critics are mostly men. Male critics give bad reviews to movies with female-driven plots.

Because film criticism is so male-dominated, men have a disproportionate say—especially on movies about women.

Because men are commonly treated as the default in movies—the everyman who stands in for the audience—they rarely are forced to empathize with others’ perspectives. If cinema does not reflect men’s experiences, it can, thus, be difficult for male audience members to see themselves in the picture in the way women are forced to. That affects not only the way that men interact with movies but also how they review them.

If all things were equal, men and women would then approve and disapprove of movies at roughly equal rates.

Looking at female-driven vehicles released over the last decade, it’s rare to find one that received equal appraisals from both men and women. Female critics were overwhelmingly positive about “Pitch Perfect,” the 2012 sleeper hit starring Anna Kendrick as a reluctant member of a ragtag female a cappella group. Ninety-three percent of women reviewers liked it, but their male colleagues were less enthusiastic: 94 percent of thumbs-down scores came from men. [emphasis mine]

The new Ghostbusters movie has great reviews from women.

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It seems generally true that guys don't like "chick flicks."

Maybe it goes back to Freud. Even though he's mostly literary value at best in psychology any more, his theory that depression is anger turned inward is still interesting. Especially in a cultural milieu where it's ok for men but not for women to express anger, and it's ok for women but not for men to express empathy. More men than women are imprisoned for violent crimes, and more women than men suffer from depression. [According to Mayo Clinic, About twice as many women as men experience depression.]

I had heard about children's literature and boys supposedly not relating to girl protagonists, while girls are supposed to accept boys as standing for "everyone".

Petula Dvorak at the Washington Post writes that the "male-as-default" movie world is related to more pervasive sexism in our society:

‘Ghostbusters,’ the bros who hate it and the art of modern misogyny

What really sets off the haters is when women do things that men have traditionally done: Firefighter, sportswriter, Army Ranger, video game designer, commander-in-chief. Even a made-up occupation — Ghostbuster — is apparently off limits to women.
It sounds silly. But it speaks to much larger issues.

...the four new Ghostbusters are talented, smart comedians. And not the Victoria’s Secret angels.

Lingerie models might’ve been okay, in the bro-verse. Especially if they didn’t say anything.

Because remember, women accounted for only 30 percent of speaking roles in the top 100 films of 2013.... women got to be protagonists in only 15 percent of the movies. Hmm. Sounds a little bit like the Hollywood of the East: Washington. Women make up less than 20 percent of Congress. And Hillary Clinton has come under relentless attack, in part, because the idea of a woman in the White House is something too much of America still can’t deal with.
Women have headed governments in Angola, Argentina and Australia. Canada, Costa Rica and Denmark. Ethi­o­pia, India and Ireland. (I’m skipping a bunch.)...

Women in firehouses often endure startling sexual harassment....

How dare they prove that they can do the same work as men?

When three women graduated from the Army’s grueling Ranger school, there was an immediate campaign accusing the military of lowering its standards for the test. (They didn’t.)

And when women become strong voices in sportswriting... they get emails and tweets that threaten rape and violence, that make graphic mention of body parts, looks and sex.

So let’s get back to “Ghostbusters.” It’s a movie.... Let’s applaud the women starring in it loudly enough to drown out the haters who are so blinded by their own sexism that they can’t acknowledge effective ghostbusting unless it’s being done by men.

(Ellipses and emphases mine.)


Sadly, there are lots of good reasons to think that the movie is going to suck, as well.  There's a good bit of sexism from the usual suspects, but a lot of other people are far more level with their responses, and most of those responses aren't much more positive.

It looks like they slaughtered the themes and style of the original movies.  When I first saw that they were continuing the series, only with some female representation, I thought it was a great idea.  Get a new crew in; get the old crew in to help them get up to speed; set them off and see how they do.

That isn't quite the way they went with it, but it could still work.  I wouldn't have made the new Ghostbusters all female, since that seems a bit contrived, but I can work with it.

Then I saw the first trailer.  My initial response was similar to Angry Joe's response:

What the hell did I just watch?

The day-glo special effects are pretty horrible, and I think that they're going to completely ruin the atmosphere of the movie.  The proton packs look idiotic.  The humor is far more stupid and slapstick, at least what was shown of it in the trailers.

One of the things that made the original movies great was that they struck that perfect blend of two movie styles, which so few movies get right.  The first movie whipped back and forth between humor and horror, pulling the viewer into the right frame of mind for the given scene, often even combining horror with some of the more wry and sarcastic humor.  It looks like this one won't do anything of the sort.

I also have some issues with the characters.  It isn't exactly a remake, but they went with the same archetypes and even most of the specific details of the characters.  Jillian Holtzmann is Egon Spengler; Erin Gilbert is Peter Venkman; Abby Yates is Ray Stantz; and Patty Tolan is Winston Zeddmore.

If you're going to do a remake with the exact same characters, that's one thing.  If you're going to just copy the archetypes of the previous cast, down to every general detail, then it's going to feel like a cheap ripoff.

This guys does a really good job of summing it up, and it's probably better for me to just paste the video, rather than rehashing everything he says:

The second trailer looks a little better, but I'm really not getting my hopes up.  I'll watch it anyway, but I'm going to go into it expecting it to suck.  If it ends up being kind of mediocre, I'll enjoy it more if I go into it with very low expectations.

Angry Joe did a review of the second trailer too, if you want to see how he and his partner felt about it.  They're pretty much on the same page that I am.

Not that there aren't a bunch of asshole misogynists doing their usual thing.  There are a lot of valid complaints, though.  At least I've heard from the reviews that it's better than I was expecting.  I'll catch it this weekend or the next.

Take the replacing-Bill-Murray bit though, in the top right corner.  It isn't that they're replacing him.  Hell, if they just flat-out took another actor and said, "Here, this is Peter Venkman now," it would be better than replacing the whole crew with people who are supposed to be different characters but who share every archetype and stereotype with the original crew.  It's that archetype duplication that is the issue, for me.

It just ... feels ripped off.  I don't know how to explain it better than that.

I wish they had just taken 4 random female characters who bore no resemblance to the original team and created a new dynamic and a new story, rather than doing a retread.  It's the same problem I had with the new Star Wars movie.  Loved the characters.  Wasn't wild about the story-line, pacing, editing, and directing.

Heh, and the social-hegemony-warriors guy.  I just had to laugh.  Are you trying to tell me that that isn't what a bunch of assholes on the internet do to every movie that's aimed at women?  I'm pretty sure it is.

Are you trying to tell me that that isn't what a bunch of assholes on the internet do to every movie that's aimed at women?  I'm pretty sure it is.

That's pretty much what the original article said.

Yeah, I meant that comic itself, not the original article that you posted.  That comic seemed to be missing the fact that the one-star assholes are always a problem with women-targeted movies.  I was amused that they felt the need to point out something in regards to this movie, when that thing is a global issue.

This isn't over by a long stretch, either.  Not that far down the pike is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which features a female protagonist whose goal is getting the plans for the original Death Star.  Personally, it looks like it seriously rocks, and I for one am looking forward to it.  MRAs and other male-centric, misogynistic types can take a long walk off a short pier for all of me.

Now that looks freaking awesome.  Probably better than The Force Awakens.  Can't wait.

Personally, I thought The Force Awakens was pretty decent, albeit in large portion a redux of Episode Four ... and I had no problem with Rey in that, either.  I'm more concerned with having some originality in the plot of Episode Eight!

Yeah, it was ... fun.  I think I just got too annoyed at the obvious retread of themes and even basic plot points.  Plus, I've read most of the novels that came after Jedi, and those books actually expanded the story ... moved it on from the events of the movie.  The movie was such a disappointment in that respect, after reading the much better novels.

I like the three main characters, but their handling by the story was a bit ... off.

It's just the whole insistence on casting the characters in the exact same position as the Rebels in the first trilogy.  They took down one carefully formed totalitarian regime, and another just wandered in effortlessly.  The Order instead of the Empire, just seems lazy and weird.

The Rebellion was supposed to reestablish the Old Republic — did reestablish it in the books — and the following events were different in character, not just a continuation of the first trilogy with nothing changed.  Instead, they're running in place, and there's no explanation how it happened.

Sounds interesting, Loren. Thanks for the heads up.




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