Hi, everybody! Welcome back to another Fangirl Friday. Thanks so much for showing so much luv to Fangirl Shirts last week. That’s a company we can all fangirl over, hopefully for years to come.
This week, I decided to do a bit of fangirling over Ghostbusters 2016 in honor of Halloween. I KNOW, it’s not your typical Halloween flick, but there are lots of people dressing up as Ghostbusters this year, and it’s a fun, festive, ghost-ridden movie with grrlpower everywhere. I’ve seen several things on social media showing young girls AND boys dressing up as Ghostbusters characters from the 2016 reboot which…I gotta tell you. It warms my heart that young boys want to represent strong female characters at Halloween and that young girls have strong women to emulate in cosplay.
Anyway, let’s get to it!
I’m old enough to remember the original Ghostbusters (1984; I was in high school SHUT UP), and I actually watched it recently after seeing the reboot. I loved it in 1984, but knew even then that it was a boys’ club and the main female character — Sigourney Weaver — was part of that sort of “damsel in distress” character, though Gozer (Slavitza Jovan) had some cool magical (albeit evil) strength going on.
But Ghostbusters spoke to my geekgirl soul because I love the whole idea of ghost-hunting, which is basically what they were doing, in big ol’ technicolor glory, with ghosts that actually interacted with them.
Fast-forward a few decades (jeeziz gawd). Rumors started swirling that a reboot was in the works, featuring women in the four main roles. I started monitoring that situation, really intrigued because if it was true, I wanted to know who the new crew was going to be. When word finally got out, I was so on board that I was already sailing.
In the 2016 version, the movie starts with a paranormal incident in a historic house, and that ties into the next scenes. We then move on to Erin, who is a physics professor at Columbia University trying to get tenure until the dean finds out that she worked in the past with Abby, her estranged friend and paranormal researcher currently using lab space at a technical college. They published a book about paranormal activity together — a book that Erin thought and hoped was no longer available, but she finds it on Amazon. Horrified, she goes to tell Abby to take the book off Amazon and finds her in this lab with the wildly eccentric nuclear engineer, Holtzmann. The trio end up going to check out the historic house incident and they make contact with an entity and BOOM Erin is suddenly convinced all over again about paranormal activity.
Which of course gets her booted from Columbia but now she, Abby, and Holtzmann are ready to hang out their shingle as paranormal researchers. They’re soon joined by the ridiculously strange and somewhat dim Kevin (Chris Hemsworth, clearly enjoying himself in the role) as the office assistant and a former MTA worker and historian of Manhattan, Patty, who becomes the 4th official ‘buster. Soon, they find out that paranormal occurrences are on the rise, and they’re tied to a strange and vindictive loner (Rowan; Paul Feig) who seeks to flood Manhattan with spirits. And not the delicious drinkable kind.
Rowan is the quintessential creepy weird dude who rages because he’s not getting what he feels he’s entitled to. He doesn’t date, he’s resentful of everything and everybody, and decides he’s going to transform his city and himself (you’ll see if you watch the movie) into forces of destruction as “payback” for all the inadequacies heaped on his psyche. You can probably spend hours deconstructing this and his problems with women, but let’s move on, shall we?
So let me tell you some of the reasons I loved this movie:
- Power cast. These are 4 supremely talented and hilarious women on the acting and comedy circuits, and the chemistry between them all was amazing. Dialogue and scenes were often ad-libbed, is my understanding — and how could it not be, given these four?
- Great characterization. This speaks to the first reason, above, but it also speaks to the script, which allowed the actors room to ad-lib and throw one-liners around and really inhabit their characters.
- The characters weren’t belittled or “little girled,” which is a term I use to describe when women are patronized and marginalized. Three of the main characters work in science-related fields and one is a historian with extensive knowledge of local lore and locations. They all work together and each brings something different to the table.
- Fun. The dialogue was laugh-out-loud funny and the movie included cameos from the original Ghostbusters (even the late Harold Ramis was represented as a bust in a hallway at Columbia).
- The bonds that developed between the female characters were based on mutual respect and affection, and they all supported each other. And they brought dim Kevin in, as well, though toward the end, he started becoming kind of an asshat. Hopefully if there’s a sequel and he’s in it, they’ll rein that in.
- Kate McKinnon.
- Did I say Kate McKinnon?
- Seriously. Kate McKinnon.
The number one reason that I loved this movie was watching Kate McKinnon steal it. And not in a crass, show-you-up kind of way. She did it through the sheer brilliance of Jillian Holtzmann, the weird, wacky, wildly kooky scientist who often dressed slightly masculine steampunkish and rakishly flirted with Erin.
That’s right. Holtzmann coded as lesbian/queer throughout this film though it wasn’t expressly stated. Her sly winks and verbal digs (including a lip sync to DeBarge) at Erin and her dapper dude dressing style (not that that automatically makes you lesbian or genderqueer, mind you) just screamed to all of us in the audience who resonate with these kinds of visual and audio codes, and who identify with them. Plus her swagger, her love for and fascination with power tools, and of course THE WINK she throws at Erin:
So we’ve got strong women characters working together, supporting each other, kicking ghostly ass, a fun plot with often devastatingly witty dialogue. Oh, and we’ve got a character subtexting from the land of lesbiana.
This movie made me laugh out loud and cheer at the awesomeness of grrlpower everywhere. But there’s one scene in particular that shook my foundations, and it really kind of caught me off guard with how deeply it spoke to me because it’s not the kind of scene that you would think would necessarily push the kinds of emotional buttons that it did.
The scene happens toward the end of the movie. Holtzmann is battling a shit-ton of ghosts in the streets of Manhattan. She basically opens a can of whup-ass on these ghosts, and the camera shows her — just her — doing this with bad-ass moves and ghost-bustin’ laser beams and my entire freaking heart opened up with the sheer audacity and power of this moment — the sight of a woman just throwing down like that, even in a goofy summer blockbuster film.
Sady Doyle over at In These Times nails it:
There’s a scene, late in the movie, with Kate McKinnon, that made me feel like I’ve never felt at a movie before.
I should confess: Some of this is personal. My favorite character, in any big action-ensemble movie, is always the demolitions guy: the mad scientist, the weapons expert, the damage-dealer, the one who just wants to see stuff blow up. I say “demolitions guy” because he’s always a guy; they never cast the mad scientist or gun nut as a woman. But in this movie, he’s Kate McKinnon.
So she gets the scene these guys always get, in a movie like this. She has a wonderful new toy. The film slows down. She starts moving, and sure enough, she just starts unleashing raw havoc everywhere.
Something in my chest opened up. This is it, I realized. This is the thing I never got to see before. The scene where the demolitions guy is a girl. I was right: It actually does feel different when it’s a girl. This must be how guys feel every time they watch one of these movies. This is it, the version that’s for me, the scene I always wanted, and it’s here.
I don’t know what that feeling was, or how to describe it. But here’s the best way I can: For all the talk about “childhoods,” I got exactly 30 seconds in that movie where I felt like I was 8 years old again. Except that it was better than being 8 years old. It was like being 8 years old would have been, if the world had been fair.
YES. YES TO ALL OF THAT. THAT was the stuff I never got to see as a kid in movies because women didn’t often do them. I can’t describe the feeling, either. All I know is when that scene came on, I wanted to laugh and cry and whoop with joy and pump my fists and high-five everybody in the theater at that scene, and it was like being a kid again, and being able to revel in the fact that a woman was throwing down and kicking ass. How amazing that would have been, to be a girl of 8 again and see that image on the screen and realize that you, too, could be a wacky scientist with mad badassery to boot.
Holtzmann makes it all right to be weird, all right to be smart, all right to be off-kilter and different in all kinds of ways — everything that girls are told it’s not okay to be. All our damn lives, we’re given these messages, and we carry that baggage throughout.
Well, Ghostbusters made it a-okay to be who we are, and to kick ass and have fun doing it. So though it’s not necessarily a scarefest, it’s a great Halloween-ish romp with some really excellent messages underneath the ghostbusting.
And this, my friends, is THAT SCENE. It’s a spoiler, so if you haven’t seen the movie, I’d recommend refraining. Plus, it helps to see the film and get the context of the characters and story to really FEEL this scene. But if you have seen the movie and you want to re-live THE SCENE, here it is (with foreign language subtitles, but they don’t get in the way).
(link, in case something freaky happens here at WordPress)
Happy Halloween, Happy Holtzmanning, and may the Force be with you.