Feminist Ghostbusters: Who Ya Gonna Call?

Ghostbusters 3, feminist ghostbusters, female ghostbusters, Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in Ghostbusters 3, Bill Murray in Ghostbuster 3When you need to put more women in a film and guarantee that a movie studio will make money, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! More specifically female Ghostbusters.

Sony Pictures is releasing a new Ghostbusters film in the summer of 2016. If you didn’t already know, last year marked the classic film’s 30th anniversary and Sony released a commemorative DVDs of both films, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2.

The new and updated film, helmed by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, Ghostbusters 3 will have a starring cast of four women — Bridesmaids stars Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, also of Saturday Night Live fame, along with Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, both of SNL. Feig, who loved the first Ghostbusters, insists that the film is not a third in a series, but a 21st century reboot.

Casting four women into the lead roles of this traditional male comedy is perfect for our feminist-focused 21st century. For those who don’t remember the first two Ghostbuster films here’s a recap: Four guys who investigate paranormal activity discover real ghosts and start a business called “Ghostbusters” to  “serve all your supernatural elimination needs.”

Ghostbusters was directed by Ivan Reitman and starred four men, Saturday Night Live alums Bill Murrray and Dan Ackroyd, along with Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.

The choice of rebooting the film as female friendly could possibly be the result of Hollywood taking note of the plethora of information about gender disparity in Hollywood movies. (Actually probably not, but I like to dream.) If you haven’t taken note, the facts in Hollywood are not good for women. In 2014, women only had 30% of all speaking characters in feature films from the major studios. Female directors have a really narrow path to success with women only comprising 13.7% of DGA directors. And in the Writers Guild of America only 15% of its screenwriters are female.

Majority male Hollywood movies is a tradition that is wearing thin. But the thought of Ghostbusters 3 takes me back to my own days in Hollywood, when I worked on optical effects for GB2.

Moreover, in 1989, the year GB2 was released, the top ten grossing films only included one film with a female lead, the animated film, The Little Mermaid. Comparing that with 2014 there were only two films with female leads —  Maleficient and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, one can see that women in Hollywood have a steep hill to climb before achieving full parity.

The announcement of this somewhat feminist remake might provide Sony some cover as they try to recover from a recent hacking scandal involving embarrassing leaked emails from the top-level executives that revealed catty conversations about their own movie stars and evidence of pay disparities between female and male stars.

But enough of the tragedy, let’s get back to the comedy! The Ghostbusters themselves were swashbuckling urban warriors in search of ghosts who were terrorizing New York City. How did they know? Because the ghosts left behind gooey slime, not too different than something that drips from a toddler’s nose. They investigated malevolent apparitions with their only weapons being proton packs strapped to their backs – black boxes that resembled Remington typewriters. From these packs the men could aim particle throwers that emitted streams of light, proton beams, that captured the ghosts with an animated lasso. Believe me, it was very funny!

With the great leaps that visual effects have taken over the last three decades Ghostbusters 3, or whatever it will be called,  is going to be a welcome remake. Feig himself says he wants the technology to be “to be even cooler.”

One of the principal effects animators from Ghostbusters 2 at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic, Visual Effects Designer Peter T. Crosman, was in charge of the original proton beams. He told The Broad Side,”… the Ghostbusters movies provided the rare opportunity to create hand drawn proton beams with the express intention of making them loopy and funny, as well as realistic.” The creative leeway that was given to the effects animators came from the director Reitman. Crosman recalled that “Ivan Reitman responded enthusiastically to our work, and we were encouraged to push the boundaries of the “proton beam” animation to give it character and personality.” Thirty years later, the special effects are bound to be even more creative in light of today’s technology.

Then there is the screenplay. GB will be written by Paul Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold of The Heat. One can only imagine where this cast will take the updated lines from the first two GB movies. For example, in the original Ghostbusters, Sigourney Weaver is possessed by the demon Zuul and tries to seduce Peter Venckman, played by Bill Murray, in order for Zuul to accomplish his goal of taking over New York City. She tells him in a demon-possessed purrs, “Take me now sub creature.” Murray, in all of his deadpan glory, replies, “We never talk anymore.” In GB2, Murray still has romantic feelings leftover from the first film and cynically refers to Weaver’s infant son as “ungrateful little yuppie larvae.” Will a feminist Ghostbusters line up continue with the “unprotected demon sex leads to children” story line?

Given that Bridesmaids unbridled humor helped make it such a runaway success, I expect that Reitman, who is on board as one of the producers on Ghostbusters 3, and is the some of the original director will have the same creative mind to let the actors and artists do what they do best.

As I was buried with work on GB2 optical effects, Bill Murray walked past me one day and gave me his patented Murray eyebrow raise as a hello.  It’s a look we all know from many of his movies, and maybe, if he decides to be a part of GB3, I’ll see that same look on the big screen again. It should be good stuff! Get ready to get slimed in Summer of 2016.

Image via Depositphotos

Jennifer Hall Lee is a filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles. She has spent many years working on Hollywood films, including Ghostbusters 2 in visual effects, and used her free time (when she had it!) making her own films. Her latest film, “Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation” is being distributed nationally and more public screenings are upcoming! Jennifer was recently named Global Ambassador for the Global Media Monitoring Project.

To schedule an interview with Jennifer or talk with her about booking her as a speaker, she can be reached at jennifer@feministstories.com.


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