Targeting of the all- female cast of a new movie is a symptom of a wider misogyny, writes Áilín Quinlan
MAYBE if they were Hollywood-gorgeous and sporting sexy bra-and-thong-sets, it wouldn’t be so objectionable.
Maybe if they weren’t hogging all the main roles.
Or, maybe if they weren’t there at all.
Because that’s the problem — women playing Ghostbusters.
The avalanche of negativity which has surrounded the re-make of the 1984 blockbuster has been described by the director as “some of the most vile, misogynistic s**t I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The reason is simple, says Cliona Saidléar, Director of the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland. It’s because women are “occupying space that some men feel entitled to.” Here’s a selection of the comments made about the film:
“Women ruin everything,” whined one online troll.
Declared another: “Whose genius idea was it to remake a total guy movie with an all-female cast? Good way to lose both audiences.”
The re-make, by the way, was given the seal of approval by original ‘buster Dan Ackroyd.
Nevertheless, another one of the objectors airing their reactions on YouTube and Twitter ranted that: “This looks awful. An all-female cast was a big mistake.”
The outraged trolls, it’s widely speculated, even went so far as to purposefully make the film’s first trailer the most down-voted on YouTube.
One social media user tweeted resentfully: “Every time I watch the actual Ghostbusters movie… the all-female remake makes me angrier and angrier.” About the cast, another griped: “Fat woman, loud black woman and two other women. How about remaking Rambo with all women?” Declared someone else: “Really?! Chicks? Corny jokes?… It’s been ruined. Damn.”
Barrister and former Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins is well acquainted with trolls and their little ways — she was at the receiving end of deeply misogynistic comments during and after the European elections and right up until her term in the Seanad finished last April.
“I was getting abuse on a sustained basis. It was personal, abusive, deeply misogynistic; I was called vile names and issued with death threats,” she recalls.
To her the storm of misogyny surrounding the advent of a team of female ghost-busters is simply evidence of the presence of “a small percentage of men who want women to continue to be viewed as second class citizens who should not put their heads above the parapet.
“This is about resenting female advancement in the political sphere, in business, the arts or anything else.”
The trolls were also angered by the idea of Chris Hemsworth (most people are more familiar with him as Thor) playing the part of dumb blond, sex secretary Kevin — the dim-witted eye-candy role that women have been forced to take on since the dawn of Hollywood itself.
“Stop objectifying men,” squealed one, while another griped sourly: “Wow Sony feminazis, look at Thor do a woman’s job. Sooo funny, Ha Ha. This reboot is pure garbage and will go down in history as one of the worst films ever made.” What they’re all missing, of course, is the irony — in Kevin, Ghostbusters is pointing the finger at Hollywood’s penchant for casting intelligent, gorgeous females as dim-witted window-dressing, solely for the purposes of objectification and gender-jokery.
Now that it’s a man, however, things have taken a bitter turn.
The casting of Kevin in this way questions traditional gender stereotyping — after all, Kevin wouldn’t be making headlines in the first place if such female stereotyping wasn’t the norm — but they don’t like it.
“Chris Hemsworth playing a bimbo secretary role is to make us reflect on how that role is being assigned to women without comment and how once a man is put playing that role, they find it utterly unacceptable,” Cliona Saidléar, adding that, however, such positive ‘movement’ is always followed by a virulent backlash:
”When women try to get out of their place , there’s always someone telling us to get back into the place. The backlash always comes on the back of any movement. This film is the movement and the backlash is the misogyny,” she says.
Ghostbusters director Paul Feig described the backlash as “chilling,” while Melissa McCarthy has fired back at chauvinist critics of the upcoming all-female re-boot, saying she “hopes they find a friend”.
The US actress and comedian, who stars as Abby Yates alongside Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones in Feig’s controversial new movie, made fun of the negativity:
“All those comments — ‘You’re ruining my childhood!’ I mean, really,” she said in a recent interview.
“Four women doing any movie on earth will destroy your childhood? I have a visual of those people not having a Ben (her husband Ben Falcone), not having friends, so they’re just sitting there and spewing hate into this fake world of the internet. I just hope they find a friend.” In a different interview she sarcastically described the online critics as “terrific fellas!” and joked: “What they don’t say when they’re typing is that one minute after they type their mum is like, ‘Get upstairs and take out the garbage! You’re 45 years old!’” Leslie Jones has defended her casting, writing on Twitter:
“Why can’t a regular person be a Ghostbuster? I’m confused. And why can’t I be the one who plays them, I am a performer. Just go see the movie!” Part of the problem is that the female ghostbusters are taken seriously by the film — hence, as women, they don’t fit the conventional Hollywood star type, observes Saidléar.
“They’re not there to look sexy so that’s another thing against the film. I suspect that if they had more conventionally sexy roles, the film might not have got the backlash. However, this is about women getting out of a role which is about being sexual objects and not being out in front as strong personalities.”
What’s particularly striking, believes Orla O’Connor, Director of National Women’s Council of Ireland, is that such a a lot is being made of an “all-female” ghostbusting crew:
“It shows how completely unused we are to seeing female-dominated casts, and female leading roles ,” she muses. “It’s all about the fact that it’s an all-female Ghostbusters. It shows how the norm is seeing men in leading roles,” she says, adding that she believes the resentment is an example of a knee-jerk reaction to the sight of women “moving up” in every sectors. “It’s about refusing to accept change. What’s interesting about Ghostbusters is that as soon as it was announced that there would be an all-female cast, it was immediately criticised.
“There is this resentment to change and about women’s equality. It has to be challenged.” Labour Councillor Martina Jenockey knows how trolls operate — she was targeted by vitriolic online abuse in the run up to the local elections two years ago.
The negative reaction experienced by the Ghostbusters team happens across the board — it’s is not about any particular profession, she believes, it’s purely a gender issue:
“It seems that when women put themselves out there they seem to attract it.
“It’s about men who really resent seeing women in a high profile position or having to hear their voices.
“ It’s primarily about being anti-women — the high-profile performers in the film are women. It’s about their gender.
“If it was a different film, one where the women were wearing sexy outfits and were not strong, funny characters but conformed to the Hollywood ‘look’ then the film would be seen in a very different way!”
Ghostbusters is currently screening in the cinemas.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved