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'Ain't No Bitches Gonna Hunt No Ghosts': The Web Vs. Ghostbusters - By sherilyn-connelly - December 28, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

‘Ain’t No Bitches Gonna Hunt No Ghosts’: The Web Vs. Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (© COLUMBIA PICTURES © 2016 SONY PICTURES DIGITAL PRODUCTIONS INC)

Ghostbusters ruined my childhood!

Wait, that’s not quite right: Ghostbusters II ruined my teenage years. More specifically, its thudding mediocrity ruined the night of June 16, 1989, which was both the film’s premiere and my 16th birthday. And it didn’t really ruin that because it’s not possible for a single mainstream comedy movie to ruin any amount of a person’s life, either at the time or retroactively. In truth, Ghostbusters II was an anomaly in what was otherwise one of the best cinematic summers of my life, a season that included UHF, Batman, Lethal Weapon 2, The Abyss, and especially Do the Right Thing. Cut to 2016, which has been a terrible year for anyone who isn’t a straight White man, and no movie angried up the blood of the Sexual Predator-elect’s core demographic than Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, henceforth referred to by its subtitle Answer the Call.

Twenty-seven years after a second sequel failed to materialize — despite the two television cartoons, three different Universal Studios Florida live shows, multiple video games and comic books, and hundreds of toys from dozens of manufacturers, all of which kept the license profitable — Feig tweeted on Oct. 8, 2014, that he was “making a new Ghostbusters & writing it with @katiedippold & yes, it will star hilarious women.”

In March 2015, Variety reported that Feig said the reaction to the October announcement included “some of the most vile, misogynistic shit I’ve ever seen in my life,” and that the most common thing he heard on Twitter was “Thanks for ruining my childhood.” He also noted that the accusations of childhood-ruining almost always came from men with high-end jobs whose bios said things like “Proud father of two!” — about which Feig reasonably wondered: “You’re raising children, and yet you’re bashing me about putting women in my movie?”

It’s worth noting that this was all happening during the Gamergate shitshow. A week after Feig’s October 2014 tweet, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian canceled a talk at Utah State University because the police had refused to conduct firearm searches. This refusal occurred despite the fact that an anonymous snowflake had written that, because “feminists have ruined my life” — aww, pobrecito! — he would commit “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if Sarkeesian were allowed to speak. Interpret that as you will.

The first Answer the Call trailer was released on March 3, 2016, and by April 29, it had garnered 28.7 million views and 507,610 dislikes on YouTube, making it the most-hated in the site’s history until that point. At the time of this writing, it’s still YouTube’s most-disliked trailer and the 10th-most-disliked video overall. (The top of the list is a video is by a pop singer whose fan base is young girls, and six of the other videos feature women and/or people of color. Again, interpret that as you will.)

If you somehow haven’t had your fill of toxic masculinity this year, search for “Ghostbusters trailer rant” on YouTube — and if you’re feeling especially masochistic, set the duration filter to “Long (>20 minutes)” and scroll through the results. I’ve watched some of them, and I don’t recommend it.

But I do recommend Answer the Call. I’ve seen it several times now, and consider it a delicious orange that’s every bit the equal of the 1984 apple — which, as a card-carrying Gen Xer, I’ve probably seen hundreds of times, including twice in 35mm at the Castro Theater in recent years. I find it far more satisfying in many ways, particularly regarding laughs per minute and character development. But the quality of the finished film is almost beside the point.

Even though the uproar over the movie looks, swims, and quacks like a misogynistic duck, many behind the backlash insist that they are not angry about the film’s blatant Vagenda of Manocide, but rather because Sony intended Answer the Call to launch a trendy shared-universe franchise, thus compromising the integrity of a brand that, to date, had only produced (deep breath) two feature films and two television cartoons and three different Universal Studios Florida live shows and multiple video games and comic books and hundreds of toys from dozens of manufacturers. Having factored in that entirely reasonable objection by people who are no doubt also boycotting Rogue One, one of my operating theories about the hatred of Answer the Call is the lack of masturbation fodder.

Real talk: Not only are Feig’s handpicked cast of comedy professionals Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon all over 30 years of age, the closest any of them come to what the average heterosexual boy on the internet considers fuckable is the openly queer McKinnon (who really should have been Time‘s Person of the Year, but that’s another essay altogether). Feig said he made a point of portraying the Ghostbusters as working women, which is why their uniforms are entirely functional and in no way form-fitting or sexualized. The outrage probably wouldn’t have subsided had the film been cast with Maxim models, which would have been correctly identified as pandering, but the collective penis of the straight American male hates being ignored.

I could be entirely wrong about that, of course. (Hey, maybe Gamergate really was about ethics in games journalism!) The financially unsuccessful Answer the Call is by no means a perfect film, and as with every work of art, not everyone is going to enjoy it whether its existence ruined their childhood or not; I went into the megahit Deadpool largely unfamiliar with the character, and did not care for it. I also doubt anyone with a ruined childhood would bother to listen to Answer the Call‘s commentary tracks, since that would require watching the film, which many swore they would never ever do in a million billion kazillion years. But if they did, they would find that rather than being cowed by the angry tweets and “Long (>20 minutes)” YouTube rants, the filmmakers are laughing at them.

Early into Feig’s track with Dippold, they go off on a tangent about the 1992 film Medicine Man, and Feig says, “That’s going to be our next reboot! See who we can upset with that one — some scientist somewhere will say, ‘You ruined my college years by rebooting that.’ ”

Dippold later relates that a lot of men got upset about the Ghostbusters shooting the final monster in the groin, calling it “Katie trying to get back at the men,” but Feig clarifies that it was his idea — and he also suggests that Dippold’s next movie will be called Nut-Shooters.

On the other commentary track, Feig reminisces about buying bootleg VHS tapes at Comic-Con back in the day. His executive producer, Jessie Henderson, mentions 1974’s legendary made-for-TV movie and VHS-trading staple Bad Ronald, to which Feig says, “Let’s reboot Bad Ronald! Will that upset anyone? Will we ruin childhoods with that?” Henderson suggests calling it Bad Rhonda.

In those examples and elsewhere, it’s clear all involved are proud of the movie, and they were never truly demoralized by the haters. For the crime of being a large Black woman, Leslie Jones endured a racist Twitter abuse campaign spurred by White supremacist and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos in July; she was then doxxed, and nude photos were leaked when her website was hacked in August. But on Saturday Night Live in October, she laughed at the hackers for thinking they could possibly shame or even faze her: “At a certain point, you stop being embarrassed and start being you, and I have been me for 49 years. The only person who can hack me is me.” Word.

Answer the Call was a $144 million studio movie intended to launch a profitable new franchise to benefit Sony stockholders the way the Star Wars and Marvel movies benefit Disney stockholders, so it was never an underdog like the similarly attacked $5 million Jem and the Holograms was last year, but the Answer backlash was faster and harder and far more personal. But the cast and crew rose up and made the movie they wanted to make, despite the cries of “DO NOT WANT” by men terrified that the culture is not directly catering to them. Even during the worst of the July abuse, Jones only stepped away from Twitter for two days while Yiannopoulos got rightfully banned from the platform for his hate speech. Otherwise, Jones and the others remained visible and awesome, and never stopped laughing.

Or, to put it another way: They weren’t afraid of no trolls.

Sherilyn Connelly has covered film since 2012 and is the author of Ponyville Confidential: The History and Culture of My Little Pony, 1981-2016 (McFarland & Company, 2017). Follow her on Twitter at @sherilyn.