Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Traveller has come! What did you do, Joanna?!

Fighting In The War Room, a podcast I like, has done it again. Previously, I used them as a foil to rant against an irrational obsession with Girl Power when critiquing pop culture. Their consensus, at that time, was that we should cheer the work of female directors even when their work is not so great. Why? Because there aren’t enough female directors (by some weighted model) so any movie directed by someone identifying as female is a definitive Good based on that criteria alone. Ugh.

This time, the topic was the Ghostbusters all-female cast and the offender was the onliest Joanna Robinson of Vanity FairJoanna -- who didn't seem to like the movie at all -- expressed concern that the failure of this property would undermine support for genre movies with an all female cast. So, even though she says it’s not a good movie, she advised  audiences to “Go see it!”

Now, before I say anything else, I haven’t seen the movie. For all I know, I’ll love it when I rent it on Redbox. At the least, I’ve liked the work – to varying degrees -- of most of the core cast. The actual merits of the movie are not relevant to me at this point. This issue here is that the inestimable Ms Robinson thinks it’s a bad movie but never-the-less is recommending the poor and down-trodden common people support (with their inequitably distributed time and money) a product of a wealthy, powerful, cold-hearted movie corporation ONLY because they cynically remixed an old successful property with an all-female cast. That’s crazy. And it devalues the overall recommendations of this prominent female pop-culture columnist. That can’t be good. I suspect such writers slant heavily male. Can we really afford to sacrifice Joanna Robinson for the sake of the profitability of a major patriarchal media empire?

Secondly, her premise is dubious. Is it really believable that a production company would pass on a vehicle with an ensemble cast of proven bankable female stars because Ghostbusters didn’t do well? No. However, it might be a valid warning regarding lazily rebooting a franchise thus:
“Lets revive a thirty-year-old property with an all-new cast. Now how do we make it fresh? Let’s reverse the genders of the cast. Done.”
Arguably, Ghostbusters is contemptuous of female-core casting. The Female Ghostbusters compels proven funny women to slavishly service in a novelty homage to a story written for male actors decades ago -- a time (the 80s) when male-female roles were far more backward than they are today. Why couldn’t these women have been employed in a NEW genre movie that isn’t tied to a property invented, designed, and well-worn by MEN? We wouldn’t have watched these four female actresses in that?

And in joylessly converting Ghostbusters to an all-woman cast, the writers have locked every other aspect of the thirty-year old movie in place. We need one –and only one—black ghostbuster because that’s what the original had. A Polynesian-looking ghostbuster? An Indian ghostbuster? No! That would be nuts! We can change genders but there needs to be four ghostbusters and three of them must be white! 

Assuming Joanna is right about the quality of this movie, the fanboys who reflexively denounced this movie’s concept on social media were right…100% right.