In case you missed it, Paul Feig’s all female Ghostbusters trailer went live this week. I’m not sure how you could have missed it considering that the Internet immediately became a Petri dish of hyperbolic overreactionarianism. And no, “overreactionarianism” is not a word, but I’m going to make it happen because that’s exactly what I witnessed on my Twitter and Facebook feeds last Thursday. Overreactionarianism is a phenomenon that has grown increasingly popular on the Internet lately. The doctrine of overreactionarianism states that everyone has a high horse and whenever possible they should jump on said high horse and trample all other opinions with only a minimum amount of information at hand. Overreactionarianism to this trailer took two very distinct forms.
The Ghostbusters Trailer, Rage and Overreactionarianism
First there was the angry nostalgists who rose up in arms against those who would dare update/remake/reboot Ghostbusters.
It’s also hard to tell how much of this anger is born out of pure nerd love of untouchable nostalgia or a latent sexism that believes the Ghostbusters could never be female. I’m suggesting that people don’t even understand why the notion of this movie outrages them so much. It’s like my confusion when someone says that they like Bernie Sanders because “he says what he wants and just doesn’t care how he looks.” Really? That’s why you’re boosting him for President of the United States? Because he more closely resembles Father Jack Hackett on Father Ted than an everyday politician? (Imagine if a woman ran for President with those credentials. She’d be called a cat lady, mocked without reservation. So, yeah, it’s kind of sexist to use that as your reason for voting for someone. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to cite. But I digress this is about Ghostbusters, dammit.)
Then there were those that cast a sideways glance at the Leslie Jones character asking to be a part of the Ghostbusters, made up of three white girls, by saying “You guys are really smart about this science stuff.” This approach to overreactionarianism stems from a moral high ground of heightened sensitivity. Did we not just watch an entire Oscar ceremony dedicated to calling attention to racism in the Hollywood film industry? The question on everyone’s mind was how they could promote gender equality but resort to the same old racial stereotypes.
I admit that at first I too thought we could have done a better job with introductions. Did this “science stuff” line not raise, if not red flag, maybe something in fuchsia? Eventually as Thursday wore on and more people saw the trailer and more people talked to people that saw the trailer, the lines between these two factions blurred until we reached the overreactionarianism critical mass. The more angry nerdist/nostalgist faction ran to get their kites when they heard the whispering winds of racism. When the factions of Internet hate begin to blur it begins to looks like this:
So let’s take a step back for a moment. Deep breaths and count to ten. Good? Now let’s actually talk about the trailer.
I’ve written about Ghostbusters on this bl-g at least three times. Maybe more. I’ve lost count. First I wrote about Ghostbusters and the 25-Year Rule of Feeling Old. I’ve also used Ghostbusters in a confessional about my mental health. Besides adding more links to this post, my point is that Ghostbusters is really never far from my mind. It’s the first live-action movie I remember vividly seeing in the theater. I own an original teaser poster… which I included in my recent #CurateMyLife post. I even wrote about the seeing the movie on the big screen for the first time since 1984. I consider the film to be one of the most perfect Hollywood movies ever made. I should have a violent reaction to the Ghostbusters trailer like most everyone else.
And I do have a reaction and we’ll get to that but most importantly I wanted to voice my disillusionment over our widespread inability to enjoy, say, a new Ghostbusters trailer without politicizing 2:37 seconds out the wazoo. It must be vetted and dissected and left on the operating table to decay. This somehow feels more invasive than when the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser hit the web. Though I must admit that when that was released I was in upstate New York “away from the things of man.” I watched the trailer on my phone and tweeted a little bit but I remained largely and blissfully unaware of any larger phenomenon outside my own enjoyment of the moment for the pure, simple reason that we were going to get another chance to do Star Wars right.
So when the new Ghostbusters trailer dropped I tweeted out a simple response:
Concerned about the “remake” in this “reinvention,” but I’m in. Also, why is Leslie Jones an add on like Ernie? https://t.co/Lnd2tptdZF
— The #Bond_age_ Guy (@007hertzrumble) March 3, 2016
You’ll note that while I mentioned the Leslie Jones character’s parallel as an extra fourth, add-on Ghostbuster, I didn’t jump into the racism debate. I wasn’t ready to jump to conclusions. Also, I recognized the deployment of Leslie Jones’ SNL character (something she acknowledged Thursday night in response to Internet rage about the trailer) and expected that in a two-hour movie there just might be room to create a deeper character for her than just “black subway worker that’s slow with the science stuff.” Just maybe. I was more focused on the nature of the film as… a remake? A Reboot? A story continuation? What exactly were we watching here?
And exhale. Sigh of relief. Clearly, this aims to be the evolution of the original story, right? We’ve just acknowledged that the original Ghostbusters happened and even included a visual of the old Hook and Ladder 8. The filmmakers’ assertion that the original Ghostbusters timeline took place back in 1984ish (nevermind the 2016 – 30 math), removing the possibility of this being a remake or a reboot. Neither “remake” or “reboot” really allows for the acknowledgment of the past films — a problem I have with calling Casino Royale (2006) a reboot, as filmmakers have asserted. Bond can’t help but be self-referential. But back in Ghostbusters world again, some troubling images start popping off in the trailer rapid fire to challenge the theory that this is a pure story continuation.
This is the ghost that clearly inspires our three heroines to enter into the ghost-busting business… we’ll just call her “Not-Librarian” ghost. And then, just for good measure, we get some green Double Dare slime. We’re certainly checking off some required boxes forthwith.
And don’t forget this guy.
And then there’s all of the very obvious things we knew before we even watched the trailer. There were three white actors cast and one black woman. Oh, and there’s a hearse-mobile. Uncanny coincidence, really. But hey, at least we’re housed in an old Chinese Food joint instead of an old firehouse. Though does this mean we’ll have jokes about Chinese takeout to reference the scene in Ghostbusters when they’re consuming the last of their petty cash? The mind reels.
Then there’s also a clip of Leslie Jones in the subway that rings awfully true to Ghostbusters II and though the ghosts are updated and shiny new CGI rather than blissful, inventive practical effects and matting, there’s some resemblance to things we’ve seen before. I get it. I do. When you’re reinventing a beloved 32-year old franchise for the big screen, selling nostalgia puts butts in seats. Tugging on the old nostalgia strings is a shortcut into the bosoms of skepticals. The Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer and the film itself are testaments to the power of same but not. This is what people want. They want the same, but they don’t want to be made aware that what they’re seeing is just a new veneer. Once aware, the viewer is pulled out of the experience. The Ghostbusters trailer stumbles because there’s never any doubt that the we’re seeing is uncanny sameness — especially when we’re supposed to be experiencing a brand new continuation of the Ghostbusters story, not just a new Ghostbusters. I’m already starting to think about the logistics here… if this is a continuation, why does it seem like these ladies needed to reinvent the proton packs and traps? I’m hoping we’re reverse engineering some of Egon’s m’f’ers and not working from scratch, eh?
But through all the slime-covered, goopy nostalgia, there’s hope for something new and unique. Kate McKinnon, for example. I laughed twice during the trailer… which, granted, is not much for a comedy… and both chortles came as the result of Kate McKinnon. Also, yes, I love Kate McKinnon and if any one of these ladies is going to surprise us, it’s the one down there in the purple wig… and the one licking her proton-pack six-shooters.
Let’s not overlook the innate potential of Thor assuming desk detail as the new Annie Potts. While we’re on the subject, I’m going to need him to yell “We’ve got one!” Damn. Now I’m feeding into this need to relive, this need for nostalgia for the sake of. It’s infectious. This is the only glimpse we get of Chris Hemsworth in the trailer, seemingly using his potent manliness to bust through double doors.
So while I’m skeptical of the regurgitation bordering on remake, I’m optimistic about this new Ghostbusters. We’ve got to remind ourselves that we’ve watched approximately 1/50th of the film itself and that’s only if everything in the trailer remains in the final cut. Scattered images, lines, ideas that amount to nothing except what the filmmakers want us to know. And right now it’s clear that they want us to know that even though the cast is female, the movie wants desperately to be the Ghostbusters of old. They’re tugging at nostalgia fast and furious. Is that enough to make a good movie? Absolutely not. But is it enough to make a teaser trailer that piques our interest, makes people talk, makes people grab their pitchforks for some cause or another? As a massive fan of the original, I’m more optimistic today than I was four days ago. But you be the judge for yourself. The burden of optimism remains on your back, like an unlicensed nuclear accelerator. Switch on. Godspeed.