The “Ghostbusters” Remake Controversy

The fact that I even know about this issue is both my reward and punishment for being a popular culture junkie.

To bring you up to date: Since the stars of the classic movie comedy “Ghostbusters” are now collecting Social Security (and one of them—Harold Ramis— is dead), Hollywood’s only sensible option to try to squeeze some more profit out of the property (and maybe introduce it to a new generation) was to remake the 1984 film. This was a risky enterprise, for even the sequel with the original cast more or less recognizable was a disappointment, and remakes of classics are inherently dicey. If an original film really was special and the stars truly stars, forcing younger contemporary stars to step into iconic shoes is asking for not just trouble, but humiliation. Poor Alex Cord, for example, never recovered from being cast as The Ringo Kid in a misbegotten remake of  1939’s “Stagecoach,” where he was supposed to replace John Wayne. It can work, as with Jeff Bridges’ turn as Rooster Cogburn, not only a Wayne role but the one that got him an Oscar, only if the remake is sufficiently excellent and different enough in tone and purpose that the original and the remake can co-exist without compelling unflattering comparisons. (“True Grit I” is a funny John Wayne valedictory with a great story; “True Grit 2” is more faithful adaptation by the Coen Brothers of a wonderful novel. I still like the original better.)

The best option, though, is often to make the reboot different in appearance and feel by switching race or gender. This is also helpful when everyone over the age of 13 has seen the original on TV about ten times already. The scheme attracts a new audience, ideally—the first “Ghostbusters” had a male teen demographic—and allows the remake to refer to the first version without seeming like pale copy. Almost never are the non-traditional casting versions big hits, but they can be quietly profitable. “Ghostbusters,” moreover, is a merchandising machine. The original spawned cartoon versions and action figures. Why wouldn’t the new movie?

However this is 2016 America, and everything is political as well as partisan. An all-female remake of “Ghostbusters” was launched with feminist swagger. The new version starring Melissa McCarthy (love her) , Kristen Wiig (great)  and Kate McKinnon ( also great), excellent comic actresses, given good material, would show that women can and do everything men can do—fight ghosts, make hilarious supernatural movies, be President of the United States. The July opening in an election year was no coincidence; it is part of the Hollywood effort to join the media’s efforts to make Hillary President despite, well, her lack of fitness to lead.

Although the usual naysayers when a classic is recast were immediately critical, most moviegoers were enthusiastic about the project. I know I was. Then the trailer came out. It is bad (you can watch it above). We are used to seeing great trailers for movies that turn out to be boring and horrible, but good movies with terrible trailers are rare because making previews has become a fine art.

The strikingly unfunny “Ghostbusters” trailer was especially ominous for a comedy. The usual method for hyping a mediocre comedy is to put all the funny bits in the trailer; I hate that, don’t you? Not only is the whole movie an unamusing slog with 6 minutes of laughs in 90 minutes of filler, but you’ve already seen the best gags. What does it say, though, when a trailer for an alleged comedy isn’t funny, and worse, the gags included don’t appear to be as side-splitting as the movie’s makers seem to think they are?

Oh-oh.

That’s what it says. Oh-oh.

There was a lot of oh-ohing going around the web and the movie media after the trailer debuted. The “Ghostbusters” trailer is currently the most “disliked” movie preview on YouTube, with nearly a million thumbs-down clicks. So what was the reaction of the film’s cast, promoters and defenders? I already gave you a hint: its 2016, and anyone who questions the character of most corrupt likely-nominee for President in U.S. history is being called sexist. The production could have issued a new trailer that was hilarious. It could have shrugged and said, “Just wait to see the movie; we know you’ll love it.” Nah, that would have been reasonable.

What happened is that critics were told that they were sexist bigots, and that good, diversity-minded and politically correct movie-goers had a duty to like the film. Laugh, or you’re a pig.

The people who could recoignize a stinker of a trailer have been dubbed “haters,” the sly ad hominem attack so popular today. Sony’s movie chief, Tim Rothman, whistled in the dark to the Hollywood Reporter that the bad buzz around the movie was “the greatest thing that ever happened. Are you kidding me? We’re in the national debate, thank you. Can we please get some more haters to say stupid things?” The mainstream media political correctness brigade rushed to defend the movie and to call its critics sexist.

The Washington Post’s Stephanie Merry issued a screed called People hate the ‘Ghostbusters’ trailer, and yes, it’s because it stars women.  Her head-scratching argument seems to be that since other politically incorrect movies have received more up-votes than down-votes on the web (see, a politically incorrect movie by definition is a bad movie), only an organized sexist conspiracy could explain so many people not finding an unfunny trailer with female performers unfunny. In The Atlantic, the argument in a piece called “The Ongoing Outcry Against the Ghostbusters Remake” ( but originally posted as “The Sexist Outcry Against the Ghostbusters Remake”) argues that other remakes have not faced such vitriol, citing “Batman. Superman. Spider-Man. James Bond. Star Wars. Planet of the Apes. Halloween. Friday the 13th. The Evil Dead. The Thing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Robocop. Every Disney animated classic, starting with Cinderella and continuing with The Jungle Book this year.”  Okay, readers, pop quiz: Can you spot the material difference between a remake of those films and a remake of “Ghostbusters”?

Take a minute.

Ready, contestants?

Ghostbusters is a comedy.

A remake still  has to be funny.

Here is a more direct feminist attack on the trailer criticism, in a piece called “If Only Feminists Saw the New Ghostbusters, It Would Still Be a Smash Hit“:

“Though I’m interested in Ghostbusters the current cultural phenomenon that shows how men respond to women taking over roles, I never did really give a toss about Ghostbusters the film or franchise. I find the original film mediocre and am completely baffled by people’s fondness for it. As for the new one, I like all the actresses involved well enough I was planning on waiting until it hit Amazon streaming, but I wasn’t going to waste a rare night out at a non-kids movie on it. Now I’m getting a baby sitter and putting my ass in a seat opening weekend just to spite these joyless manbabies and their eggshell masculinity…Herein lies the point and the dark heart of the dude bro rage. Ghostbusters does not need anti-feminist white dudes to make money. It doesn’t even need anti-feminist white dudes to make a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man-size pile of money. No movie, TV show, comic or video anymore needs the old, young, white, male demographic to succeed, something Bernie Sanders is finding out the hard way this election cycle. The game has changed, and it is never going to go back to the way things were. That’s why this version of Ghostbusters exists. It hasn’t been forced on filmgoers. It’s been enabled by the changing world., a world that doesn’t value white dudes and their fragile egos over and above everything else.”

Boy, I can’t wait to see the new “Ghostbusters” in a theater full of feminists who didn’t see what was funny about the original….

This whole issue could have been avoided if the producers released a funny trailer. How hard is that, well, that is, how hard is it if your movie is funny? Now we are being told that if we don’t laugh at the thing, we’re waging a War on Women.

I hope the new “Ghostbusters” is funnier than the first one. We need a s many laughs as we can get. Politicizing the film, however, and making it some kind of litmus test on one’s feminist sympathies is unfair to the cast, the film and audiences—except that the publicity machine for the film is encouraging the social justice warrior angle…the fools.

I can almost accept the principle that it’s unethical to laugh at a sexist joke that is really funny. The theory that it’s unethical not to laugh at something that isn’t funny, however, is just plain stupid. It is also political correctness bullying.

Keep your fingers crossed. The movie opens July 15.

_____________________________

Sources: Hollywood in Toto 1,2; Houston Press, Washington Post, The Atlantic

62 thoughts on “The “Ghostbusters” Remake Controversy

  1. I won’t be watching the new version and I’m sure there will be some nitwit that will want to call me a sexist because of it.

    If they wanted to do something cool with the Ghostbusters franchise, they could have reedited the original version, added some scenes, and enhanced some of the ghostly graphics, with with today’s technology this would be pretty easy to do using the actual shot film footage.

  2. I’d probably give it a thumbs down watching the trailer. Far too many glitzy special effects and the movie dialogue was kind of lame. My prediction is a very short run for this updated reversion and then off to red box.

  3. Well, this is a tempest in a tea pot. Either the movie if funny or it isn’t. What it tends to show, though, is that Hollywood is totally devoid of new ideas. If you have to generate “ism” controversies to sell your product, you are in trouble.

    As for the he-man-women-haters club, take a look at Steve Martin’s remake of “The Pink Panther”. Awful. Simply awful.

    jvb

  4. I have my concerns as the beer barrel mad scientist was a cheerful guy movie with a general teen boys in the clubhouse to keep the ikky girl out. Too exact a remake and the boys clib humor sounds stupid. Too far from the raunchy blue collar original,and it’s not the Ghostbusters, It wuold be a tough script, and I still hope it ends up funny and they have another go at editing and improve on the preview.

    On top of the writing, and gender swap, I really, really wish that they had used the franchise idea, all sitting there unused from the original movie. Then you can make new Ghostbusters teams whoever you want, wherever you want. New Orleans and Hollywood would be fun, and any cast could be used. You could also have a handoff scene from the original cast, and NOT negate the original’s successes. Failures from the old days would give real repercussions. The staypuff was a clever boss in the 80s, not so much today.

    • This isn’t a NCIS franchise, think a bit more outside the box…

      They could have made a brand new modern high tech “thriller” version set in the cities and towns surrounding the Nazca Desert of Peru putting down the hoards of intelligent ghosts of the Nazca Lines coming back to reassert their dominance over mankind. The new Ghostbusters team could be like a modern Seal Team set against the murderous ghosts.

      • No, I’m not thinking TV serieses like NCIS or Law and Order. The boys were clearly thinking of money making franchises in GB1, when hot franchises were Subway and Fuddruckers, The boys wanted to get rich, not begin a TC dynasty. Venkman might but not the others.

  5. First, I want to be clear that I probably won’t see it, and I have zero problem with anyone else who doesn’t for any reason.

    That being said, in my corner of the internet (largely comic book/sci-fi and fantasy/anime fans) the “this is going to be stupid!” vs. “sexism!” debate has been raging since the cast was announced, well before the trailer. In fact, he “sexism” side quieted down a bit after the trailer, though part of that was probably moving on to different issues like complaining about the upcoming Doctor Strange movie casting Tilda Swinton in a role that’s Asian in the comic books (one of your favorite subjects, I know) and being mad at JK Rowling for using Native American mythology in her fictional history of North America for the new Harry Potter universe movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

    You can look forward to those popping up in the mainstream as those movies get closer to coming out. The internet outrage machine never sleeps.

  6. I agree that Hollywood has become largely devoid of creativity and relies on remakes/sequels/reboots far too often. I’m not sure that I agree that Hollywood can rely on a successful remake/sequel/reboot if there is sufficient novelty in it. One prime example of a successful “remake” is the recent Star Wars Episode 7, which has so much similarity to the original Star Wars Episode 4 that it begs comparison. And yet it was completely enjoyable and the similarities were not overt enough to be a distraction. However, the current reboot of Independence Day is a travesty, with lame CGI effects. There is novelty, and youth injected, but it just doesn’t work. Sorry, Jeff Goldblum, you blew it this time.

    For me, at least, the actors in the key roles in these mulligans have to be one-of-a-kind. So, even though Aykroyd/Ramis/Murray weren’t A-level actors or even comics/comedians, they were truly unique. As talented as McCarthy/Wiig/McKinnon may be, they really aren’t one-of-a-kind. And so a comparison to the original will certainly not measure up.

    Some of these films are just too iconic (even if they aren’t classic) that they need to stand alone. I, for one, was totally blase about the Gone With The Wind (which was a classic) stuff that came out (back in the 70s was it?). Stories have an arc, and when they are complete, they should end. (I was similarly uninterested in the Harper Lee novel.) Write a different story. Human existence has endless stories.

    Again, as with so many things wrong with modern culture, greed has dictated these things. I keep hoping that one of these travesties is such a flop and makes so little money that it begins a trend that the finance people in Hollywood won’t be able to ignore.

    • Great comment. Now I’m trying to think of a big budget, big promotion re-make that really flopped. The awful “Exodus: Gods and Kings” was really a remake of “The Ten Commandments,” and bombed, but they were smart enough to use a different title.”Alamo” was a remake of “The Alamo” and similarly tanked, but history/Bible remakes have a built in excuse. Nobody’s threatening a remake of Ben-Hur, or Spartacus, or Singin’ in the Rain, or West Side Story, or The Longest Day or The Wizard of Oz.

      Hmmmmm..the new politically correct (no more helping out poor Mexicans being protected from mean Mexicans played by better non-Mexican actors)”The Magnificent Seven” remake may be just what you’re looking for. It premiers in September, with people like Denzel Washington, Chris Platt, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Saarsgard and Lee Byung Hung (DIVERSITY!!! DIVERSITY!!!) trying to fill the boots of Yul, McQueen, Bronson, Coburn, and Robert Vaughn. Coincidentally, I’ll be doing a special program about the history of the film ans its influence on US culture for the Smithsonian the same week!

      • Actually every Wizard reinterpretation I’ve seen (The Wiz, Return to Oz, even the Muppets TV movie) has brought something new and interesting to the table. Granted, there are a ton of books to draw material from, but as you mention with True Grit, it is possible to do a remake that is novel and also a homage to the original work.

      • “”Alamo” was a remake of “The Alamo” and similarly tanked”

        Alamo (2004) is not a ‘remake’ of The Alamo (John Wayne).

        In 93 years, there’ve been 11 movies. Some movies came in close bursts to each other, with a general average of 15-20 years between interest in Alamo movies.

        Like every Iconic story, from the historic battle of Thermopylae to the fictitious stories of Superman and Star Trek, each generation will take an archetype-filled story and rework it with the prevailing cultural attitudes of that generation. The same goes for the Alamo – the 2004 is a standalone movie in its own right.

        • Upon reflection, you are correct. Just as “Pearl Harbor” can’t be called a remake of “Tora! Tora! Tora!.”

          I found “Alamo” so annoying that I had to watch it in segments.

            • I’m back.

              1. It was hypocritical. The publicity made a great point about how this Alamo would be factually accurate, but when a legend seemed too good to omit, it left it in—notably Bowie’s last stand. Sorry..if you’re going to do this, then you might as well do all the legends right.

              2. Patrick Wilson was a more realistic Travis, but who wants a realistic Travis? He’s a bland actor; so is Jason Patric, who I thought moped through Bowie. Bowie was a killer, and Widmark, who usually played bad guys, had the right vibe. If two out of the three main Alamo heroes are meh, the movie is doomed.

              3. I even liked the Alec Baldwin (Travis), Jim Arness (Bowie), Brian Keith (Crocket) casting better than the Alamo’s—and that TV miniseries was mediocre.

              4. Regarding Crockett, they picked one just one aspect of a complex man. Yes, he was trapped by his own celebrity, but he was a natural leader, and he was not a squirrelly type like Thornton—physically, John Wayne was about right, according to at least one biographer. I do not forgive the movie for adopting the completely speculative story that Crockett surrendered, even though they placed a nice spin on it. As William C. Davis wrote in “Three Roads To Texas,” nobody who had ever seen Crockett in life saw him fall, and the Mexicans didn’t know what he looked like. That account may be slander, or based on a mistake, or because an enterprising Texan thought playing Crockett might save his life.

              5. Yes, the final attack was at night, but showing it at night undermines the overwhelming odds. Good history, bad drama.

              6. Screw all the slavery stuff. Not the point. Politically correct details that detract from what the story should be about.

              7. In a History Channel show about the Alamo, one of the historians said, “Almost every aspect of the Wayne Alamo is factually wrong, but it feels right.” What he meant is that Wayne wanted the story to be about men believing in a cause and sacrificing themselves with honor…and that’s the story it tells. In its casting to its Dimitri Tiomkin score, the tone is bigger than life, sentimental and inspiring, as it should be.

              “Alamo” is more accurate, but tries so hard to be even-handed that it leaves you with the question, “What’s the big deal?” like those idiots who visit and say, “Gee, I was shocked the Alamo is so small!”

              8. The Alamo IS a big deal, maybe my favorite of all symbolic US events. The movie diminished it, and Travis, Bowie, Crocket, Bonham and the rest deserve better.

          • As annoying as the romance story of Pearl Harbor is that’s not the reason I can’t watch it anymore. I can’t watch tora tora tora either.

            I actually get really really angry at the Japanese when I watch those movies.

          • Ha I just randomly recalled one of the fun moments my dad and I shared when watching John Wayne’s Alamo. The scene where Jocko elects to leave the Alamo to take care of his blind wife during Santa Anna’s amnesty and his wife stands up and give a heartwarming speech about how her husband won’t be counted a coward on account of her blindness and that he’ll stay and fight, dad and I always inserted our own lines from Jocko interrupting his wife: “hey… That’s nice but would you shut up?! I’m trying the get out of here. I know you can’t see but there’s several thousand Mexicans outside the walls. So just cool it with that ‘my husband is gonna stay and fight’ crap!”

            • I have also thought of some comic possibilities in that scene. (It’s a bit much, but like the rest of the film, I like its heart.) They never show what happens to Jocko, do they? (You recall that he is the same actor who played “Brother Rufe,” the bad guy bro of Van Heflin’s nemesis, in “Shane.”)

      • 3:10 to Yuma?

        I think a remake of the Ox-Bow Incident would be neat (if modern Americans had an attention span to watch a movie about political and judicial philosophy)

        • Cult movies and critical successes are often remade well—3:10 to Yuma is a great example….also Cape Fear, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, The Time Machine.

  7. Saw the trailer, and now I’m disappointed. I’m still probably going to watch it though, because Ghostbusters. 🙂

    • Good! Maybe it is funny for a target audience. I think when a script sinks to “That’s gonna leave a mark”, an old gag by now, it’s a very ominous sign. I wish you had been the audience of some of The American Century Theater’s comedies. I love laughers.

      • I was never allowed to be in the audience on a GG&SS tape night — my laugh is loud and (presumably) annoying.

        As for your target audience point, I think I agree with you. I liked Sex & the City, but every guy I knew hated it. Perhaps I am the target audience for this movie as well. We’ll see. See, the “gonna leave a mark” line is funny here because it is female scientists hitting each other. When you think of women hitting each other, do you think of middle-aged female scientists? Men hit each other all the time in buddy comedy movies so yes, that gag is old now.

        A few weeks ago, I watched CaddyShack for the first time in decades. I didn’t laugh at a single line — but my guy friends think that movie is hilarious.

          • Chevy Chase? Rodney Dangerfield? Ted Knight as Judge Smales (sp?). Lots of great gags and lines. Rodney alone: “Did they give you a free bowl of soup with that hat when you bought it?” “You must have been something before electricity.” “Wang, it’s a parking lot!” Bill Murray on the Dali Lahma: “Big hitter, The Lahma.” On being given eternal life by The Lahma as a tip for caddying for him: “So I got that goin’ for me.” Bushwood Country Club. Come on.

  8. I’ve been waiting since 1989 for another Ghostbusters film. They created a funny universe where ghosts are the enemy and entrepreneurial scientists start a police service to protect the public. Part Mystery, Part SciFi, Part Comedy. I don’t care how we get Ghostbuster films. I want them. Heck – I’m thrilled they’re giving Power Rangers and Voltron another shot. Keep them coming!

    • Well, I’m sure glad they didn’t try it with the old, and I mean old, cast. Murray’s schtick doesn’t work with an old guy. Ramis is gone. Rick Moranis is essentially retired since his wife died. Ackroyd is still funny, if unpleasantly fat, but he wasn’t really the star of those films.

    • Wow. That was fast. So now “Donald Trump supporters” is the equivalent of “stupid and biased.”

      Apatow is very talented and funny, but his statements here are idiotic. Because the director is “great” (He’s directed three funny Melissa McCarthy movies—“Spy”, “The Heat” and “Bridesmaids”) and the actresses are funny, the movie is sure to be great? Is he lying? He can’t be that stupid. Tell him to watch Spielberg’s “1941” and get back to me about how a great director and a funny cast guarantees a hilarious movie.

  9. The reason the trailer has such an historic number of downvotes is simple. I never watch YouTube movie trailers…but I ended up watching this one. The internet was all, “Everyone’s talking about this Ghostbusters movie, people are saying it looks bad, but they’re a bunch of sexists who hate women!” And then I was like, “Well, I guess I have to see for myself. I love Ghostbusters.” And then I was like, “Oh, wow, yeah, this is offensively bad. Here’s a downvote.”
    The controversy will probably cause more people to see the actual movie too…but they won’t like it either.

  10. Watched the trailer. Wasn’t good, wasn’t bad. It was just a bunch of fairly random scenes taken from a full length movie. If I was already going to the movie, I’d probably find the trailer satisfactory. If I wasn’t going to go to the movie, I’d find the trailer … a bunch of fairly random scenes taken from a full length movie. I don’t really go to movies. I certainly don’t consider trailers an art form. Is it upsetting that the new cast is women? No. Are they funny? Not sure. I don’t even recognize any of these women. Am I a sexist white guy? I don’t think so. I really, really like women.

    But speaking of “ist” things. Is it really wonderful and enlightened to have a black woman all excited about her uncle’s car because it’s a Caddy? Is it really okay for a Hollywood writer to write that line? Isn’t that bigoted and racist? I’m confused. Are there also watermelon and fried chicken jokes in there?

    • There has been a lot of criticism of the movie as being racist too. So the progressive camp is divided on whether to aggressively boycott or aggressively support this movie. Which is pretty funny, if you think about it, because who cares. I thought the black-woman comedy was off-putting too. That’s just lazy and bad writing.

      • Ernie Hudson’s part bothered me in the original, frankly. He was superfluous, just a device to make the Ghostbusters “diverse.” And Hudson’s a good actor….totally wasted. Hollywood tokenism. But because this film had to follow the original, sort of, they placed a black actress in a similarly demeaning role.

        Wait…who was the fat Ghostbuster in the original?

  11. Jack, did you see Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping? That’s my favorite comedy so far this year.

    Even if Ghostbusters is as bad as it appears, it still probably won’t be remotely the worst comedy I saw this year, with Dirty Grandpa and The Bronze and The Brothers Grimsby and Meet the Blacks and The Boss and Mother’s Day.

  12. Melissa McCarthy (love her) , Kristen Wiig (great) and Kate McKinnon ( also great)

    I don’t understand this wide-spread belief that McCarthy is funny. She is little more than a shorter, fatter, female Will Ferrell – she has exactly one shtick, and she beats it into the ground.

    As for the other two, I can think of exactly one Wiig part that I liked, and that was a minor role that could have been played by virtually anyone, and honestly I didn’t think she was THAT good in it as it was (the press gal from The Martian) and I can’t think of anything I’ve seen that has McKinnon in it – either she makes movies that I don’t like and thus don’t see, or she is so forgettable that I’m not aware of her presence in a film I liked.

    And then we have my other big issue, the use of a male beefcake as a sex object for the ladies. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the ladies getting something to drool over, and Hemsworth certainly fits the bill… But come on, if you’re going to make a movie and be all about the PCness, actually live up to it – get a Rick Moranis type to play the roll.

    The movie is going to bomb like The Lone Ranger, only worse…

  13. Saturday mornings are my times to have deep philosophical discussions with my 27-year-old son. At one point, after we had discussed the upcoming election and the dismal state of movies, my son had this interesting thought: “What if Ghostbusters turns out to be a good movie? What if Trump gets elected and he turns out to be a good president?” Then, after a moment of silence, we both said, “Nah!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.