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?
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.
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.