movies

GHOSTBUSTERS REVIEW: how this kickarse movie made my heart soar for women.

I went to see Ghostbusters today. And I bloody loved it. We’re big fans of the original Ghostbusters in my house. Even the sequel to this cult-hit is watched on high rotation. My 7yo son is so obsessed I ordered him a Ghostbusters costume for his birthday last year.

So I’d been aware that a reboot of Ghostbusters was coming – with an all-female Ghostbusters team – and was dimly across some negative blowback that had been coming its way.

Something, something, women, trolls, too many women, bitches, die whores etc.

You know, the usual uplifting response certain sections of the Internet hurls at anything pertaining to women.

Still, after a long, cold school holidays where I've sat through many movies with my kids - both at home and in the cinema - I was looking forward to one that actually had some pop culture relevance for me.

I love Melissa McCarthy and Kirsten Wiig. And I've followed the rise of their co-stars - Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon - from their time on Saturday Night Live. Leslie Jones is breaking down the barriers of how you have to look and behave as a woman in comedy  and Kate McKinnon is openly gay.

The director, Paul Feig, did Bridesmaids and Melissa McCarthy's Spy and Heat and I loved those movies too.

ghostbusters banned in china
Image via Columbia Pictures.

Two hours after sitting down next to my son (my daughter, sadly, was sick and had to stay home), I left the cinema feeling elated.

You know why? It wasn't the plot (pretty standard) or the effects (great but not really my thing). It wasn't even the acting particularly. It was the fact this film got made and the WAY it was made. I was elated by not just a female cast but a DIVERSE one. This is what I'm talking about:

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The all-female cast of Ghostbusters.

Four women who are wildly different shapes, sizes, heights, ages and sexualities. And on the red carpet - and in the movie - they are all resplendent. None of them are trying to be or look like anyone other than themselves.

Here are their ages because - in a world where so many actresses in Hollywood are forced to lie about their age to remain employable (what a shitty system is that) - this is really relevant:

Leslie Jones: 48

Kate McKinnon: 32

Kristen Wiig: 42

Melissa McCarthy: 45

In a world (Hollywood and also, you know, the world) that often seems to demand women stay frozen at age 24, this is thrilling. A movie made with actresses in their 30s but mostly 40s, none of whom look like they've had work.

You know what else made me feel euphoric? None of the women were made to look sexy in the film. Their clothes were all awful and IT DID NOT MATTER. Why should it? They were Ghostbusters! They had jobs! They DID things with their bodies instead of just being objects to please the eyes of others.

There was also no romance in the movie. No love stories fuelling the plot. No redemption via marriage or finding the One or settling down. The only relationships driving this film were the ones between the women.

In fact the main male character (who was very much just a supporting gig - the four women were the stars) was the very attractive Chris Hemsworth who was hilarious and was objectified throughout the film in a cannily ironic flip of the usual sexist movie schtick.

He was the RECEPTIONIST. It was glorious.

Image via Columbia Pictures.
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The movie was about four women who were passionate about what they did, doing it. Together. It was about female friendships and having your sisters' backs and working really hard.

And I thought: this feels empowering. Not in the way a bum selfie is said to be 'empowering'. I mean empowering in a broader sense - for all women not just the individual woman pointing the camera at her bottom.

I want my daughter to see this film. I want her to see a movie where women aren't objects, don't have to be sexy, aren't defined by a man or their clothes or their size zero body or the number of lines on their face but by their JOB. And how well they do it and how great they feel about it.

Because when my daughter looks around, she sees a lot of women whose jobs are quite literally looking hot. I try to say this without judgement. But in the same week when a woman - FINALLY - was on the cover of America's most important and influential business magazine, Forbes, Kim Kardashian celebrated this milestone by posting a dozen consecutive snapchat videos of herself posing in her closet mirror in a white swimsuit, turning this way and that to capture the best angle of her arse.

Left: Kim Kardashian poses on the cover of Forbes magazine. Right: Kim poses in a swimsuit for her Snapchat feed.

Naturally, I watched, like her millions of followers. Transfixed. It was Kim doing the job of Kim which is showing us her arse at the most flattering angle available to her without photoshop.

This is not a criticism of Kim Kardashian. I'm mostly comfortable with the fact that her business is her body and making it look as good as possible and showing it as much as possible. And if I'm not comfortable with it, tough because it's what she and her family do. It's her choice. She chooses her choice. Yeah yeah, I'm familiar with that concept and I no longer rail against it like I once did.

But my daughter and my sons are looking around and making sense of the world and it was only two weeks ago that my 7yo asked me "What does Kim Kardashian actually do?"

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The question wasn't loaded for him but I felt its weight land on me with a thud. Because the truth is that Kim Kardashian's job is to objectify herself for money. She sells sexy. Sexy mother, sexy wife, sexy business-woman. Her face and body are her job. And unquestionably, she works hard at doing her job.

Which is why I felt the women of Ghostbusters and the movie's style and treatment wash over me like a shower of power.

Image via Columbia Pictures.

Taking photos of your arse in the mirror to share with the world just doesn't feel powerful to me. Possibly, probably, they feel powerful to the women who take them and who derive their value (and in Kim's case, her income) from her body. Go your hardest.

But I'm looking for role models - not just in real life but in popular culture - because kids aren't the only ones who take their ideas about the world from pop culture, we all do. It's a powerful teacher.

And Ghostbusters showed me women who were not being lauded for their arses or their tits or their faces or their youth. Both the women themselves and their characters in the movie were  - and this is the funny bit - radically diverse, just by being very ordinary.

So if you see a film this month, make it Ghostbusters (disclaimer: there are scary bits for little kids although it's rated PG). Let's all support people who are helping to push the definition of "successful woman" that little bit wider than our arses.

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