Words: Andrea Zanin
Illustration: Fleur Beech

Imagine what would’ve happened if Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Emma Stone and Linda Cardellini had come to blows with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man back in 1984? This all-female cast was Bill Murray’s personal choice for a proposed all-female line-up, rumoured to replace Murray and his men in the imminent remake of the original movie. Maybe. What is for certain is that faced with these ladies, the Marshmallow’s big, bad, lumbering mass of galvanised gelatinous-ness would not have stood a chance against McCarthy’s ample attitude; all it’d take is one foul-mouthed slap in the face, sending poor Mr Mallow crying back to his crypt, with Wiig, Stone and Cardellini rubbing wise-cracking salt in the jelly-giant’s wounds just because. Proton packs? Energy streams? Who needs ‘em? No mess, no fuss. Job done. Put a woman in charge and New York City’s a healthier, happier, less gooey hang-out.

Yes, it’s true – women are awesome! But before feminism stakes claim on the proposed gender-bender that is Ghostbusters 3, let it be known that director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) has expressed plans to reboot rather than revamp the much-loved and revered Eighties version. By implication, the purpose of the new flick is to offer a different perspective rather than improve the original. (And the fans go wild.) Yet, while Feig’s film aims to be an entity unique in ambience, it would be naïve to assume that any Ghostbusters ‘sequel’ could be divorced from the gender dynamic prescribed by the first two films.

Women must conform to their culturally-defined role or bad things will happen – even in the eighties

Lurking beneath the charisma of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II is a gender stereotype clandestine in conveyance. To précis the innuendo; the dudes save the day as well as the films’ only relevant girl Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver). In the first Ghostbusters, Dana is possessed by demon demigod Zuul, minion of Gozer “The Destructor”, transforming her into a sensual, sexually aggressive femme fatal on a quest to mate with another of Gozer’s minions. Interestingly, it’s only under the influence of extreme evil that Dana is able to express and revel in the belligerent femininity, the assertive sensuality, that was (and still is) being championed by feminists the world over. But, as we’ve all been taught, evil must be exorcised (especially if it invokes any sort female self-assertion) and indeed it is; freed from Zuul’s possession and rescued by Peter Venkman (Murray), Barrett reverts back to her prissy, far less engaging, self. The Dana Barrett of Ghostbusters II fares much the same, with Peter and pals rescuing town and woman yet again. It’s like Grimm 101 – that whole men-kicking-ass-damsel-in-distress thing; women must conform to their culturally-defined role or bad things will happen even in the eighties, apparently.

Although the stereotype is poignant it would be naïve to underestimate the power of nostalgia. Kids who got a load of Ghostbusters back when men permed their hair, women wore side-ponies and fingerless gloves were in fashion, loved the movie (and still do – 30 years later) because of: the coolest jumpsuits ever, Ecto-1, Slimer – “Is it just mist or does it have arms and legs?”, Bill Murray, a killer theme tune, a puffy giant of paranormal proportions… and about 90 other things that render the subconscious effects of the blatant sexism invoked by the film’s narrative utterly redundant. And so what? Who wants to sit in a movie theatre chugging down slush and crunching on popcorn while contemplating the gender evolution as depicted in modern film? Hells no. Love (especially the fanatical kind) hath no reason, especially when Murray/McCarthy are making a concerted effort to deal with the ‘something strange’ in your neighbourhood. If Entertainment Value and Gender Politics were put in a ring, and Ghostbusters was refereeing the match, the former would come out with the championship belt every single time.

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