Ghostbusters 3: I ain't afraid of no all-female cast. So why are all the fanboys?

After years of pretending to bust ghosts as a child, I can't wait to see my parapsychic alter-ego come to life on the screen

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The Independent Online

So. Ghostbusters is back. But this time, with a difference. And I'm excited. It's thirty years since the world first encountered Peter Venkman and co, combining parapsychic abilities, entrepeneurial spirit and bizarre gadgetry to form a haphazardous pest control service for poltergeists.

Now they're back, and they're female. It's about time; after many childhood years of forcing my brothers to don silver foil and follow my lead ghostbusting, I'll finally get to see my alter ego, "Petra Venkman", realised on the big screen.

Sadly, not everybody is as excited as me. Ernie Hudson, who played Winston Zeddemore in the original films, says that a female ensemble would be a "bad idea", that "fans [don't] want to see that." (I'm not sure which "fans" Hudson claims to speak for, but they don't include me...) Hudson seems to believe that a gender re-cast de-legitimises the project and cancels continuities with the previous films, arguing that "it would have nothing to do with the other two movies," and asking "why are you calling it Ghostbusters?" Apparently, when it comes to busting ghosts, girls just won't do.

Hudson isn't alone. The announcement has predictably drawn a chorus of disgruntled fanboys out of the woodwork, taking to Twitter and forums across the internet to voice their concerns. "This will destroy the Ghostbusters legacy + will flop," tweets Darryn Wood, with scary confidence in his own clairvoyance.

Tony Kerns thinks that an all-female cast will "limit the audience + focus on primarily female-centric humour." Kerns assumes that any funny film featuring women in starring roles must only appeal to other women; that humour in these films must be "female-centric", niche and unappealing to men. Only men, it seems, have the power to access what's universally funny.

But in my opinion, these films give audiences the opportunity to re-contentualize familiar cinematic conceits, questioning their relevance to a 21st-century world. Gender recasting prompts audiences to reconsider the tropes of masculine heroism and humour that have become staples of our cinematic vocabulary, encouraging people to re-evaluate their expectations towards gender.

 

We know from previous Paul Feig hit Bridesmaids - and countless other TV shows and films - that women can be funny too; but there's something about the idea of male roles being re-cast as women that seems especially scary to Hudson, Kerns et al.

Maybe it's the directness of the comparison - with women recast in mainstream comedic roles previously the province of men, the claim that women are less funny, or that their brand of comedy is less universal, is harder to make.

But in the theatre, gender recasting of shows with predominently male casts has been de rigeur for years. We've seen female Hamlets, Romeos and Macbeths across the globe - so why are some people so anxious about seeing female ghostbusters on the big screen?

Conversations about when we will see the first female Doctor Who or the first female James Bond (who, in my mind, is basically Alicia Florrick + jujitsu: they even both drink martini!) demonstrate that there is public appetite to see traditionally male roles re-cast for female actors, as well as anxiety.

Across the arts, challenges are being made to traditional gender roles and identities: art has Grayson Perry and his alter ego Claire; literature the cross-dressing chanteuses of Sarah Waters' novels. It's right that film should follow suit, re-assigning the heroic and the hilarious to all the brilliant women out there: it's time.

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