Yesterday a guy who goes by the nom du YouTube “Angry Video Game Nerd” uploaded a video entitled “Ghostbusters 2016. No Review. I Refuse.” Seated next to merch from the dismal franchise entry Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, he proceeded to explain why he would not be seeing the new Ghostbusters reboot.
The “Angry Video Game Nerd” was, at the very least, making better points than I have otherwise seen online - I have seen a number of morons complain that the reboot’s jokey nature disrespects the serious horror aspects of the original (I wish I were kidding about this) - but there’s a weird sense that something is being unsaid. Or maybe it’s just not being consciously considered but rather is bubbling just under the surface. Casual, unthinking sexism.
As we get very close to the release of the movie we have to deal with two things: it doesn’t look entirely promising (although Paul Feig's last film, Spy, looked like an abomination in marketing and was actually great when you saw it) and that most of the outrage surrounding the movie comes from conscious or unconscious sexism.
“But Devin,” you sputter, “You just said that this man who, in his 30s, goes by the name Angry Video Game Nerd, is making better points than usual!”
Sure, but I didn’t say they were good points. He’s angry that this isn’t the movie he was fanficcing over the years - an original cast reunion where the old guys hand off the franchise to the new guys (and probably preferably guys) - and he’s angry that the studio is using the title of the original as a way of selling tickets. It’s almost like he just figured out what has been happening in Hollywood for the last 20 years!
The question isn’t really whether or not you’re allowed to be cynical about the new Ghostbusters - I have been anti-Ghostbusters 3/reboot for the last decade, and I still think it’s a fundamentally bad idea - but rather why the line is being drawn here. And why it’s being drawn so severely. Why are so many men so vocal about hating this film, and about their desire to not see it? Why has this reboot, out of all the reboots and remakes of the last decade and change, been the one that goes too far?
First, some history: Ghostbusters isn’t some inviolable franchise. Ghostbusters 2 is a terrible movie, more of a cynical cash grab than any reboot could be. It’s a cheap reset of the original concept that delivers exceptionally diminished returns and features the leads more or less sleepwalking through the whole picture. I don’t care that you saw this movie when you were 6 so it holds some meaning to you - it’s a bad movie. Make your peace with this, as it’s pretty much as close to an objective fact as you can get (source: I was 15 when this movie came out, the exact right age to see it for the first time, and I walked out of the theater hoping there would be no future Ghostbuster movies).
So we’re already dealing with a “franchise” (which isn’t a great word for a movie and a sequel, but here we are) that has a lopsided batting average. The majesty of the original Ghostbusters was already smeared… by the original Ghostbusters. There’s a reason Bill Murray didn’t want to come back a third time.
What about the idea that we’re in a living hell of reboots and remakes and that the only way to send a message to Hollywood is to not see these films? Interesting argument! But why apply it now? What about THIS movie is different from, say, the movie that featured the third reboot of Batman (depending on when you start counting) against the third reboot of Superman (same)? Or the movie featuring the third reboot of Spider-Man? How about the movie last year that soft rebooted Mad Max? Why not boycott these movies? Why wasn’t there a wave of angry, militant men on message boards, Twitter and making YouTube videos in their basements about how they were boycotting the remake of Total Recall?
Let’s take an example from a real-life hot button topic: bathrooms. We’re in the middle of a very strange war about gendered bathrooms* that actually kinda reminds me of this stuff. The people who are against letting trans folks into whichever bathroom they choose will always use the same defense: they don’t want perverts being able to walk into women’s bathrooms and molest children/assault women. Setting aside the fact that no one has been able to find a documented case of a trans person assaulting/molesting someone in a bathroom, there’s something compelling about that argument. After all, who doesn’t want to keep their children safe in the restroom?
But then you pull it back a second and you think about it. Are these people ‘Safe Bathroom’ crusaders the rest of the time? Is this an issue that they’re campaigning on usually? It’s pretty clear it isn’t, that bathroom safety has just become the cover from which they can snipe at their true targets: trans people. They seek to de facto outlaw - or at least socially marginalize more than they already have - trans people by denying them the comforts of urinating where they feel safest.
It’s the standard ‘Won’t somebody think of the children?’ defense that comes up when a reactionary, regressive group tries to attack the rights of others. And man, wouldn’t you know it - the “Angry Video Game Nerd” takes some time to ask why somebody won’t think of the children who will grow up only knowing THIS version of Ghostbusters.
I think the bathroom crusaders know they hate trans people. They’re using bathroom safety as a bulwark to not seem as bigoted (they’re so bigoted that they think they’re coming across as reasonable right now. Think on that). I don’t think “Angry Video Game Nerd” knows that he’s having a sexist reaction to Ghostbusters. I think a lot of guys online DO know that (or that they don’t believe sexism exists, which is even worse), but I don’t think “Angry Video Game Nerd” is sitting around stewing over women in Ghostbusters.
And that’s why his attitude is maybe the most dangerous. It speaks to the way sexism (and racism and plenty of other isms) kind of lives quietly inside of us, and the way it can impact our beliefs and actions without us even once considering it. But it is truly the only answer for why the Ghostbusters reboot is THIS infuriating to this many men. They may not be consciously aware of it, but their innate sexism is giving a boost to their already-existing dislike of reboots and their disinterest in this new movie. They’re not quite angry at the idea of rebooting it (obviously we don’t have a portal to an alternate dimension to double check but I’m willing to bet these guys would be waaaay less angry if the cast included Seth Rogen and his gang. At the very least there wouldn’t be the vocal boycott brigade), they’re angry at the idea that somebody made a Ghostbusters movie that doesn’t really interest them.
Somebody made a Ghostbusters movie that isn’t for them.
This is all over the “Angry Video Game Nerd”’s video. He talks about how important this “franchise” is to him, how he grew up with it, how he wants kids to know the originals. The subtext here is very simple: you’re making a new version of this thing that I love and you are not making it for me. And that pisses him off. And he doesn’t realize that the root of all this, the root of feeling like someone betrayed his Ghostbusters, comes down to the fact that these Ghostbusters don’t look like him.
Disliking the new Ghostbusters doesn’t make you sexist. Hell, I am not particularly excited for the movie (although seeing an extended scene at CinemaCon made me more hopeful). But if you’re raging about it - if you’re angry enough to call a boycott, to make a video drawing a line in the sand - maybe you should consider where all of this anger is coming from. Maybe you should consider what is driving you to these extremes, why every other reboot and remake gets an eye-roll but this one, out of all of them, gets you up in arms and active (put active in air quotes, I guess). Why is this the field on which you choose to die?
And honestly: I’m glad it’s a reboot. I’m glad it’s not Ghostbusters 3, with our original heroes all looking bad and unable to recapture the magic and making the “franchise” one for three. I prefer a new thing that allows the original to remain as is, unsullied by continuously disappointing sequels. I don’t want ANY new Ghostbusters, but this reboot is definitely the best case scenario.
One last note to the "Angry Video Game Nerd" and his friends: the original Ghostbusters was very important to you as a young man. Why can't you be big enough to let the new Ghostbusters be very important to a new generation of young women? Nobody's taking your Venkman away, they're just giving the other half of the population something they can look at and see a reflection of themselves. Wasn't that part of what was cool about watching Ghostbusters when you were young, that you could project yourself into this working class fantasy? Isn't it great that someone else who looks different than you do and who has a different life experience than you do can now have that same fun? That's not taking anything away from you.
*I support unisex bathrooms but please also make urinal-only bathrooms because as a man I relish not waiting in line to pee.