I didn’t grow up thinking that being female was anything less than male. I spent my formative years in a suburb of Toronto, where I was one face amongst a mix of people from all over the world. Male, female, gay, bi, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist – it really didn’t matter what label you applied to yourself, if anything at all. You were accepted and encouraged. I grew up, thanks in large part to the people who surrounded me, believing I could do anything.
So what happens when you grow older? Now, at 36, I don’t look back and remember in high school being discouraged. However, now I read stories in the media of teenaged girls not thinking they have equal ability to do maths or science because of their gender. I never felt this way. I was lucky. Or rather, I grew up the way it should be. But in the last decade, the gender divide has been made increasingly clear to me.
Perhaps it’s entering the work force that makes it more apparent. Perhaps it’s the media that perpetuates this cycle of inequality. Perhaps it’s the comments I see on social media from friends and acquaintances all over the world. In all actuality the light bulb of inequality probably went off for me when I inadvertently saw a male colleague’s pay stub that was a good degree higher than mine, despite me being employed in the same position at the company for at least a year longer than him. It took me a while to feel the need to label myself a feminist, never really needing to grow up with a label at all, but I feel the need to, quietly anyway, hope and advocate for equality. It seems like the simplest of ideas, but for some reason is met with all sorts of resistance and depicted as being fraught with complication.
Certainly there are examples of inequality all over the place, but let’s just circle around to the title of the column here shall we? Yes, I know that Ghostbusters isn’t exactly world changing political drama, but again, equality can start with simple ideas. Plus, I’m a movie buff, so I find this example particularly intriguing.
For years, there had been talk and speculation of a Ghosbusters sequel, but it evolved into a ‘reboot’ of sorts, a favourite term in Hollywood these days. Fans of the original 80’s films, many of whom are also now in their thirties, had trepidations but social media was also abuzz with excitement. Then it was announced it was to be an all-female reboot. Director, Paul Feig, who has made his bread and butter in recent years from female driven comedy with Bridesmaids and Spy, announced his cast, but even the much loved Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, who had headlined those previous hits, couldn’t save them from commentary. When the trailer was eventually released it became the most disliked movie trailer of all time on YouTube. While admittedly it wasn’t a great one, most of the negative commentary centred around the all-female cast.
Now, I get it. Changing up a classic isn’t without its risks, but the backlash exceeded even just normal fan criticism. Even Feig had to take to his twitter feed to try and defend against the “misogyny and insults” people had berated him with for months. No one should have to defend a decision to cast a group of women, especially when they are some of the funniest people on earth at the moment.
The large number of Ghostbusters haters even ended up getting a collective name: Ghostbros. Not sure where they were when they made that awful Robocop reboot that really should have been protested. They were probably the same group of people surprised by Bridesmaid’s $169 million US domestic box office take who finally realized “women can be funny” (If you feel this isn’t a thing just google that quote and see what comes up!).
Yet, women have been funny for years. Just look at Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jane Curtain to name just a few. Tina Fey, my own personal hero, shouldn’t have needed to stand out as a funny woman when she broke out, but she did. Because she works and writes in a male dominated industry, who seems continually surprised that women can not only open movies at the top of the box office, or have hit TV shows, but write them too.
When Ghostbusters started screening in the UK this past week I started actually getting antsy, just hoping for the film to be good enough to prove the naysayers wrong. I watched the Rotten Tomato verdicts start coming in (currently 73% Fresh by the way) and as friends, both male and female, started posting their social media reviews I almost had a general sigh of relief. While they recognize the movie isn’t perfect, they collectively and overwhelmingly had nothing but good things to say. One friend even noted that a little girl in her screening turned to her mother at the end and said, “That was awesome”.
Having fun at the movie theatre is what it is all about, but when you are a child and can see a packed house and tickets bought to see those ladies up on screen, that is priceless. If more studios can have successful franchises fronted by women (Star Wars: The Force Awakens being another that recently garnered success, but also controversy for its female lead) then perhaps ideals will begin to change.
For the business that is Hollywood, success is marked in dollars and cents, so in a way I do feel obligated to spend my money to go see Ghostbusters on opening weekend. I want it to be a success. I want to support those hard working ladies. I want the film to prove to all those Ghostbros out there that you can say what you want to say, but we women can be just as good at anything. Little wins become big wins.
Even if this controversy is a little silly, its ideas extend into the whole idea of equality. When I was young and I realized I could do anything, it meant I got to realize my dreams. We should want that for everyone. A successful movie doesn’t prove women to be equal of course, but at this stage we shouldn’t need to prove that. Women can achieve anything, and we ain’t afraid of no ghosts neither.
Written by Hillary Butler
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Hillary graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2005 in order to follow her dream of becoming a veterinarian. After practicing for five years in Toronto she made the move to London where the travel bug really started to kick in. Once she tackled most of Europe, she reluctantly moved back to Toronto, but still takes care to visit her second home across the pond every chance she gets. London also allowed her to pursue a different passion through writing about another love – film. Current writer at liveforfilm.com in her limited spare time, the proud Canadian loves being able to cover the Toronto International Film Festival every year, as it’s when the city truly comes to life. When she is not working as medical director at her day job or writing, you can find Hillary, predictably, at the movie theatre. However, she also loves being able to spend some quiet outdoor time with her furbaby Lola the Havanese, reading a good book, or discovering a great new restaurant. She is a true believer of making the most of now. As Dory would say, “Just keep swimming!”