Starting today, as you’re reading this, I’ll be on my way or at Comic-Con. SDCC is basically my Christmas — the most wonderful time of the year in which I get to take time off work to go visit my talented colleagues at their booths instead of in our cubicles, to watch panels for my favorite TV shows, and to mill about the convention center floor making new friends and browsing and buying more robot artwork for my home. I love being a nerd. I love pop culture, and I love the obsessive deep-diving weirdos who come together in San Diego every year not to enjoy the beautiful Southern California weather, but to commiserate indoors about our favorite things. But, much like Christmas gets ruined by folks who believe in a culture war, nerd-dom has been hijacked by sexist, racist, hateful losers who think they have some sort of gatekeeping power. Nowhere has this been more evident than with the crap surrounding Ghostbusters.

I was lucky enough to attend a special IMAX screening hosted by Collider. It was a good time, and the movie is pretty solid. It’s far from Paul Feig’s best, but he directed the un-toppable Spy, so that’s hardly faint praise. The movie definitely got caught up in plot machinations, but the four leads were so enchanting that I will certainly see a sequel, especially now that they’ve shaken off the dust of the past.

Unfortunately, any criticism of Ghostbusters has become shockingly political because of the misogyny and racism surrounding its release. In the same way it’s impossible to watch Gaslight or Birth of a Nation or Passion of the Christ or the works of Woody Allen without wading into cultural morass, Ghostbusters now carries a significant amount of sociopolitical baggage. Since I ain’t afraid of no ghosts and I am only slightly afraid of internet trolls, I feel like I need to signal boost for the light side today and talk about this movie and talk about exactly why whiny little manbabies should fear this chick flick, regardless of whether or not it’s a paragon of cinema.

Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Kate Dippold
Key Cast: Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Chris Hemsworth

In Short
New York City gets hit with an unusual amount of paranormal activity. Estranged friends and paranormal scientists Abby and Erin, along with theoretical physicist Jillian Holtzman and amateur historian and MTA worker Patty have to team up to not only prove ghosts are real, but find out why they’re overtaking the city and causing so many problems.

As Cinema
As I said, it gets a little too bogged down by a generic summer movie plot, especially with the third act, but Ghostbusters is a solid entry into a franchise that’s given us Viggo the Carpathian, a goofy animated series, and Ecto Cooler. The cameos were hit and miss, with the ever-delightful Annie Potts taking the cake. Chris Hemsworth not only possesses perfect god-bod, but perfect comedic timing as dumb ‘n pretty Kevin. Kate McKinnon stole the movie, but Leslie Jones definitely helped her. The ghosts looked good, and the VFX were strong. Honestly, my biggest beef is that Paul Feig is better when he’s playing in an R-rated sandbox, but I know we’re not getting DeadpoolBusters ever unless the MPAA starts easing up on F-bombs. (Insert Holtzman’s wah-wah here.)

Movie - Ghostbusters 2016 2

The Horror
This is when I, like Holtzman, grab my guns, give ‘em a lick, and have a go, I suppose. Ghostbusters has terrified male fans to the point that they have become monsters themselves. They, like the villagers in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, have taken up pitchforks to slay a beast that is, ultimately, harmless. But at the same time, watching the movie the other day, I suppose I get it. It’s a lot to take in, especially if you’re not a seasoned veteran of lady films. After all, Ghostbusters is a franchise picture that stars three women over forty. The one under forty is a queer actress who isn’t here for your fanboy gaze. These women aren’t beholden to any romances — the closest we have is Abby and Erin’s friendship. They’ve all got real occupations, and we see them working. Three of the women are scientists, and one is a historian — all traditionally male pursuits. The movie gives no fucks about the 15-year-old boys that make up the tentpole market, and it’s funny enough that it does not have to. That’s right — in addition to having dude jobs and a dude franchise and a sweet dude summer release date, they’ve got jokes! And these jokes aren’t even about periods or sex or shopping or boys.

Kevin is also a wonderful and terrifying subversion of the summer blockbuster bimbo. Dumb and pretty works for female characters all the time, whether they’re damsels in distress or wives waiting for their husbands to come home from saving the world. It’s wonderful to see a hunky dumb guy who needs lady heroes to save his ghost-possessed glutes. A lot of people feel this is dehumanizing, especially since we do see these sort of characters as problematic when they’re female. But as a noted Hiddlebuns enthusiast, lover of weird movie sex scenes, and unabashed Magic Mike XXL fan, I will settle for objectification that goes the other direction. It’s unique, it’s fun, and I think it helps the equality conversation overall by forcing us to confront arbitrary beauty norms in a different context.

The other male characters are also either incompetent or villainous. I would say this is a problem except for all the times I’ve seen shrill harpies, crazy bitches, manipulative scorned exes or old and ugly crones archetyping it up on screen in lieu of real characterization. And honestly, dudes as bad guys just works. In reality, dudes are responsible for most mass shootings, terror attacks, and other large-scale violent events in our society and likely would be behind a ghost invasion if ghost invasions were actually possible. Men are also notorious for not believing women’s experiences, like the epidemic that is campus rape or the numerous times women are stalked and have no legal recourse or the constant battle for women’s mental health issues to be recognized as more than just hysteria, so it makes sense that even a Columbia physics professor and her scientist friends would have trouble getting people on board, even with video proof. Ghostbusters isn’t being mean or political. It’s just speaking to most women’s daily truth. It might be hard to see under the humor, but all the best comedy has a very real emotional core.

The scared, sad little manchildren also like to talk about Ghostbusters ruining their childhood. While the movie is solid enough and has created a notable cultural conversation, it’s here I have to call shenanigans. Where were you guys two weeks ago when Independence Day: Resurgence shat upon the legacy of another classic blockbuster of yesteryear? Where was the Twitter outrage upon the release of that embarrassing Lethal Weapon tv show trailer? The first Lethal Weapon is a far more seminal film than OG Ghostbusters, and yet… no sound and fury. Hell, where have you all been as Paul Verhoeven’s weird and wonderful oeuvre has been systematically dismantled by journeymen directors and studios looking to make a buck? You call yourself a nerd and cannot be bothered to defend a patron saint of science fiction cinema? Look, li’l weiners, until you’ve basically taken on the Lord of the Rings film trilogy as your religion and then sat through the first Hobbit film, you don’t get to talk about anything destroying anything. And even then, I still managed to survive. You know how? I didn’t go see Hobbits 2 or 3. I stayed home and rewatched my extended editions. So sit down in your basement, put down the 140 characters of vitriol, and watch your old movies with some Ecto Cooler.

At the end of the day, everyone involved clearly knew and loved the original film even if they couldn’t recreate its particular alchemy. They’re nerds like us, making their own version of their favorite story so that others can join in the fun. As one of the creatives behind Freaks & Geeks, Paul Feig knows what it means to be a nerd, to love something so obsessively that you’re willing to take a social hit. He also seems to understand, as he showed us with Spy, what it’s like to be on the outside, to not have any model for the sort of person you want to be. Just like Susan Cooper provided a fictional model for me, these lady Ghostbusters may have just provided fictional models for young girls — hell, for adult women — who are interested in horror or comedy or theoretical physics or history or the paranormal. Opening a door for new fans does not mean that a door has closed for anyone else. It’s just creating some more space so we can all join the party.

And a final note to these hateful cretins who call themselves nerds: you are nothing more than a zit on the face of fandom — a dark blemish that had to morph into something uglier and more annoying and puss-filled so that it can ultimately be popped and wiped away. Good luck with that.

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