Last week the powerhouse that is Sinéad Burke visited us in the UNICEF Ireland office, we got talking about the Ghostbusters remake and Sinéad had so many thought-provoking points on the topic that we asked her to share her thoughts with you!
My memories of the original ‘Ghostbusters’ are vague and out of focus. I can recall ‘that guy’, a zingy theme tune that was revived every Hallowe’en, Bill Murray being Bill Murray, emerald goo that looked edible to my younger self and Sigourney Weaver personifying all that it means to be powerful and villainous on-screen. Was it funny? I can’t remember. Was it a roaring success? I think so but maybe I’ve just read enough opinion pieces to convince me of its cult-like status.
I first heard of Sony’s plans to remake ‘Ghostbusters’ due to the synchronised standing ovation and demolition it received on my social media timelines. The announcement that an all-female cast would lead the film caused the internet to implode.
I enrolled as a Ghostbusters cheerleader and recognised that if the plot discussions were true, this narrative could have a transformative effect on a significant cohort of cinema goers. After all, women purchase more cinema tickets than men.
The idea of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones playing kick-ass female characters filled me with joy but dark pockets of the internet were brimming with contempt. These largely-anonymous accounts barked that the film would be disinteresting, citing the four-lead women as the fatal flaw. This dissonance seemed to impact Sony as they premiered the film just one day before its international release - Typically a sign that the industry has set its expectations quite low. To many people’s surprise, the film critics were endeared by ‘Ghostbusters’ with the New York Times boldly decreeing: ‘Girls Rule. Women are Funny. Get Over It.’
The hope was that the array of warm reviews would extinguish the online dissonance but instead, the conversation migrated from how ‘Ghostbusters’ would be critically received to the prediction and unqualified assurity that it would not be a commercial success. Since release, ‘Ghostbusters’ has attained €376,574 from the Irish box office and over $69 million internationally.
I don’t lurk in the dark corners of the internet but still I saw a frightening amount of unwarranted critique broadcast through respected media publications and of course, social media. I’m not embarrassed to say that I rejoiced at critics’ articulation of how much they enjoyed ‘Ghostbusters’. A film grounded in the topics of science, heroism and ghosts are a rare occurrence on-screen and even then, the presence of women is usually limited to the side-kick or the aesthetically pleasing individual who asks, ‘What will we do now?’ ‘Ghostbusters’ made a cognisant effort to re-align the lens through which women are viewed on-screen. I was determined to meet Sony halfway and wanted to both physically and financially invest in feeling represented on-screen.
When speaking with Aoife Barry, a brilliant friend and journalist, we discussed how Sony’s brave move would only be replicated if it was a commercial success. With production costs amounting to over $144 million, we wanted to do our bit. We invited a group of thirty women to an evening screening and tucked into popcorn, Percy Pigs and carbonated beverages. Sitting in the back two rows, we were encapsulated in a tangible cocoon of sisterhood. We laughed simultaneously, nudged each other when we recognised Katie Dippold’s (of Parks and Recreation fame) writing, gasped at Kate McKinnon and chortled at Chris Hemsworth. Yes, chortled. It was comforting and encouraging but most importantly, it validated the idea that our investment was not tokenistic but worthwhile and important.
That’s not to say that there are not flaws with ‘Ghostbusters’. Paul Feig is a wonderful director and although it passes the Bechdel Test, I would love if the film had attained an F-Rating - the lack of a female director was the sole unfulfilled criteria. A discussion also needs to progress regarding Leslie Jones’ character of Patty Tolan. She works at the Metro Transportation Authority and although that is an important role, Patty is the only leading woman of colour and the only title character who is not a scientist. Our conversation surrounding women in STEAM must be inclusive and intersectional - narrating Patty Tolan’s career within the field of science could have had enormous power. As June Eric-Udorie states, ‘It was a missed opportunity’.
To echo June, representation is important and I would have loved for a woman with a disability to be cast in this film. I hope Sony keep the disabled community in mind, should they ever make a sequel to ‘Ghostbusters II’.
I urge and invite you to see ‘Ghostbusters’. It’s a clear, sharp and witty indicator as to what women can do on-screen, should the opportunity present itself or should the glass ceiling shatter from our constant belligerence. It’s also a way to democratically participate in the stories and films which are realised on-screen. Whether we like it or not, Hollywood’s interests are steeped in fiscal advancement. The risk won’t be entertained if we are passive.
Most importantly though, adding your voice to this debate could ensure that the fashion industry might say yes the next time Leslie Jones or a woman of colour asks to borrow a dress for the premiere, it might result in the silencing of unwarranted abuse and trolling and it might just be the friction required for Twitter to amend their harassment policies for good.
To hear more from Sinéad, check out her awesome blog www.minniemelange.com and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @minniemelange