That Female-Led ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot Is a Dumb Idea, But Not for the Reason Dumb People Think

As you may have heard over the weekend, Bridesmaids and The Heat director Paul Feig might direct a reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise, and if he does so, his take might redraft the franchise with a crew of female ghostbusters stepping into Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson’s vacant proton packs. It’s all very tentative right now (though Feig commented on the story on Twitter). But Variety reported it, with the customary “according to sources” and “declined to comment” notations and the rather important disclaimer that “no formal negotiations have taken place yet.” So this could very well be just another go-nowhere Ghostbusters rumor, which would be nothing new — we’ve had about a quarter century of them now, all equally fruitless. But it was a Saturday, and the movie Internet needed something to talk about, so here we are. And let’s get one thing out of the way: this is a dopey idea, a transparent attempt to paddle-board some fresh juice into a long-dormant corpse. Feig shouldn’t make a new Ghostbusters movie, because any new iteration of Ghostbusters is a terrible cash-grab and nothing more, and he has better things to do. But we’re going to have to deal with the other angle on this thing as well.

Which brings us to Deadline. There’s nothing worse than being on the same side of an issue as someone terrible, so you can understand the sinking in your film editor’s heart when I discovered that I shared an opinion about anything with notorious online trash-talker, bullshit “exclusive” trumpeter, and all-around example of everything that’s wrong with entertainment “journalism” Mike Fleming Jr. of Deadline. Lucky for me, he’s against the Feig Ghostbusters for a far stupider reason. “Do We Want An Estrogen-Powered ‘Ghostbusters’?” Fleming asked in a Sunday morning editorial, a question he at least honestly cloaked in the guise of “Film Chauvinist Asks.” And the answer is, no, we don’t, but not because it’s “estrogen-powered,” you nitwit.

“What about the rest of us?” Fleming fumes. “The ones who feel a level of ownership of the classic 1984 guy comedy Ghostbusters, the ones who endured a disappointing sequel and waited years for Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) to finally say he was not going to answer the call for a third film so we could get to this point? I feel slimed.” There’s so much self-contradiction and confusion in this passage, you almost want to get Mr. Fleming a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa. Because, you see, if you genuinely “feel a level of ownership” for Ghostbusters, then you shouldn’t actually want them to make a half-assed sequel 25 years later. If you “feel a level of ownership,” you should a) recognize that a sequel lacking the late Harold Ramis is not Ghostbusters, b) recognize that a sequel lacking director Ivan Reitman is not Ghostbusters, and c) recognize that a sequel lacking Bill Murray (who, c’mon, is never gonna do this thing) is not Ghostbusters. Even when all of them signed on for Ghostbusters II — a film Fleming even acknowledges was “a disappointing sequel” that “the rest of us” had to “endure” — they couldn’t recapture the magic. But, somehow, a sequel missing several of those voices would be better than an EW COOTIES GIRLS version?

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis in "Ghostbusters"

And only a guy (and a moronic one at that) would classify Ghostbusters as a “guy comedy”; your mileage may vary, but in my experience, women love that film just as much as men, and there certainly isn’t some sort of alienating factor that makes it a “guys-only” movie. But that distinction is vital for the most amusing portion of Fleming’s anti-Ghost-girl-busters argument: the inevitable “what’s next?” tangent. Please note: nothing intelligent or reasonable ever comes out of a “what’s next” sidebar. It has been taken over by the “What’s next? Marrying dogs?” wing of the anti-marriage equality unit, and is thus intellectually bankrupt.

So after grudgingly acknowledging that “we are seeing a recognition that women will come to the movies if there is something in it for them” and listing examples like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Lucy, we get to the heart of the matter, with a bit of presumably jokey candor that doesn’t undercut the weird sexism and guy-panic at work here:

But does that give them the right to take Ghostbusters from knuckle-dragging Neanderthals like me who have little else going for us but our all-time top 10 or 20 favorite guy movies, and the prospect of a revamp that feels like the original guy version of one of the films on that list? What’s next, a Goodfellas redo with female mobsters pulling off the Lufthansa heist? A Raging Bull redo with Rhonda Rousey? Brian’s Song, set in in (sic) the WNBA? Animal House at a sorority? Sony has been looking for the right director since Ivan Reitman told Deadline he’d decided no more ghost busting for him, that he would oversee the revamp as producer but that it was time to hand the torch. This was after the great Harold Ramis passed away.

Still image from "Ghostbusters"

Setting aside the last two sentences of that paragraph — which seriously read like they were translated to English from another language —I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that no, Mr. Fleming, we probably won’t see female remakes of Goodfellas, Raging Bull, or Brian’s Song, since (and sit down, I’m about to blow your mind) those movies were based on true stories that happened to men so that would be kind of silly. As for Animal House at a sorority, well, I guess you didn’t see The House Bunny.

And as for the notion that a property best known for showcasing the talents of male actors has no business rewriting itself into a vehicle for women: you might not wanna mention that to the dozens of community and regional theaters that do the female version of The Odd Couple every year. There are all sorts of reasons to let the Ghostbusters franchise lie, and we’ve discussed them before: too much time has passed, too much of its magic was rooted in its original moment, too many of the key players aren’t interested, too much of the film smacks of being a “filmed deal,” made solely to generate truckloads of money from goodwill and nostalgia. Those are the reasons we should hope the Feig Ghostbusters never gets past the rumors stage — not some misplaced, bullshit notion that girls can’t play too.