I consider myself to be a pretty serious person. I gravitate towards dark TV shows and movies, and I love true crime books and podcasts. Be that as it may, I’m capable of enjoying comedy and I laughed A LOT during Ghostbusters.
My co-worker’s skepticism about the film’s humor proved to me yet another reason why the film is important. Women can think jokes about bodily functions are funny. (I laughed so much my sides hurt during the food poisoning scene in Bridesmaids.) We can laugh at silly humor and that is a perfectly valid choice, not a shameful one.
Okay, maybe the humor isn’t your style, but writer Katie Dippold and writer-director Paul Feig made Ghostbusters an important film for women to see for other reasons.
There is no humor at the expense of the female leads.
Speaking of humor, there are no jokes at the expense of the female characters and no degrading jokes about women’s bodies or sexual appeal.
However, there IS clever criticism/commentary on how women are often treated by men. Particularly, there is a scene that featured Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and Yates (Melissa McCarthy) discussing whether to read the comments on a YouTube video, a barb aimed towards the men who left negative comments on the Ghostbusters trailer.
The Ghostbusters are doubted by men in power. First, Dr. Martin Heiss (Bill Murray), who takes his skepticism public on the local news. Secondly, Mayor Bradley (Andy Garcia) who, like most politicians, knows there is a problem in the city, but is not willing to publicly admit that the Ghostbusters are correct.
There is no romantic interest.
Sure, Erin Gilbert (Wiig) acts silly over Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) but there’s no romantic storyline. It’s about female friendship, women believing in each other, and kicking ass.
I am not opposed to watching a romantic comedy now and then, but it was absolutely refreshing to see a film where the primary storyline didn’t revolve around a woman and her relationship (or lack thereof) with a man.
People have reacted negatively to the film’s choice of making the lone woman of color, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), be street savvy, as opposed to the other three Ghostbusters, who all have advanced degrees in science. (Although to be nitpitcky, it’s never explicitly stated what academic credentials Yates and Holtzmann have exactly.)
Feminist author Roxane Gay acknowledged this as a valid critique, but found Jones’ Patty to be “intelligent, capable, and charming” and pointed out you don’t need an advanced degree to be smart.
Patty herself declares that she reads non-fiction and is a self-proclaimed expert in the history of New York City. Jones tweeted her delight and pleasure with the role.
In an interview with BUST Magazine, Feig said before Bridesmaids, he pitched comedies starring women, but they never got off the ground. “There were these rules in Hollywood—you can’t have women star in this or that. You’d hear it for a while and then it’s like, ‘Why is that exactly? Can we challenge that?’”
When only 12 to 15 percent of protagonists in films are female, when women make up 29% of roles, and when a mere 4% of women are directors, we need allies. And Feig is exactly the kind of ally women need if we hope to see change in Hollywood. His films feature strong women and easily pass the Bechdel Test.
While he is capable of making funny, female-led films himself, proving that they can be successful is the key to getting studios to see “female” films as less of a risk to take. If Ghostbusters‘ opening box office is any indication, he’s capable of getting both men and women to turn out for his films, and his successes may pave the way for more comedies starring women, making them a Hollywood standard, instead of an anomaly.