The Buzz: How Geeks Turned to Bullies with Ghostbusters and The Increasing Diversity in the Emmys
In this week’s Buzz, we will look at one of the year’s most controversial films, Ghostbusters. We will look at the source of the remake’s controversy and then answer the most important question of whether it is any good. Then we will look at how the Emmys is able to achieve such diversity in its nomination when the Academy Awards couldn’t. We also anticipate the next film of the director of Whiplash and look back at one of best horror-comedy of all time.
Film: Ghostbusters (2016): I’ll admit it at the beginning of this article. I do not think that the original 1984 Ghostbusters is a great movie. The original Ghostbusters was a rudimentary action-comedy that is made tolerable by the charisma of its talented comedic leads. But, for many, Ghostbusters represented a time capsule to a certain point in their lifetime. This blended all the hallmarks of geekdom when being part of this community still was not cool. It had science, supernatural and comedy. Look at the geeks of Freak and Geeks (coincidentally co-created by Paul Feig who directed the remake of Ghostbusters) and those are the three elements that brought them together. And this one movie put it all together.
That is why when the remake of Ghostbusters was announced in 2014 with an all-female lineup, the copious amounts of misogynistic hate that spewed by a certain subsection of that group should have been expected. The landscape of pop culture has differed drastically since 1984. The male geekdom of Generation X has completely taken over culture. An even smaller subset of that group has learned to utilize public forum of the internet to spread close minded opinion for a movie that at the time had not been released yet. These are the same people who accused Rey of being a “Mary Sue” (a female character that is unrealistically competent in too many areas). These are the same people who threatened to rape and attack female video game developers. The internet has afforded extreme geekdom a place to hide behind a computer and viciously espouse hateful opinions.
Just look at the YouTube comments for the first trailer of the film (Of course a YouTube video comment section is a toxic place that is devoid of reason or empathy). The comments represent a fascinating study in defensiveness and the insecurity. One commenter hatches a conspiracy theory and accuses the positive reviews of the film on the fact that film critics are corporate shills of the movie studio. Others puts both hands up to say that there is no misogyny and anybody who feels that way should get over themselves. And then there are those who are less refined and filtered.
What is interesting is how this bro-geek culture has quickly arisen in the last few years. Remakes are nothing new and other beloved films have not had the same amount of vengeful scrutiny. Look at Ben-Hur, a remake of a film that appears on the AFI Top 100 American films, yet there are no plans to hijack the film (probably because Charlton Heston fans do not know how to use the internet). Ghost-bros, as coined by blogs, actually celebrated when Ghostbusters only came in second in the box office. But, for the past few decades, geekdom is no longer a niche product. It is the mainstream. Look at Comic-Con, a bastion of corporate advertising with studio shilling their products in return for word of mouth. Now every entertainment website reports on stories that used to be only found on Ain’t it Cool News.
What is disappointing is how geek culture used to represent the downtrodden and uncool. That is why these pieces of art and escapism is so important. They did not bully or judge (even if the original Ghostbusters is filled with latent misogyny). Now, they are so protective of their turf that there was a twitter barrage on one of the new Ghostbusters star, Leslie Jones, that forced Jones to publicly announce that she is quitting Twitter. Not only are these people resorting to misogyny but they are evoking racist images comparing Jones to a “gorilla.”
A lot of these people bemoan the fact that this all-female Ghostbusters is part of feminist agenda and not part of the original vision of the 1984 film (despite appearances from lots of the cast from the original film). They fail to realize how transgressive this film truly is. The four leads are females, three of which are over 40. This is in an industry where 30 years old is considered ancient for actresses leading a major studio film. The above mentioned Leslie Jones, at 6 feet tall, had trouble finding a designer who would make a dress for her for the film’s premiere because she did not fit the traditional spectrum of beauty. Luckily Christian Siriano of Project Runway fame did the right thing and made a beautiful red dress for Jones.
But, is the new Ghostbusters any good. The truth of the matter is that its quality is a lot like the original movie. It is a perfectly ordinary comedy that is elevated by its four leads. The film is smart to not follow the beat for beat plot points of the first film. Rather than having a Bill Murray type or a Dan Aykroyd type, Paul Feig has a Kristen Wiig type, a Melissa McCarthy type, a Kate McKinnon type and a Leslie Jones type. These women are supreme comedy talents, all who took the long road to reach the level of stardom they currently have and the film is better for it.
McCarthy plays surprisingly straight as Abby Yates who co-wrote a paranormal book with Wiig’s Erin Gilbert. But, as years progressed they slowly became estranged with Gilbert dismissing her association with ghosts. As ghosts begin to appear, Gilbert joins Yates and her new partner, the gonzo Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and they form the Ghostbusters. Soon, they are joined by Jones’ Patty Tolan, a person who cannot shake off her encounter with one of the first ghosts that the Ghostbusters fight.
The film is undoubtedly very funny with the amount of talent the film has. Paul Feig’s greatest asset as a director is allowing his actors freedom to be creatively flourish. Many people have rightly pointed to Kate McKinnon’s potential as becoming the film’s breakout star His is a lot like Ivan Reitman (the director of the 1984 film) in that way. Yet, like Reitman, Feig is very limited as a feature director. The whole film falls apart when the third act dissolves into rudimentary end of the world action sequence that has been imitated in so many films of the ilk.
Yet, people will continue to bash the film, no matter the quality, because, for some unknown reason, there is a feeling that this film being released means that the original does not exist. In the screening that I went to, a man sat behind me and immediately folded his arms and has a grimace on his face. At one point, when the whole auditorium was laughing, he shouted, “Why is this funny?” Yet, I saw from the corner of my eye from time to time that he was laughing. He may have gone home that night a changed man or kept to his convictions and wrote an angry review on IMDB. I will never know. All I know is that funny cannot be denied.
Television: The 2016 Emmy Nominations: Earlier this year, The Academy Awards was highly criticized for the lack of diversity in their nominations. A large part of that is because there is a lack of diversity in voices in films right now. It is hard for there to be a film made by an African American or a female filmmaker. Right now, there is a great short documentary series by Caroline Suh called The 4%, named after the percentage of women who are in the film industry in Hollywood. The response by the Academy was to let in more people into their exclusive membership with more diversity in age and race than ever before. But, this does not solve the problem of films with diverse voices which is what this problem has been all about.
Television does not have that problem and the Primetime Emmy Awards showed it. All you have to do is look at the shows that have been nominated for best series in both the drama and comedy categories. In the Best Comedy Series category, there are seven nominees, two of which were created and ran by a female, one is created by an African man and one is co-created by an Indian and Chinese person. More than 50% of the nominees were created by a non-white male. On the drama side it is a little more ubiquitous but it is striking to see such diversity in nomination of series and in the acting categories.
But, why is television doing such a better job in diversity than movies?
Television has been actively working with its award show to promote voices. For the longest time, The Emmys were undeniably conservative. This is why The Big Bang Theory would have nominations over more transgressive shows like Louie. There are still traces of that as with Modern Family and Homeland getting nominations, which have both passed its prime of being a television show of note. But last year, The Emmys acknowledged the changing landscape of television and noted that there are more channels and great shows than ever. They expanded the amount of shows that are nominated for best series and the amount of actors nominated in each categories. Viola Davis last year became the first African American to win Best Actress for How to Get Away with Murder.
Now shows and people that have always been slighted are getting their due. The Americans, one of the best reviewed and least watched shows, finally got nomination for Best Drama and Best Actor and Actresses after years of word of mouth. Tracee Ellis Ross as Bow Johnson on the sitcom Black-ish, one of the best sitcom moms of all time, get her first well deserved nomination for Best Actress in a Sitcom. These are people who if not for the foresight of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
But, it is not just the Academy that needs to be praised but television for being a place for these diverse voices. Because there are so many channels on the air, the prized commodity for channels are content. By amassing more and more content, there becomes a dependency on diversity. That is how Jill Soloway spent a long time as a working hand in television and making one feature was able to get a television series. She had always been one of the more creative voices in the industry, but the film industry’s glass ceiling for diverse voices did not allow her to shatter it.
People keep talking about this being the Golden Age of Television and it is true. But, the reason why it is The Golden Age is because television is now the place to be creative and take risks. Aziz Ansari in Master of None, which garnered 4 nominations, is allowed to be a show about an Indian-American in which race is both a huge factor and a non-factor all at the same time. It’s rare to have a mainstream movie to get award nominations to have such a nuance view on race anymore.
As studio films seem to dwindle in diversity, television is seemingly growing. There are female superheroes on television that deals with rape survivors ran by a female showrunner (Jessica Jones). Academy Award winning filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh and John Ridley have left films to work on Emmy Award nominated shows (The Knick and American Crime). The diversity in The Primetime Emmys are just an exciting product of the diversity.
Here is the full list of the nominees. The Emmy are going to air on ABC on September 18th.
Coming Soon: La La Land: Most people learned about Damien Chazelle with his exuberant and horrifying drummer drama Whiplash. But, at the risk of sounding like a braggadocio hipster, I first experienced this young filmmaker with a little seen, microbudget indie musical, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. What is evident with these two films, besides Chazelle’s obvious talent, is that his heart is in the rhythms of the musical. It just so happens his follow up to his Oscar winning film (for Best Supporting Actor, Editing and Sound Mixing) with an ode to the grand American musical called La La Land. Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this early teaser featuring the original song “City of Stars,” this film seems to be following in the grand tradition of the greats in the genre like Vincent Minnelli. If Chazelle could make a great musical on a $35,000 budget, imagine what he could do with two charismatic stars and a studio backing. This is my most anticipated film of the year.
La La Land is scheduled to be released December 2nd
Rewind: Evil Dead 2: In honor of Ghostbusters we are going to look back at a great genre bending movie that just so happens to be a pseudo-remake. In 1987, Sam Raimi got the call from a major studio requesting him to remake his cult hit and ultralow budget film, The Evil Dead. Because Raimi lost the rights to his first film, the first seven minutes are a slight remake (or recap as Raimi calls it) of the first film. The results however, is a film that is both incredibly funny and creepy at the same time. Bruce Campbell became an instant cult celebrity with his over the top acting as Ash Williams and Looney Toons style stunts. Not many films can tout that there are references to The Three Stooges and William Faulkner.
Evil Dead 2 is widely available for rent on all services.