If there’s something boring at your cineplex, who ya gonna call?
Oh, what, that’s not how the song goes? Well, it is now. And I couldn’t be happier.
Earlier this week, news broke that four very funny women were in negotiations to star in a reboot of the comedy classic “Ghostbusters.” That 1984 film, and its sequel, centered around an all-male foursome of phantom fighters. So now, 31 years later, it appears it’s finally the ladies’ turn to strap on the proton packs. The new ghost-busting quartet would be made up of “Bridesmaids” stars Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig and “Saturday Night Live” cast mates Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
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The “Ghostbusters” remake idea has been kicking around for several years, and before Harold Ramis’ death last February, was said to include appearances by all the originals. Then, late this summer, remake director Paul Feig floated the idea of using an all-female cast. The concept is at once so simple, yet sadly extraordinary.
We make up 51 percent of the population, yet somehow, to Hollywood, we remain a riddle wrapped in an enigma shoved into a chick flick.
Women seem to be a constant mystery for Hollywood’s biggest movie makers. We are everywhere, it seems, yet movies featuring us and depicting our experience still are the exception, not the rule. Consider all eight best-picture nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. Each of them, every single one, centers on a male lead (and all but one is about a white male lead, but that’s another important conversation for another day).
Look, those movies are men’s stories, and that’s fine. Men are 49 percent of the population, after all. They exist and their lives should be reflected. Of course. Duh.
But then why does the reciprocal not work on the big screen? Why are movies, particularly mainstream movies, about the female experience so few and far between? Television, especially in recent years, has figured out this none-too-complicated equation. TV is brimming (though, of course, there is always room for more) with rich, layered, interesting, successful, complicated, critically acclaimed shows centered around female characters.
Think “The Good Wife,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Scandal,” “Orphan Black,” “Homeland,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Veep,” “Girls,” “Nashville.” I could go on.
Now try to think of their big-screen equivalents. Outside of the so-called niche market rom-coms aimed at women, where are we? Sure, most movies will throw in one or two female characters so the poster has some sex appeal – I mean, gender diversity.
But now try to think of the last movie you watched that passed the Bechdel test, named after a content rule created by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The test requires that a film feature at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.
Things get a lot trickier then.
The conventional wisdom for years and years has been that men won’t go see movies with a female lead because men won’t relate. So then movies with female leads won’t make money. So then why risk making a movie with a female lead? It’s about the bottom line, stupid.
But then how do you account for a movie with a female lead leading the box office for the past two years? Sure, they were the same woman (Jennifer Lawrence) in the same franchise (“The Hunger Games”), but her movies beat out the boys club, hands down. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” has made more than $334 million to date, beating out “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “The Lego Movie” and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”
Call me crazy, but $334 million sounds like a lot of money. So does $400 million (the gross for Disney’s “Frozen”), $241 million (the gross for last year’s Angelina Jolie-led “Maleficent”) and $159 million (the gross for director Feig’s last female-fronted film, “The Heat”).
So then the problem appears not to be one of the wallet, but of the will.
Which brings me back to our new group of ghostbusters. The all-female casting is indeed big and welcome news. I only wish it was a little less big and we were a little more welcome on the silver screen.
I don’t know about you, but I ain’t afraid of no lady.