Day 6

Everyone has an opinion about the new Ghostbusters, even though no one has actually seen it

The Ghostbusters remake will open July 15 amidst a backlash over the casting of four women in the lead roles — and accusations that those complaints are sexist. It's just the latest example of fans trying to make their voices heard in the making of popular movies. And film critics Jesse Hassenger and Johanna Schneller say that kind of fan entitlement that could stifle creativity.
New Ghostbusters Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). (Hopper Stone, SMPSP)

Let's be honest: Ghostbusters is an unlikely candidate for the most controversial film of the summer. But just days out from opening night, that's exactly what it is. 

Based on its 1984 predecessor, it's supposed to be funny and light with goofy, over-the-top characters. It's a movie about a rag-tag group of scientists who trap ghosts and put them in ghost jail, after all. So how did race and gender come into it?

The answer harkens back to January 2015, when director Paul Feig announced the new film would star Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon. Yes, four women in roles brought to life by some of the most beloved (male) comedians of the past 30 year —minus Steve Martin.

Director Paul Feig and DP Robert Yeoman on the set of Ghostbusters. (Hopper Stone, SMPSP)

What came next was an anti-fan campaign — an 'antifampaign' — to slander the film and everyone behind it. But it wasn't just about being heard. These fans expected change.

Globe and Mail film commentator Johanna Schneller says every fan has a right to express their opinion and has always had that right, and they demonstrate it by keeping their money in their pockets.

"If you don't like the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters, then don't go to the movie. I'm so suspicious of the people behind these movements, because who are they to think their voice is more important than people who are excited to see it?" she says.

Most hated movie ever

The 'anti-fampaign,' whether motivated by the cast or a genuine desire to stop a movie they don't want to see made, has made the Ghostbusters trailer the most hated in YouTube history with more than 900,000 dislikes.

And it goes further than that. Some fans even started a campaign to stop Sony from releasing the film. The page adds their justification as follows: "We are sick of Hollywood forcing its feminist propaganda upon us, and it is ridiculous that we are now at the stage where a classic movie franchise is being used as a tool for sexism against men."

It seems like it's still OK still to pick on women in a way that it's not OK to pick on anyone else.- Johanna Schneller

Generational Divide

As film critic Jesse Hassenger points out, there is something about this casting that really rankles male fans.

"I would love to see a movie that takes its inspiration from Ghostbusters and casts these four ladies in a movie that is their own thing instead of Ghostbusters, but that's not realistic."

He says there are probably some older Ghostbusters fans who would claim that they just don't find these women funny, and points to a made-up syndrome in which people think that the comedians of their youth are the funniest people of all time and can never be topped.

Schneller points out that the piling on seems to be worse because the cast is all women.

"I don't think people would have responded the same way if the cast was all Asian or all African-Americans. It seems like it's still OK still to pick on women in a way that it's not OK to pick on anyone else."

Schneller says she loved the original movie and all the actors in the 1984 classic, but she also got very excited with this new casting.

"The moment I heard they were doing the remake with all women and these women in particular, I thought it was fantastic and true to the spirit of the original."

She also says these women are to comedy today what Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis were to comedy in the 1980s, so she doesn't know why the response hasn't been better.

Dangers of entitlement

So is this fan empowerment or entitlement?

This aggressive opposition is part of a larger trend. Whether it's a social media campaign to get Frozen's Elsa a same-sex partner or a heated debate about who should — or shouldn't — be the next James Bond, fans are trying to influence how the movies they love get made.

This is the kind of movie that can affect what other kinds of movies will get made down the line.-  Jesse Hassenger 

He says fans have the right to heard, but that studios shouldn't listen too carefully — and the campaign to limit the success of the new Ghostbusters film could have an impact on the industry.

"I don't think people understand the degree to which a failure could get chalked up to the idea that people didn't want to see four women in a movie and maybe we should just go back to putting women in as love interests," he says.

"This is the kind of movie that can affect what other kinds of movies will get made down the line."

Fans can see or shun the Ghostbusters reboot starting Friday, July 15, when it opens in theatres across North America.