Going to see Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 to stick it to the misogynists? If so, then you’ve fallen for Hollywood’s latest marketing and PR trick: feminism.
It never used to be like this. Movies with strong female leads – like Ripley in Alien, or Mulan in…Mulan – used to come and go without a media shitstorm of misogyny accompanying them. Yet when ensemble movies like Ghostbusters (2016) and Ocean’s 8 are announced, the internet descends into civil war.
Of course now, in this age of keyboard warriors and entitled fanboys, Paul Feig’s brave decision to recast Ghostbusters as an all-female ensemble was bound to be set upon by a legion of frothing mad throwbacks in their bile-filled Twitter feeds.
Fanning the Flames
Or at least, that’s the narrative. Yet in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, a Sony Exec cheered the abusers on:
“It’s the greatest thing that ever happened. Are you kidding me? We’re in the national debate, thank you. Can we please get some more haters to say stupid things?” – Tom Rothman, Sony Pictures CEO
Instead of supporting the actresses and studio staff being targeted, he saw the misogynist comments as a way to make more money. The Ghostbusters marketing campaign shows that it doesn’t matter if you make a mediocre comedy; just cultivate the controversy and reap the rewards of free publicity.
Much like The Interview, we were convinced to watch an otherwise run-of-the-mill American comedy to spite the haters, be they Kim Jong-Un or Youtube commenters. Unlike The Interview, though, the critics are writing positively about Ghostbusters. Its Rotten Tomatoes page is full of forced grins like these:
“I am happy to report—not at all for the sake of feminism but definitely for the sake of summer entertainment—that the new Ghostbusters is good. It is actually pretty great! It’s funny, and nuanced in its funniness: hehs to haaaaaaas to lols.” – The Atlantic
For a short time, Sony had the forces of the media on their side. They owned the discussion – what critic would risk being called a misogynist or worse for ruining the political moment with opinions on the film’s actual quality?
The Next Craze?
Now Hollywood is gearing up for its next big trend: gender-swapped remakes. Ocean’s 11 is being remade as Ocean’s 8 with an all-star cast ranging from Oscar winners (Anne Hathaway) to singers-turned-actors (Rihanna), and it’s not because everybody suddenly started clamouring for more Ocean’s films.
If you think the American film industry is doing it for the good of the cause, then you’ve bought into the hype. Studios aren’t concerned about female representation, they’re concerned about remaking franchise after franchise instead of taking risks on something new. All-female remakes come with built-in controversy and support from an entire social movement.
It’s telling that studios are only putting the big money behind female casts when it’s a reboot of a male-dominated franchise. Get ready for Blues Sisters, Women in Black, Bad Girls and Die Hard (It’s A Lady This Time) – but don’t hold your breath for anything genuinely inventive.