So this week, we had an announcement: the cast for the much anticipated female Ghostbusters reboot. See the actresses picked and read more about it in this article, “Why Studios Want More Female-Led Blockbusters”.
I’d say it’s a pretty solid list and I for one can’t wait, though apparently the rest of the internet CAN, ‘cos when I say “much anticipated” what I really mean is a neverending outpouring of complaints and condemnation of a movie NO ONE has actually seen yet*. But hey, why let something like REALITY get in the way of Twitter-and-Facebook-facilitated outrage???
(*While I’m on the subject of social media skirmishes, remember everyone saying something similar about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY eighteen months or so ago? ie. “WTF is that?? SOUNDS SHIT, no one will see it, Marvel and Disney have just DESTROYED THEMSELVES: blah blah blah …”
Yeah. So how did that turn out?
Oh right everybody loved it and it made a stack of cash and now they’re making a sequel, which everyone will then complain about in advance and then go and see and love even more and it makes even more money so they’ll make a THIRD ONE … See where this is going??).
But anyway, in the interests of fairness (ahem), I’ve decided to round up all the arguments AGAINST a female-led Ghostbusters:
1) “Hollywood doesn’t have original ideas anymore!”
So, one thing that we hear over and over is the fact that Hollywood apparently doesn’t have ANY original ideas and rebooting old properties (like Ghostbusters) confirms this. Proponents of this idea will bandy about phrases like “creative bankruptcy” and often insist this is a fairly recent thing and that there was a “golden age” of Hollywood where it took risks and was original and amazing, not remotely like *now*.
Of course, when this Golden Age was usually was when said person grew up: if in they’re in their thirties to forties *now*, they will often remember the eighties and nineties especially fondly: Indiana Jones; Star Wars; James Bond; anything by James Cameron and/or starring Arnie will get a look in. If fifty plus or older, they will more likely concentrateon the movie stars of a bygone era: Bette Davis; Marilyn Monroe; James Stewart; Cary Grant; John Wayne et al will all be recalled with misty eyes, plus directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, Woody Allen or Stanley Kubrick will crop up (notice all the “golden ages” are dominated by white people, especially white men? Yeah … me too).
Yet, unfortunately for this argument, whether one likes movies OLD, NEW or even both (and I do), the uncomfortable fact is, Hollywood has ALWAYS rebooted existed properties. Whether they have adapted and REadapted books/graphic novels; REtold the stories of various different characters and real life people; REtold myths, legends and fairytales; or REdone and REimagined entire movie franchises, it’s something Hollywood has ALWAYS done if you just check through IMDB through the decades!
If you said, “Aaaah but they reboot MORE STUFF now!” then you might have a point, because they do: Hollywood is making movies at an astonishing rate. What’s more, audiences have consumed literally STACKS of existing properties and do so at an even more astonishing rate because there are so many more WAYS TO WATCH now, which takes me into my next point. MORE: Audiences and Ownership (or why news of sequels and reboots really gives you rage)
2) “Hollywood is just chasing after the money!”
Of course they are. That’s what Hollywood does. Again, that’s what it has always done. What’s more, it’s just as difficult to make a BAD movie as it is a good one … and no one in Hollywood is simply given a free pass to do whatever they want with a stack of cash (even if it does seem to people on the outside that this is what they’re doing). Appearances are deceptive. Fact is, if you’re dealing with literally MILLIONS of dollars, you’re accountable to somebody. It’s not simply accidental. Hollywood makes it LOOK easy to make movies, but trust me – it’s really NOT.
So Hollywood doesn’t make movies for the FUN of it and they’re not going to STOP if something is working. That’s just insane. Can you imagine being paid a stack of cash for *your* work and then saying, “Ooooooh guys, I think we should quit while we’re ahead”! Who does that?? Whilst it’s true some people are not interested in money, most creatives want to make their target audiences HAPPY. And reboots make people happy, else they would not go to the cinema to see these movies. Duh.
So in the cases of movies, you don’t stop if people are UNhappy with your work (it’s just a movie FFS!), but rather, you stop if people are NOT INTERESTED (ie. they don’t spend their money on it!). Crucial difference. And remember, a NEW version of an old FAVOURITE does not denigrate the old version in any way. It remains unchanged, on your DVD shelf. Nothing can interefere with your past OR present enjoyment. Onto my next point. MORE: What spec screenwriters can LEARN from Hollywood
3) “It’ll be crap, because reboots always are!”
I always find this argument interesting, because it will start off with a blanket statement and then someone will throw in a BOMB like,
“Yeah but … what about THE DARK KNIGHT?”
The Dark Knight was not only a rebooted franchise – Tim Burton’s Batman becomes Christopher Nolan’s – it was also a SEQUEL. So really, it was supposed to be a double whammy of supposed “crapness”, yet it not only got widespread commercial success, it is critically acclaimed and deemed Oscarworthy, too.
Yeah but … yeah but … THE DARK KNIGHT is not USUAL, right? It’s just the exception, there are *always* exceptions! C’mon. Everyone knows the average reboot or sequel (or rebooted sequel) is shit!
Except what about the James Bond franchise? How many decades and movies has that been now?? I can’t be bothered to do the maths (ironically I don’t even like James Bond, or Nolan’s Batman now you mention it) so let’s just say it’s a FUCKTON of movies. The Bond movies have been rebooted and recast endlessly, with various interpretations of the role by various actors and different directors literally taking them in different directions, from comedy to thriller to action in genre and a kaleidoscope of tones, from ludicrously hyper-real to gritty and plausible. And people have loved them. These movies make people happy and everyone watches them, even if it’s just by accident on the telly one Christmas. EVERYONE has a favourite James Bond because let’s face it, why the hell not?
But OK, OK – Nolan’s Batman and James Bond are great. Fine. That’s not *that* many, yeah? Except chew on these for size:
- The TOY STORY franchise
- The ALIEN franchise
- The PREDATOR franchise
- The SPIDERMAN franchise
- The X MEN franchise with various Wolverine spin offs
- THE MATRIX trilogy
- The Marvel Storyverse in general – Thor, Avengers, you name it!
- The RESIDENT EVIL franchise
- The PLANET OF THE APES franchise
These movies are just off the top of my head because they’re all on the DVD shelf right next to me. Some of the movies are fabulous; others are bloody awful. But guess what: they exist and they are entertainment for SOMEONE, even if you don’t like them … For one thing I parted with my hardearned cash and BOUGHT THEM. And all of them I’ve listed here have made TONS AND TONS OF $$$$, whether you like that fact or not.
This is the thing: we ALL have our guilty pleasures and we all have our reasons for liking those crappy movies. Our favourites are sometimes great; sometimes they are terrible. What “good” and “enjoyable” means however varies HUGELY, individual to individual. What’s more, it’s possible to dislike one movie utterly in a franchise, yet love the next one. (No one was more surprised than me when I loved THE WOLVERINE, after the car crash that was WOLVERINE ORIGINS, for example … Yet I still watch Origins. Why? I have no idea. BUT I DO, IT’S A COMPULSION).
So really, saying reboots are *always crap* just doesn’t work, no matter how justifed you feel it is. What’s more, franchises exist because they have MADE MONEY. It’s supply and demand. People are complaining right now about Marvel making “too many superhero” movies and who knows, maybe Marvel have shot their load but I’d bet real money they haven’t … People will still go and see them. Why? Because kids are being born and growing up all the time and kids love superheroes. BOOM. And that’s just the least of it … Remember, I don’t even like superhero movies, but I always watch them for starters. Why? A number of reasons, such as bonding with my children who love them … But also because of hardcore, unabashed LUST for some of the stars as well:
Ohhhh Hugh, baby. Call me. Mr C has given me a free pass. MWAH. Yeah I’m weak I KNOW OKAY.
4) “It’s a gimmick to have an all-female team!”
Damn straight it’s a gimmick, it’s a reboot. All reboots have an ANGLE. That’s the point. You don’t simply retell the same story, with the same characters, in the same way. You CHANGE it in some way … ooooh, like THIS:
So let me get this straight. Lego Ghostbusters is not a gimmick? Sure it is … Lego Ghostbusters is cross promotion: it’s as close to blatant advertising as you can get within a rebooted property (“hey let’s combine the two and get the kids to buy BOTH!“). And you know what? I have zero problem with that (especially since I adored THE LEGO MOVIE). I even like playing with Lego with my girls (le shock).
Yet how many times I have seen this accusation levvied against Lego Ghostbusters? ZERO.
Women? COUNTLESS TIMES.
FFS, Internet. Get real.
Now, if you said “Aaaaah but why can’t we just say, “Four NEW Ghostbusters”?? Why do they have to be credited as FEMALE Ghostbusters??” then I might have some sympathy. After all, I’m of the belief we shouldn’t be writing “great FEMALE characters”, but “great characters who happen to be female”.
However, we’re in a “rock and a hard place” on this one. Since the proportion of female-led movies is smaller than it should be and the female-led BLOCKBUSTERS even smaller, then the notion of female leads carrying a multi million dollar movie will always merit attention at this point in time. The press needs its angle too, you know! MORE: 4 Reasons It’s About ENTERTAINMENT, Not Theory
5) “BUT WAAAAAAAAH I wanted **original** female characters, not rebooted ones!”
I hear ya, but flip it around: if Hollywood makes money with female-led movies – guess what happens? WE GET MORE. Why do we get more? Because they make money. That’s all that counts.
So regardless of whether you *like* Hollywood movies, or reboots, or whatevers, vote with your WALLET and support them. Treat it as a TACTICAL THING. Because it’s box office revenue, NOT feminism, not complaining on Facebook, not the goodness of Execs’ hearts, that will deliver those ORIGINAL female characters in Hollywood movies eventually! And some of them are already here, like Ryan Stone and Lucy! What do you mean you didn’t like them? Remember, THAT DOESN’T MATTER.
And in the meantime? Watch female characters at the other end of the scale, in indie movies! I’m always surprised by the number of people complaining about lack of female characters in Hollywood movies who then confess they’ve barely seen any female-led indie flicks. You don’t have to watch drama instead if that’s not your bag: there are some GREAT low budget genre pics out there — FIND THEM. MORE: 9 Ways To Celebrate Female Characters, Writers & Makers, plus Some Fab Real Life Inspirational Women Who Deserve Their Own Movies
As writers, it’s really easy to feel frustrated with the current status quo: we want OUR stories told and it can seem like the odds are against that, because frankly, THEY ARE. However, if we want to change that status quo, we have to do our bit too – and that doesn’t just mean writing stuff, it means CONSUMING stuff too and understanding what is selling in the current marketplace and WHY. In other words, we have to know what we are talking about. Leave the faux outrage to the laypeople on Twitter and Facebook; it’s not productive. NOW GET GOING!
Pssssst …. Want to read more about female characters and role functions, especially in genre pics?
I go into this in detail in my screenwriting book, WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS, published by Creative Essentials.
Check it out and buy it, HERE or click the pic.