Why We Need a Female Ghostbusters
or The Issue of Female Representation in Film
I recently saw the new Ghostbusters (2016) film and I loved it. I loved seeing four different women working together for the same cause. I loved watching them fight, defend each other, show fear, intelligence, bravery and humor. It was one of the best representations I’ve seen of a team of women on film in a long time. There are plenty of naysayers out there, and trust me I know how difficult it is to deal with a remake of any beloved classic. However, I think we needed this film. By we I mean everyone but with an emphasis on the young girls out there looking for their next toy, Halloween costume, or person to idolize. This film has given us four distinct women, all worthy of that idolization and all working together as a team and that is so incredibly important.
Kids have other female characters from action/adventure/superhero films to look up to of course. But rarely fo they ever get a choice in which lady it will be. Let’s look at the ratio of males to females in the main casts of some of the most popular ensemble superhero films that children have loved in the past half a decade or so:
|Star Trek (2009)||6||1|
|The Avengers (2012)||5||1|
|Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)||4||1|
|Fantastic Four (2015)||3||1|
|Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)||6||2|
|Batman v Superman (2016)||2||1|
|Every Michael Bay movie ever||Lots||1 hott chick|
Alright so that wasn’t the most scientific table ever but you get the point. For so long women have been merely a token in these mostly-male ensembles. A variety of men from different background and with different personalities and one (always attractive) women thrown into the mix. That isn’t to say that ladies like Black Widow, Gamora or Sue Storm aren’t wonderful characters and great role models for girls; many of them are. The problem is that there’s only ever one of them awash in a sea of testosterone. Not only does it not promote women working together but it severely limits the scope and variety of women characters in these ensemble-driven action films.
Ghostbusters is also important not only for the quantity of female heroes presented to us, but the quality of them as well. There are plenty of female ensemble films out there; however, very few of them are directed at a wide age-group or even suitable for children. Many of them are about women trying to compete with each other or worried about nothing more than their romantic lives with men. The four women in Ghostbusters are all working together to save the day. They are scientists, writers, teachers, and hard-working women. They are not arguing about boys (unless you count them discussing the incompetency of the beautiful secretary Kevin). They’re not worrying about how to balance their careers with their romantic lives over a bottle of wine. They’re using their friendship, intelligence, and bravery to defeat ghosts and save New York City. Seeing women work together towards a common goal and support each other is so important, especially to young girls who group up watching women like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry argue over Twitter. We need to see unity and support among females so that we can reflect those values in our lives and it starts at a young age. This movie gives a wonderful example of that to women, and men, of all ages.
There’s also the fact that these women represent careers not often shown in film for females. Speaking outside the superhero realm, women are often portrayed in a small variety of roles. If they are a doctor or a lawyer then they are weakened by the inevitable struggle the character has balancing their career with their love life (because don’t you know women simply can’t multitask?) Ghostbusters shows us a variety of characters with awesome backstories and careers. Erin is working to gain tenure at a prestigious university. Abbey is using science to follow her dreams. Holtzmann creates incredibly intricate and unique devices for studying the paranormal. Patty is a friendly MTA office who knew more about New York City than any guidebook could ever tell you. Little girls got to hear these women say smart things; they discussed particle physics and engineering terms and the history of the City. Thanks to Ghostbusters, Little girls got to see that scientist, blue-collar, white-collar; everyone can be a hero.
Now before you get angry listen up. I’m not saying that these female characters in superhero movies aren’t amazing and wonderful, despite being the solitary double-X holder of the group. I’m not saying that characters in Rom-Coms can’t be well-rounded or icons in their own way. I’m certainly not saying that there’s anything wrong with being sexy or using sex appeal to get things done. What I’m saying is, we don’t have enough representation of different women on film, let alone women who work together. Especially not women who work together using their brains and common sense to defeat a villain rather than solve romantic problems. We need more ladies and while I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming releases led by women (Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel hurry up please), this movie is so incredibly important. This Halloween little girls can say “I want to be Holtzmann because I like to build things,” or “I want to be Patty because she looks like me” (because YES the lack of women of color as heroes is ridiculous on its own and deserves its own ranty blog post). Little girls like the one I once was who dream of being a scientist can look at these women and see a team of badass heroines working together to save the day and it will inspire them in a way that only reflective representation can and that is what is so important about this film.
PS- Besides being great from a feminist perspective, I also found the film to be really funny, entertaining, and with cool effects.