Norwich Film Festival’s featured blog writer Thomas Rososchansky explores the controversy surrounding a recent trailer and pulls together his thoughts and views of others.
There has been much anxiety generated over one movie’s upcoming release this year and that is the new Ghostbusters. Coming to the big screen on the 15th of July, the reboot has been submerged in controversy since the release of its trailer. Currently sitting at 200,000 likes and nearly 500,000 dislikes, the YouTube video of the official trailer became one of the most discussed subjects on the Internet when it was uploaded. Many of the complaints came mainly from the fact that an iconic film was going to be remade into something that clearly wouldn’t match its original reputation; however, since the trailer was posted online, the main issue surrounding the trailer was whether or not the criticism for the film was sexist.
Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as pulling the sexism card, either in support or in opposition of the film. The trailer and what else has been exposed of the upcoming film have been worrying for both sceptics and optimists. For starters, the trailer begins by immediately relying on the reputation of its previous movie, acknowledging the story’s past events. This seems like it will expand on the Ghostbusters universe in a different way, as a sequel maybe, but instead the trailer makes the storyline look like a remake for the sake of nostalgia. Part of the issue of mentioning the original film is that the trailer acknowledges its existence and the fact that its story happens, which makes things like the paralleled cars and even the races of the cast (three white scientists, one black recruit) some extremely strange coincidences that are never remarked on. Another infuriating aspect about this introduction is the fact that the captions remind us of the original film by saying “Four scientists saved New York”, something that a little research on the character Winston Zeddemore would’ve saved the producers from looking silly. Meanwhile, there are also concerns with whether the actors might be the right choice to continue the Ghostbusters franchise. Melissa McCarthy has been previously criticised for her typecasting in many of her movies, while Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are fairly new to the world of feature films, albeit they are both well known players for Saturday Night Live. Nevertheless, one thing to keep in mind (and to inspire some hope) for the film is that we were not shown the film itself. As director Kevin Smith pointed out, the trailer itself was bad, and that we should expect at least watchable movie.
So what is the real issue here? One bad trailer couldn’t have possibly sparked all this controversy. There are definitely essential problems that go beyond the film itself, one of those things being the long-standing culture of reboots, remakes and sequels, explained by Kevin Carr. In the previously linked article about Melissa McCarthy’s typecasting, reporter Steven Zeitchik breaks down the decline of many comedians: “Call it the Owen Wilson paradox: The more we like seeing actors in a certain type of role, the more they book these types of gigs. And the more they book these types of gigs the less we like seeing them in these types of roles.” Carr complements this logic in the lack of original films, saying: “It’s not that there are so many reboots, remakes and sequels flooding the marketplace. Instead, people are just paying the most for them.” Perhaps this is the people saying enough, perhaps the jokes fell so flat and the acting felt so forced that it blew a fuse for film fans, but moving beyond the sexist critics, the main concern lies in our culture being deeply embedded with digging up and recycling classics. The real question is, why this movie? Why not any other reboot or remake to take the hate?
There are two (logical) sides of the rope that are being pulled at, essentially. Once we leave out the useless and misogynist arguments, the main voices are as follows: there are criticisms of the trailer for being bad, for disappointing optimistic fans with a poorly edited trailer that has bad dialogue, a confusing storyline and terrible CGI. The other side of the argument is complaining about sexism, which is for the most part correct. The most damaging thing either side of the argument can do is not acknowledge the multiple issues of the trailer and simply write about one thing. As playwright and Huffington Post writer Roger Weisman did, his criticism of the trailer came with a carefully constructed understanding of the sexist reactions that had hitherto flooded the internet, while still voicing his opinion over the poor presentation of the film. Weisman even commented on the all-female cast feeling like a gimmicky decision, “to distract from the fact that a reboot was simply a good idea at all, and give the makers of the film the ability to dismiss naysayers as a bunch of pathetic, sexist, internet trolls.”
Although it is always right to stand up against sexism, there may be harmful side effects to certain pieces and ways of thinking being pushed forward. For starters, having an entire piece defending a reboot solely through the argument of sexism deviates from the quality of the trailer, it deviates from the larger discussion about the rehashing and recycling of films, and it puts the film’s critics into the same vague category (which writer Molly Fitzpatrick calls ‘Man-Babies’) regardless of whether or not they dislike the film for justified reasons. As I explained about Roger Weisman being aware of the sexist oppositions to the trailer, defending an all-female cast has to come with an awareness of other arguments for the trailer’s failure. Both sides are responsible for showing that they are thinking pragmatically, managing to explore the deeper issues behind the trailer instead of simply deeming it “good” or “bad”. With any hope, Kevin Smith was right and the film will deliver (especially now with low expectations from the trailer), and all of this will be forgotten. However, it cannot be ignored that sexism in film still exists, and regardless of us liking reboots or not, there will always be unfair criticisms which will hurt the conversations for and against the films. The harmfulness of bigots must be kept in mind so that we may overcome them when properly assessing new art.
By Thomas Rososchansky.