I have been waiting with baited breath for the day I would finally see my beloved Kate McKinnon on the big screen. She has the completely untethered commitment to comedy that I strive for as an improviser. The idea of Ms. Mckinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy all on the same film set fills me with glee and a feeling I can only describe as comedic terror – I’m pretty sure having all four of those women on the same soundstage for a prolonged period of filming may be just what we need to unlock the secrets of the entire known universe. We desperately need these women (and hopefully many others) to display their collective comedic talent to as large an audience as possible.
But what we do not need is an all-girl Ghostbusters reboot.
Apparently my opinion is pretty unpopular – I’ve seen a myriad of comments praising this greatly anticipated reboot: “It’s just what I’ve been waiting for!” “So awesome that they’re doing something new with the remake!” “It’s totally feminist!” “What an honor to let these women walk in the same shoes as Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd and Ernie Hudson!”
I agree, these women can and should walk in the shoes of these great men. The baffling, and still somewhat commonplace sentiment that women aren’t funny needs to be squashed once and for all by the mighty power of our collective bosom. (Because if people are going to constantly define you by your breasts, you might as well make good use of it). Women as hilarious as Kate Mckinnon and Kristen Wiig have made great strides in changing that attitude with their absolutely fearless sketch comedy. Leslie Jones has shown that you can bring your own original style to a major audience and people will accept it. Melissa McCarthy has proven that with the right woman, a female-led comedy can be just as successful as its male counterparts.
I’d love to see all four of them achieve the same legend status in the comedy world as the original cast, and in their own right they are all well on their way. But you don’t accomplish that by throwing a pair of tits on Bill Murray and calling it feminist (unless, of course, you are Bill Murray and have chosen to wear the tits yourself. I think we can all agree that the world needs that). Much like we didn’t need a female Thor or an all-black Death at a Funeral remake. Rather, we need more comics that prioritize female superheroes and make the effort to develop thoughtful characters. We need studios to produce more original stories for black actors. And we need more people creating dynamic comedic work for women without requiring an all-male background in order to get the project greenlit. It’s not feminist to take an iconic male’s role and turn it into a female – it’s lazy.
Are we so starved for female-led movies that we’ll just accept female reenactments of beta-tested male comedy? Did nobody think to create a film that would necessitate an ensemble female cast as glorious as this? Should we all be fighting for Rosamund Pike to play Indiana Jones in a reboot rather than Chris Pratt? Wouldn’t it be more awesome if somebody thought to write the story of a female hero with swagger, sex appeal and an adventurous spirit because they just thought it would be cool? I don’t want to see women in men’s roles – I want to see more women in women’s roles.
There’s certainly opportunity for re-imaginations of original characters. But it’s not in the same category as Idris Elba playing the new James Bond or Quvenzhane Wallis as Annie. These are creative new takes of characters that have been continually recreated for the stage and screen. And there’s always room for improvement, as evidenced by the continued arguments regarding the potential change of the Doctor’s gender during his next regeneration. But the Ghostbusters reboot feels like a halfhearted attempt at placating feminist critics who wish to correct the problem of unbalanced female representation in film. Women make up roughly 30 percent of speaking roles in film and television. While this remake gives four more women the opportunity to hold one of those coveted roles, it does not help to solve the larger problem. Women fill so few speaking roles because we can’t be bothered to write decent material for them. This doesn’t get solved by retroactively recasting male-led films. It gets solved by writing new stories for women.
We should trust female comedians to be funny enough to carry an original script rather than relying on a male-driven story to prove its potential success rate. Instead of an all-girl Ghostbusters, why not take the bare minimum approach of creativity and write a comedy in the style of Ghostbusters? Open the door for women to redefine what a sci-fi comedy is, rather than bastardize a beautiful movie. Let’s all save ourselves from the potential disaster that could be Melissa McCarthy uttering, “Yes, it’s true. This woman has no dick.”
Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.