All-female Ghostbusters remake: Is this a feminist win or fail?

The 2016 version will star Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as the title characters

Rachel McArthur
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Ever since the first promo of the all-new Ghostbusters reboot surfaced in March, it’s safe to say that it hasn’t gone down well with fans of the original. In fact, backlash has been so widespread that the trailer is said to be garnering more ‘dislikes’ on YouTube than any other film in history.

A quick glance over the YouTube comments will reveal some fans’ disappointment that Ghostbusters – a 1984 classic starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver – is being remade to begin with.


“Looks god awful, worst movie of the year,” posted MysteryBounty, with another user Spacecadet354 agreeing: “If the movie is the same quality as the trailers, it could win a clean sweep at the Razzies.”

However, it’s also quite clear that many are criticising Sony’s decision to replace the original male cast with an all-female one. The 2016 version will star Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as the title characters.

YouTube user William Ong wrote: “Most of the people here will say that the movie is bad, because it is ruining a classic reboot. Well that’s partially true, but I will tell you one other reason why people, especially men disproves [SIC] it… this DOES NOT LOOK RIGHT with an all-female cast. Call it whatever you may want to call it. This movie will fail BAD!”

Lack of diversity in Hollywood

Much as the recent conversations regarding the lack of roles for actors of Asian and African origin in Hollywood, ‘Ghostbusters 2016’ has no doubt reignited debate surrounding the role of female actors in the film industry.

Sony Pictures head, Tom Rothman responded to the “sexist” comments by telling The Hollywood Reporter: “Everybody says I’m making the female ‘Ghostbusters’, but I say, ‘No, we’re making the funny Ghostbusters.’ Yes, it happens to be four women. It’s original. You get moaning on the Internet — sexist comments – but, you know, f*** them.”

Meanwhile, director Paul Feig has referred to the irate feedback as “vile” and “misogynistic”.

Gillian Anderson arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Gillian Anderson arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“I seem to have a very feminine take on the world,” he said. “I get sent scripts all the time, and when it’s a typical male character who has things together but is faced with a problem, I zone out. I just get completely uninterested. I’ve realised after years of watching movies, I’ve tired of the problems of men.”

The ‘Ghostbusters’ remake isn’t the only production grabbing headlines for swapping genders of the leading cast. There’s news of a possible ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ reboot, this time with Sandra Bullock reportedly set to take the lead role that was made famous by George Clooney in 2001. Then there’s ‘Game of Thrones’ star Emilia Clarke, who along with X-Files’ Gillian Anderson have both expressed interest in becoming the first female James Bond.

Regardless of how good these movies actually turn out to be, is swapping traditionally male characters a true depiction of female empowerment in the film industry?

“I absolutely applaud Hollywood’s recent efforts to remake classic action movies starring female leads instead. And I hope the producers of the James Bond franchise will consider re-vamping the series to include a woman Bond – it doesn’t hurt to try it, at least,” Christina Paschyn, lecturer of journalism in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar, who frequently writes about gender issues and media, told Al Arabiya. “As a young girl I loved action films, and still do, but as I grew older I became increasingly disillusioned with them. Not because of their violence, unbelievable stunts or even the predominantly vapid dialogue, but because the female characters were consistently relegated and devalued as inconsequential love interests, sex objects, victims or as lame token sidekicks. Women want and deserve to see their sex reflected on the big screen in action movies just as much as men.”

Are remakes the answer?

Although UAE-based filmmaker Faisal Hashmi is “excited” about the Ghostbusters remake, because he would “much rather see a fresh new angle on it than a replica of the first film except with a new generation of young male actors”, he goes on to say that reversing gender roles in a remake of a film can be detrimental to the issue of gender inequality in Hollywood.

“Women have every right to adapt popular characters and put their own spin on it,” he said. “[But] I do believe that solely remaking classic films with an all-female cast is ultimately not going to be totally effective, because these films will always be branded as ‘the female version of X’. That’s not the best way for female characters to make progress if they’re seen as just a different version of an iconic male-oriented version.

“What would be amazing is to see brand new female characters being created and adapted in films so they can actually chart their own fate.”

While Hashmi believes that there’s “a group of people who are just annoyed about the fact that women are leading this film, and that is what is fuelling their hate and that’s just sad,” he states that the bigger problem lies within ‘Ghostbusters 2016’ itself.

“The actual trailer for the new Ghostbusters just looked like a very generic comedy with some very generic flat jokes that I’ve seen in a thousand comedy trailers before,” he continues. “I love Paul Feig comedies, but I’m a bit disappointed that instead of trying to break new ground for himself, he seems to have treated this film as another one of his studio comedies with the ‘Ghostbusters’ brand slapped onto it.

“At no point during the trailer did I feel that the female heroines are the ones ruining the film, rather the overall lazy filmmaking.”

UAE filmmaker Indie filmmaker and reviewer for, Kevin Sebastian agrees that it’s the film itself causing the issue.

“Women definitely have every right to take the place of action heroes. But the hate surrounding the new Ghostbusters trailer was because of the way it was cut. The movie may be really good, but that trailer definitely ruined the initial impressions surrounding the film. It could be an all-male cast and it still would have been received negatively.”

Quality storytelling

Ultimately, filmmaking shouldn’t be about gender, but about the story itself, concluded Dubai-based comedian, arts professor and co-founder of Dubomedy, Mina Liccione.

“In the year 2016, this shouldn’t really be a question – women can absolutely ‘do’ or ‘be’ anything they put their mind to,” she told us. “With that said, I love making art and telling stories through many mediums. If the lead character happens to be a man, that’s great. If the main storyteller happens to be a woman that’s great too. It’s really all about the story and it’s purpose.

“Race, gender, nationality or the actor shouldn’t make a difference. It’s about who will honour the story the best, then build from there.”

Ghostbusters is released in cinemas worldwide on July 15.

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