All of the men in the new “Ghostbusters” movie are total idiots. And that’s part of the movie’s design.
If “Bridesmaids” was a watershed for a new wave of female-led comedies, then “Ghostbusters” is the new apex. The reboot isn’t just hilarious, it’s a feminist statement: Women can be funny, and lead a $150 million sci-fi blockbuster.
On its surface, the 2016 “Ghostbusters” movie answers the question, “What if the Ghostbusters were female?” It uses the elements from the original 1984 movie — proton packs, rejection from academia, Bill Murray, supernatural forces threatening to bring apocalypse — to answer that. And it works.
But it goes a step further than that. It also asks, “What if there were useless men everywhere messing things up?”
Aside from the four Ghostbusters — played by Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Melissa McCarthy — there are three men who are important to the plot.
Each of the male characters are less than useless. It’s a male version of the sexist “damsels in distress” trope, where a helpless woman needs saving and causes trouble for the hero — but in this case, there are three damsels.
There’s Chris Hemsworth as Kevin Beckman, the Ghostbusters’ secretary, who has the strength and mind of a boulder. He doesn’t know how to use a telephone, and the most important thing that happens to him is that he gets possessed by a ghost who makes more trouble for the Ghostbusters.
And then there’s the mayor of New York, played by Andy García. Instead of helping the Ghostbusters, he tries to sweep the city’s ghost infestation under the rug.
García’s character is more interested in being a popular mayor and snapping selfies with residents than doing good for the city. The Ghostbusters don’t just need to save the city, they need to align themselves to his agenda as well.
Then there’s the movie’s villain, Rowan North, played by Neil Casey. He’s a hotel janitor who’s bitter about his own shortcomings, and wants to unleash an apocalypse of ghosts upon the world. North insults the Ghostbusters by saying, “You shoot like girls.”
Casting men in those roles is part of the subversive feminism of “Ghostbusters.” North, especially, is a rebuke to the movie’s haters.
Director Paul Feig didn’t know the backlash the movie would receive when he first made it, but it’s clear that North is an embodiment of exactly the type of person who would hate a female-led Ghostbusters movie. (He later added a scene where the Ghostbusters read and mock people who posted nasty comments on the movie’s YouTube trailer.)
The new “Ghostbusters” doesn’t just have women save the day from genderless, ill-defined ghosts, it has them saving the day from — and for — men, too.
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