*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.
Oh, fandom. You make me so weary sometimes.
It was reported a couple of weeks ago that after decades of foot-dragging on the project, Bill Murray had agreed to do a cameo in Paul Feig’s new, female-centric Ghostbusters that’s coming out next summer. Dan Aykroyd is also said to have shot a small role for the film as well, and I would imagine Harold Ramis would have if he hadn’t passed. It’s kind of a big deal for Murray to be involved, as it does a lot to legitimize the project in the eyes of the fans. Or at least you’d think that.
Here’s what Murray had to say in Vulture:
“I like those girls a lot. I mean, I really do. They are tough to say no to. And, Paul is a real nice fellow. I thought about it for a very long time. Like, many, many months. No, that’s not right. I was seriously thinking about this for years, really . . . It kept eating at me, and I really respect those girls. And then, I started to feel like if I didn’t do this movie, maybe somebody would write a bad review or something, thinking there was some sort of disapproval [on my part].”
So, that settles it, right? Murray is on board, he approves of what Feig and his team are doing. All is right with the world, right? Of course, it isn’t. This is fandom we’re dealing with, and reason and common sense (paired with the bugaboo of internet anonymity) are never anywhere to be found. Keep in mind, this is the same fandom that almost unanimously recoiled at Heath Ledger being cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight, largely because Ledger has recently played a gay character. Flying off the handle is their national pastime.
I have a personal policy of never getting into arguments online. It’s pointless and a huge waste of time. No good can ever come of it. But, I do have a masochistic propensity to read over message boards, just to see how mindless the drivel is getting. It’s like driving past that car crash on the freeway and slowing down to see how bad the carnage is. A couple of interesting themes jumped out at me.
The first was the accusation that Murray only filmed the cameo for the money. First of all, I would imagine Murray has plenty of money by now, but if you look at his film choices of the past 15 or so years, it’s pretty obvious he’s not just taking work for the money. Nobody is going to make a zillion dollars doing supporting roles in Wes Anderson films. Second, it’s a cameo. Alfred Hitchcock did cameos in most of his films; that means he would walk in and out of the frame. He never spoke. It may turn out to be a more substantial role (I think it would be quite brilliant if Murray were playing the new film’s version of the William Atherton role from the first movie.), but “cameo” implies that he’ll be onscreen for just one scene. That means he likely worked on the film for one day. You don’t get paid millions of dollars to show up for one day. Well, Brando did. But, that was the ’70s. And, he was Marlon Brando. The idea that Murray worked on the film for hordes of cash is just stupid. Hell, for all we know he’s playing Dr. Venkman in this thing.
The second theme that kept popping up was the film was a “travesty.” That’s a pretty big word. The horde seems to be upset because this new movie is an “unnecessary remake” and that it isn’t canon and doesn’t involve any of the original characters. That may be true. I don’t know. I haven’t read the shooting script, but neither has anybody else railing against this movie. In fact, they haven’t seen any actual footage from it. Is there a link between these characters and the ones from the original films? There could be. I can’t imagine that there isn’t. But, if not, so what? The last time a Ghostbusters movie was in theaters, Dan Quayle was the Vice President of the United States. It’s not as if these movies are that sacrosanct.
You know what movie is pretty terrible? Ghostbusters II. It’s nearly a shot-for-shot remake of the first film, like Gus Van Sant’s Psyhco. It isn’t funny, it rips of jokes from the first film without heightening them, and Murray, in particular, seems completely bored and uninterested. You know who was involved in making it? The exact same group of people who made the first one. So, a third sequel to a series that hasn’t seen a new entry in 26 years is desirable, but a remake would be “unnecessary?” I just don’t get it, but I also don’t get the people who still want to see Harrison Ford play Indiana Jones at age 74. “You don’t get it,” they explain, “Ford is Indiana Jones,” which is the same logic people used about Connery and Bond in the ’60s. (By the way, Chris Pratt as Indiana Jones is a great, great idea.)
So, let’s get at what I really think is the heart of the issue, and something I find a little troubling about fandom. This is really mostly about the lead roles being cast as women. Granted, half the women they cast in the lead roles have Emmy Awards on their mantles and Oscar nominations on their resumes. The women they’ve cast in this are great — it’s not as if Kim Kardashian is going to show up with an unlicensed nuclear reactor on her back. But, time after time online I’ve seen the fans rail against this “PC casting” of women in these previously male roles. First of all, I’m not sure I even understand what “PC” has to do with anything any more; it’s just a knee-jerk term people throw out now. I mean sure, women weren’t allowed on stage as actors 400 years ago, but I don’t think Sony cast McCarthy and Wiig in Ghostbusters just to even the score with Shakespeare. Why is it such a big deal to some people (guys, I’m assuming) for men to be playing these roles? What’s up with that Fox News sense of entitlement, that it’s unthinkable for women to play roles that were once played by men? Is it that hoary, old “women aren’t funny” nonsense? That’s idiocy was dispatched years ago. In fact, Tina Fey did a brilliant episode of 30 Rock about it called “Stride of Pride.” If you think about it, who are the two comedians having huge, transcendent moments in pop culture right now? Amy Schumer and Tig Notaro, both of whom are women and both have distinctly different voices. My advice? See more live theater, where race and gender casting decisions are way more fluid that the film industry’s.
A lot of hatred seems to be set squarely on Melissa McCarthy’s weight, which is hilarious coming from internet trolls. Most of them are winded after mouse clicking. I doubt highly that many of them are competing in the CrossFit games by day and trolling movie websites by night. There’s a reason why dorks have seen bodybuilding as a form of male empowerment fantasy in comics for nearly a century.
To be honest, I’m baffled by the vitriol the new Ghostbusters is getting. Paul Feig is an inspired choice to oversee it. Look at his track record. Freaks and Geeks? Bridesmaids? Spy was really funny. The haters seem to want to take Ivan Reitman out of the mothballs for old-times’ sake and let him direct it. He hasn’t made a good movie in at least 20 years. No, the new film is in very capable hands. We won’t know how capable until next summer. But, by then, we’ll have an actual film to evaluate. I know that rational thought isn’t nearly as fun as bashing something we don’t know anything about yet, but why not give the new team a chance? I’m ready to believe them.