The original Ghostbusters came out more than 30 years ago—marking the start of a globally recognized franchise and standing as one of the biggest summer releases in the history of Sony Pictures. Now comes the reboot with an all-female cast.
“At what point does fan loyalty to an original film insist on preserving the racial and gender biases of the past?”
Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Kristen Wiig star in the forthcoming film, in place of 1984 originals Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis. Some have criticized the casting of four female leads.
Joshua Gleich, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television, explains that the current controversy around the all-female cast signals the evolution of fandom—communities of fans who unite around a particular film or television show, for example—and how people are able to relate to characters.
“There are several reasons to reboot Ghostbusters with an all-female cast, and, as with most Hollywood decisions, the economic, cultural, and creative motivations are intertwined,” says Gleich. “The female audience is growing as both a percentage of blockbuster viewers and as the driving force behind surprise hits like The Fault in Our Stars.”
Despite the elevated status of women in Hollywood, some fans maintain a “fierce sense of ownership” in how their beloved characters are depicted and cannot reconcile with the reimagined foursome, Gleich says. These films help diversify the big screen, though, which white males have long dominated, he adds.
“In an election year, the internet fervor over Ghostbusters inevitably cross-pollinated with the larger political fervor. Donald Trump’s tweet from a year ago questioning the all-female cast is now recirculating, while Sony arranged for the Ghostbusters cast to appear alongside Hillary Clinton on Ellen, hoping to tie their casting precedent to her political precedent,” Gleich says.
“Producer Judd Apatow suggested that the misogynistic commentators on the Ghostbusters trailer were likely Trump supporters. Whether accurately or not, Hollywood films always emerge as a cultural barometer for their political climate.”
Gleich responded to a few questions about the new film, which arrived in US theaters on July 15.