Probably by serendipitous coincidence, the first official trailer for the all-female Ghostbusters reboot managed to drop just a few days before International Women’s Day, which is today. While Hollywood’s current love-affair with reboots, franchises, sequels and adaptations has become a subject of much criticism, and some of it valid enough, I am more than on-board with this trend in certain iterations, namely those that take “classics” originally starring straight white men, and remaking them with casts featuring women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups.
The reason Hollywood likes to do this sort of thing is pretty transparent – they hate taking risks. They want guarantees of profit, or at least reasonable assurances, and playing into people’s nostalgia as well as just their affinity for the familiar is a good way to hedge your bets. While this is sometimes just a crude cash-grab that ultimately adds nothing of substance to the cultural landscape, remakes like the all-female Ghostbusters actually do serve a valuable purpose, in my opinion, aside from entertainment for its own sake. They allow Hollywood to balance out its financial anxieties about featuring underrepresented groups, whose stories are often imagined to be less bankable, whether or not this is actually the case.
Lending the power of an established franchise name is a way to balance out the perceived threat of women’s (and POC’s and LGBTQ people’s) supposed lesser draw at the box office. The reboot/remake trend can be a means to ease Hollywood into a norm of greater diversity, which is why I am typically all for the ones that do genderbends, racebends, that queer previously straight characters, and so on.
Of course with this remake fad comes the always reliable straight (often white) male crybaby brigade, who make it their sullen and obnoxious business to ‘defend’ culture from becoming, in their minds, too overrun with diversity, which is to say, from becoming representative of the world as it actually is. They want to protect their place as the perpetual center of everyone’s attention and decry any cultural move that might rob them of what they feel is their due spot-light. While there are certainly potentially valid critiques of the new Ghostbusters trailer/film (namely the questionable race politics visible therein), much of the backlash to it is simply men getting mad something isn’t about them when they feel it ought to be.
Backlashes to things like International Women’s Day or Black History Month often happen on strikingly similar terms, with privileged groups frequently complaining about the need for a separate month or day when they are no longer the default center of everyone’s attention. However, the continuing value of these kinds of things rests on their capacity to allow marginalized groups to regain some of the cultural space that should have been theirs all along. Straight white men need to learn that they aren’t entitled to more cultural visibility, more political representation, more historical acknowledgement, more of anything than any other group.
Frankly I look forward to the day that things like International Women’s Day or gender-flipped reboots become unnecessary, because minority groups are by default accorded their rightful amount of cultural attention, acknowledgement and space (not to mention political rights and wealth). However, this is not that day, and as such there remains a significant need for us to regain this cultural space by way of devices like International Women’s Day, and the genderbent reboot.