The Texhoma Ghostbusters on the New Film and Controversy
With the Ghostbusters reboot less than two months away and the controversy surrounding it at an all-time high, we spoke with our local experts, the Texhoma Ghostbusters, about the film and its resulting controversy.
Controversy has had a constant presence here since the moment Paul Feig was announced as the director and he intended to gender-bend the original premise. Since then there's been accusations of Sony seeking legal action against original cast members if they refused cameo roles, leaked emails between Feig and Sony brass revealing plans on forcing Ivan Reitman out in order to give Feig total control of the project, the first trailer becoming the most disliked trailer in YouTube history, Paul Feig bashing fans on Twitter, and most recently the response to the Angry Video Game Nerd James Rolfe's video on why he refuses to see the movie.
With every site giving their opinion on why people are "hating" on the new film before its released, we needed a local taste and sought out our own paranormal investigators and eliminators (well, they don't really do that stuff). We asked the Texhoma Ghostbusters, namely Mark Bristow, Brandon Laferr, and Marcus McGee, a few questions on how they felt about the new film, the accusations of misogyny among fans, and the effect its had on the franchise. And as you'll see, much like the Ghostbusters fanbase as a whole, opinions of the new film among the Texhoma Ghostbusters vary.
Before we got into the new film, we talked with Texhoma Ghostbusters leader Mark Bristow about the team's recent hiatus,
Firstly, I just want to clarify for some people as to what's going on with us lately. We're taking a break and going on hiatus until I can get some things squared away. After some let-downs along the way, we've been left without an Ectomobile. The Jeep was having major problems and I had to dress it back down. I've been hard at work on those. The radiator, alternator, transmission, starter, and other components are just wearing out. It seems that fixing one thing leads to something else having problems, so who knows?
The 1963 Cadillac Ambulance is still rotting away in the driveway and needs a ton of work. We'd love to get people involved. If you know anyone with experience who would like to help us restore that old Cadillac, or anyone who has a slightly older (pre 90s?) hearse they would donate or sell for a fair price, we would also greatly appreciate it. The faster we get this resolved, the quicker we can get back to working for the community
Now for the questions about the new film and resulting controversy.
What were your initial thoughts when Paul Feig was announced as the writer/director of the reboot? What did you think when they announced the cast
Mark Bristow: I'm personally not familiar with his films, but thought he was a snappy dresser! When the cast were announced, I was more concerned with whether this film would be a sequel to the original two films. I'm a big fan of Kate Mckinnon, so I was happy about her. Leslie Jones is pretty good on SNL also. I'm not a huge fan of the rest of the cast.
Brandon Laferr: I thought it made a lot of sense. Paul Feig is one of the hottest, if not THE hottest comedy director working today. In fact, I can’t really think of too many filmmakers known specifically for comedic work outside of Jude Apatow and Feig himself. His last few movies were really big hits and I don’t think it was coincidence that they all featured Melissa McCarthy either. So I certainly see the wisdom of giving him the job to reboot the franchise and allowing him plenty of leeway to do what he does best. The rest of the cast are fantastic talents in their own rights, hysterical on SNL, so my interest is piqued.
Marcus McGee: I'm not a big fan of Paul Feig or basically the new SNL crew. Melissa McCarthy movies are a hit or miss for myself. To me she's funny as a supporting role. It took me bout three watches of 'Bridesmaids' for me to laugh. If I had to choose directors mine would been of course Ivan Reitman, Robert Zemeckis, Edgar Wright, or James Gunn... Even Sam Raimi.
What are your impressions of the trailers released so far?
Mark: Overdone? It was definitely made in the video game age of film design. I'm not sure the visual tone really fits what was established previously, but it's also not exactly wrong for the concept. As stated by a lot of people, it does resemble the live action Scooby Do films. While I chuckled at a couple of the jokes, the humor seems too loud and obvious. The humor of the originals relied a lot on facial expressions for delivery. It knew when to be subtle, when to pay homage to classical comedy, and when to go big. It had moments of high volume, but it also had moments of drama, humor, and action. The direction of the new movie seems to be stuck in the post-2000s style of 'gross out' humor, which I am definitely not a fan of.
Brandon: When I first saw the trailer, I wasn’t exactly blown away but I thought it was pretty cute, even made me chuckle a bit and I left it at that. It did not make me NOT want to see it, so imagine my confusion when the backlash hit! There are plenty of movies coming out in the near future (Ninja Turtles, Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, anyone?) that look absolutely terrible and Ghostbusters is not one of them, so why does this one film warrant the most down votes in YouTube history? I have a few theories…
Marcus: Terrible, even when the second official one came out I wasn't sure if I wanted to see it in theaters. Who ever directed the International Trailer was ok.
What are your thoughts on the Angry Video Game Nerd video and the resulting backlash?
Mark: I agree with James Rolfe. He provided an honest and substantial opinion that I happen to agree with. I'm fine with a female cast, as it's a non-issue for me. The backlash is easily as bad or worse than the sexist attacks that have been directed at the film, it's director, and it's cast, which are also uncalled for. If a movie looks bad, I don't go see it. Same goes for anyone, including James Rolfe.
Brandon: It made me a little angry at first but now that I have had some time to think on the scandal and re-watch his video, it doesn’t set my blood boiling but still strikes me as childish. His reasoning seems to boil down to the fact that, in his eyes, the original Ghostbusters film is too sacred to be rebooted, it is some untouchable masterpiece too important for anyone but the original cast and crew, else it be sullied. Five minutes on the internet should clue even the most oblivious moviegoer that nothing is sacred. The fact that he is taking a stand against this one project seems odd to me when plenty of nostalgic property has been “ruined” for more than a decade now, so what is it about the Ghostbusters reboot that finally got him to say “Enough!” and take a stand? The new Turtles movie looks like garbage but I guarantee, he’ll have a review up for that in the near future, weighing its merits as a nostalgic property and endlessly comparing it to the original cartoon and 1990 film. I don’t know the man personally, so I can’t pretend to know his mind but do I find the whole thing suspect? Definitely
Marcus: Its the truth. What he was speaking was from the heart, no act, just facts and I agree with him. And not just for this movie, but any that are not worth of any of the fans' time.
In regards to fans who are supportive of the film and excited to see it, do you think it is this a genuine liking of what they've seen so far or more out of loyalty to the franchise?
Mark: I'm sure plenty of people honestly do think it looks good. It doesn't really look bad, it just seems to be the wrong approach, in my opinion. There is definitely some brand loyalty involved, as well as a lot of pandering. Plenty of people didn't like the idea until they saw the offensive and sexist attacks sent towards the production and then became supporters of the project. I will defend the film against that type of attack, but I will criticize it for it's actual valid problems.
Brandon: It’s probably a good mix of both. I have my own loyalties to the franchise, growing up with the movies and cartoon series, but I for one think the film looks and sounds fine. The international trailer seems to have quelled some of the critics and now I guess we’re all on a ‘wait and see’ status. What I think is interesting is all the kids I’ve talked to or heard about that know nothing of the series and are legitimately excited to see it. They aren’t going to have any loyalty at all and would largely be oblivious to the scandal surrounding the movie. If you want an honest opinion of the Ghostbusters reboot following its release, they’re the ones to ask first.
Marcus: A little of both. We as the original fans want to back it because of the franchise. But also there are a small percentage in the world who doesn't know of or have seen Ghostbusters and to them the trailer is good, and that makes me happy because we want more people to be interested in the franchise. But we as core fans KNOW it could have been better.
Do you feel misogynistic objections to the film are as prevalent as we're lead to believe? Are non-offensive/non-sexist comments and concerns about the film being ignored?
Mark: Yes, no, and yes? In no particular order...? There is definitely a 'bro' backlash against the project, but it's mainly turned into a troll fight between feminist supporters and typical internet trolls, akin to Gamergate. You can find some legitimate complaints within those crowds, but when you break them down, most of the people are just jerks who like acting like jerks in a group setting. The mass media is definitely being unfair on the criticism, though. They are latching onto the 'trends' of nerd media and are trying to write within that framework, but most of them honestly don't understand concepts like reboots or lore canon. They aren't reporting on the complaints towards the tone of visuals or the nature of it being a reboot because they don't truly understand what those terms mean or what kind of passion they can inspire. Being a fan of something for 30 years vs. writing an article you were assigned on a subject you have no genuine interest in will cause some disconnects. For them, it's just easier to focus on the shallow controversy of 'sexism'. It gets clicks and it's good enough to satisfy an editor who has a nerd entertainment section full of ad-space. In my experience, the concerns of the visuals, comedic approach, and disregard for the previous film's established story is a HUGE complaint that the media just can't wrap their heads around. It does overshadow the sexism, even if the sexism is more ignorantly projected.
Brandon: Oh, absolutely it is! Nerd culture has a notorious misogyny problem and if you disagree, look no further than the Gamergate controversy and the vile harassment and outright death threats made to Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu. I’ve read the comments the trailer has gotten, seen the message board flame wars still raging on with some of the vilest trolls coming out against the movie and spewing the most awful and misogynistic rhetoric you can imagine and that was before anyone had seen a single frame of this movie. Some, certainly not all, have changed their tactics since being so frankly sexist tends to exclude them from the debate almost immediately. Instead, they’ve shifted their arguments to CGI effects, questioning the comedic viability of the cast and other equally flawed points of view. I appreciate there are sincere comments and concerns with the movie that have nothing to do with the all-female leads and I don’t believe they’re being outright ignored, just lost in the sea of anger and venom being spewed around them and that saddens me. Ultimately, it prevents us from being able to have a real discussion about the movie.
Marcus: Yes, but its slowly deteriorating. The fact is to me they're showing that it's possible to have an all female crew and it's OK. Bottom line is anyone could be a Ghostbuster. Look at Louis Tully at the end of 'Ghostbusters 2'.
Would the initial response to the film be more positive if it was a sequel instead of a reboot?
Mark: Yes. Imagine if the recent Star Wars film were a clean reboot. It starred a character named Hank Single with his giant furry animal teammate, flying a stolen space ship called the Century Eagle. One scene involved the furry animal vomiting on Hank and it was supposed to be hilarious. Imagine if that was 'The Force Awakens'. The tone is wrong and the disrespect of established canon would be unforgivable for most fans. But if you made Hank into a Henrietta, it would muddy the controversy. It would deflect it, in some cases. The recent Ghostbusters film actually seems to misunderstand the original film, and seems to be more satire than series regular. 'Ghostbusters' was a film within the same framework of 'Back to the Future', Indiana Jones, and again, Star Wars. It was an adventure action film with elements of timed comedy and grand visionary scale. Can you imagine a 'Back to the Future' remake starring Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones in a Nissan time machine, filled with slapstick and puke jokes? They'd burn down the theater! That's Ghostbusters 2016, for a lot of us. We aren't being irrational, I just think it deserves better treatment. Where's the craft and the charm? Comedy can be complex and fun and emotional. Along the way, the pool got polluted by internet culture and YouTube and meme videos and now you pay $12 to sit through two hours of it in a crowded room.
Brandon: I really couldn’t say. A sequel has just as much potential to fail as a reboot. Fandoms today are so volatile; they’ll fly off the handle for the most insignificant things: Character redesigned/updated? Time to take to twitter and flood the filmmakers with hate speak! Don’t like the screenwriter or director hired for the project? Make endless death threats to them and their family, that will show the studio not to mess with our childhood nostalgia! I think this is a perfect example of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’.
Marcus: Yes, it would been better for both the core and new fans if where a "Passing the Torch "idea. Even if new fans have never seen any of the classics movies, cartoons, comics, etc., they will have a reason to now.
Have you had any notable or memorable encounters with other fans in debating/discussing the new film?
Mark: I've had a few college age women approach me and try to rile me up a bit. After they find out that I don't care about the women casting, it's a different discussion. I can't help but ramble about canon and lore and continuity and established history from the old films, which is not something any average person wants to listen to. Never cross the streams, never cross a nerd!
Brandon: I’ve noticed there is a trend when it comes to discussing or debating the new film. The discussion inevitably shifts to the controversy surrounding the movie and that’s unfortunate because I have found that most casual film-goers, people that aren’t invested in the franchise, are more bewildered and saddened by the debate and frankly I sympathize with them. They can’t be optimistic or excited about going to see the movie without being branded a ‘Social Justice Warrior’ or ‘Feminazi’ or a ‘fake fan’ and drawn further into this toxic feud. It not only risks putting them off the reboot but Ghostbusters as a whole!
Marcus: All the time, even when they first announced that the cast was all female I had people come up asking me what I thought and I said, " I like the idea, I just hope the cast they pick is smart and funny like the original." They always think I'm against it, but for me I'm not. Just do it justice.
In your experience, has this film caused, either directly or indirectly, a split in the Ghostbusters fan base?
Mark: It's split it about 3/4. About a quarter of fans are hitting it with sexist or political correctness criticism, and the rest of the fan-base seems to be optimistic, but cautiously. I'd say a majority of hardcore Ghostheads are rational people.
Brandon: Sadly, yes. It seems everyone has their minds made up about whether they’re going to like the movie or not before setting foot inside of a movie theater. After the movie drops, both camps will use the professional critics reviews and the overall score on Metacritic as leverage to their argument. Recently, Ray Stantz himself, Dan Aykroyd took to social media and, after seeing a screening of the reboot, gave it a glowing recommendation. He was immediately shouted down by trolls, accusing him of being paid off or selling out or being a corporate puppet. Not even one of the original creators of the Ghostbusters is exempt from voicing their honest opinion and causing an uproar, favorable or otherwise! I foresee a lot of online user reviews panning the movie, possibly without having seen it and continuing the trend we saw on Youtube after the first trailer released. Honestly, I don’t think we’re going to be able to get a purely objective look at the film for many years after its release and who knows what shape the franchise will be in by then?
Marcus: Unfortunately yes, as of now. When the movie drops we will be whole again. Either we all like it or we all don't.
Ultimately, what are your hopes for the new film and the Ghostbusters franchise in general?
Mark: I'm looking past the movie. I hope it does well so the studio can spring forth some bigger projects. There are plenty of insider rumors and facts concerning an expanded film franchise that crosses the new movie over into the old universe. There are also rumors about 3-D movies and new cartoon series, which I would love to see. I don't think Ghostbusters 2016 is the end of the world. That's what Ghostbusters are for, they prevent it!
Brandon: I hope it does well. I think there is a lot of talent behind the project and anything that gets kids excited and talking about Ghostbusters is definitely a good thing. Ultimately, I believe that anything can be turned into a good movie, even reboots of nostalgic properties. The question is, are we going to be open-minded enough to appreciate Ghostbusters for what it is and ignore all the rhetoric? After all, wasn’t there a major plot point in the original film about NOT harassing the team of business-people just because they weren’t running their ghost busting business just how YOU wanted them to? You don’t want to be that guy. You don’t want to be Walter Peck.
Marcus: Hope for the best of course, Not my favorite director or cast, the trailers didn't convince me to excited and go watch when it drops, there toys is meh? But they did bring back Ecto Cooler, so that's a plus. I will still see it but it's gonna be on my time.