'Ghostbusters' Is the Casually Feminist Summer Blockbuster We Need RN

Forget the original Ghostbusters. Or better yet, don't forget it. If you have cherished childhood memories of watching the 1984 movie, by all means cherish on. Just don't waste time trying to compare the new film to the original. Sure, this new movie is a remake (as its frequent cameos will remind you), so comparisons to its original are to be expected. But thankfully, this new Ghostbusters stands completely on its own sensibly shoed feet. It's a genuinely laugh-out-loud action comedy that can be enjoyed thoroughly without any previous knowledge of the former franchise ... and with a female cast that (rightfully) presumes that it's NBD to have strong women warding off ghosts.

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The movie begins with a seriously spooky ghost appearing in (surprise!) a rumored haunted house-turned-museum. The caretaker of the museum tracks down tenure-seeking academic Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) to seek her help with exterminating the unwelcome spirit in his museum. She refuses -- because, of course, that nonsense is all behind her now. But when she discovers that he only found her because the book she published with her high school friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy) has been republished and is widely available online, she has to face her own past (both literally and figuratively) as she tries to convince her old friend to take down the book.

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And here we arrive at the heart of this movie: a friendship built out of needing someone to believe you even when no one else will. Even though Erin had turned away from her ghost-obsessed younger self, Abby has continued to research physics and the paranormal. Instead of giving up on her beliefs, she has built a lab around them. She's embraced being an outcast -- humiliated and disregarded, all because her convictions were so strong. And when Erin, Abby, and her lab partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) come face to face with their first Class IV apparition, they realize with unabashed glee that they were right -- ghosts do exist. (If it were us, we'd be equal parts creeped out and chilled to our bones -- but whatever works for you, girls!)

With their new team hesitantly established, the Ghostbusters set out to prove what they know to be true to the world at large, with the use of advanced science and innovative technology. The fact that they never stop to ask if they should (or could) is one of the many reasons why this movie is a not-so-subtle feminist win.

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Here's a rundown of why this movie is a must-watch for our daughters (and, of course, for us).

1. It doesn't make a big deal about the fact that it's a gender-swapped remake.

The greatest strength of this movie is that while it is 100 percent about "Girl Power!" at its core, it doesn't prance about asking for compliments for it. It's ultimately about the strength of friendship and not being afraid to be who you are amidst a sea of critics. The fact that it's women running the show is a total BTW (um, how things should be in 2016).

2. The Ghostbusters team came together because of their passion.

Unlike some summer blockbuster heroes, these women aren't in a highly trained group selected and schooled by the government (in fact, they clash with the mayor of New York City AND Homeland Security throughout the movie). They aren't forced to team up to fight ghosts by any outside source -- instead they are almost giddy in their enthusiasm. They each bring their own strengths to the table, centered around their own interests. They've connected based on their mutual desire to have their convictions validated and proven worthy of recognition. Talk about #squadgoals. 

3. None of them dress/look/behave according to the Hollywood blockbuster tradition for female roles (yet they all are beautiful and sexy).

Let's face it, none of these characters would be among the first picked for an all-girl pop group. They're all pretty -- but "normal girl" pretty. Their personal attire ranges from dull suits (Erin), cardigans and button-downs (Abby), and graphic T-shirts and jeans (Patty, played by Leslie Jones) to whatever the hell Holtzmann has thrown together (mostly oversized and hipster-matched men's clothing). It's not that they don't care about their looks -- it's just that they don't care what anyone else thinks about their looks. It's a subtle difference, but one that our daughters should be shown more often in major motion pictures as a viable option for women.

Even when we do get movies starring heroines who fight for what they believe in, they usually do so while in some way half-clad, half-exposed with their bodies on display under battle-torn garments. They "sexy fight" in ridiculous poses designed to show off their bums. There's none of that posturing here. Even better, our heroines in Ghostbusters aren't what many men perceive as stereotypical feminist trolls -- they're real women. They don't fit a mold, and they don't need to be airbrushed. They're relatable heroes. Just what we really need right about now.

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4. They acknowledge the misogynist backlash the movie received after it was announced ... but don't let it stop them.

In one scene, Erin, Abby, and Holtzmann read comments on the video they posted on YouTube, proving right there on tape that they had caught that big bad ghoulie. As to be expected with comments from the Internet, some were pretty nasty and totally misogynistic. Although at first they wanted to rage back, they quickly learned that the better course (as always) is to not feed the trolls. The fact that this scene is included in the movie is not just a clever way to snub those early haters claiming their childhoods were being ruined by lady ghostkillers -- it also shows girls today that friends IRL are all you need to shake off the meanies who lurk online.

5. The Ghostbusters club is accepting new members. (BEWARE, SPOLIERS AHEAD...)

When Patty, an MTA employee played by Leslie Jones, joins the team, she makes the case for her inclusion based on her encyclopedic knowledge of the history of New York (and her ability to borrow her uncle's wheels). She says she wants to join the club. At first the trio is reluctant to add a fourth, but then they realize they're stronger with Patty. By the end of the movie (SPOILER ALERT!) even adorably cotton-headed Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) has found a place on the Ghostbusters team. Although the original friendship of Abby and Erin grounds the team, there's no established leader -- because there doesn't need to be one. Everyone's contributions matter. The profound beauty of the spirit of inclusion for those who are willing to work together to push the boundaries of science, help others, and enthusiastically face their fears is a powerful lesson for all young girls (and many adults).

Let's get real, though: The movie isn't without its faults. Though the ghosts are really creepy (and as Abby points out, quite beautiful), the villain is underwhelming at best. His weak misogynistic insults clearly come from a place of whiny white nerddom and he's never really that threatening. The nods to the original err a little on the side of cheap fan base pandering rather than the tributes they were ostensibly meant to be. 

But the best way to enjoy the new Ghostbusters, though, is to not notice any of these things. Just head into the theater ready to enjoy a brilliantly funny action comedy that happens to be mainly about some chicks like us. And let your daughters see that having all-female Ghostbusters is empowering and awesome and, hopefully one day, really NBD.

 
 

Images via CTMG/Sony Pictures

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