I rarely watch films these days. I don’t seem to have the patience any more. I think it has something to do with me having become a mother and realising how precious my free time is, and that watching a film is often quite a poor return on a couple of hours I could spend doing other things.
By other things I mostly mean reading and eating biscuits. Such are my priorities.
As for actually going to the cinema, if it’s warm and dark I almost inevitably fall asleep. So when I do want to go and see a film, it is a rare and wondrous thing to my family who are all resigned to going without me. Mainly because it’s cheaper to let me go to sleep at home.
I am not a film snob, by the way. I have, it is true, seen my fair share of films shot in the back of a cupboard where everyone mumbles into their vests. I am also good with sub titles and have no fear of Art. On the other hand, I also like ridiculously stupid films whose only role is to entertain you and allow you to escape from the grinding monotony of cleaning toilets and worrying about the imminent collapse of the government.
My key criteria for a film is that it keeps me awake and wanting to stay awake, even if it is warm and dark.
On Friday I went with the tribe to our local multiplex to watch the new Ghostbusters film.
Initially I had grave doubts about the film. I do not see the point of remaking perfectly good films just for the sake of it. There was nothing wrong with the original Ghostbusters. It’s a great film and one which stands the test of time. I wasn’t excited at all when they announced they were going to remake it.
I thought dark thoughts about Spiderman, and how I really enjoyed the first couple of films with Tobey Maguire, and then I enjoyed them less and less, and then I had a small tantrum when they needlessly remade them about six months after the first films had come out.
That, I thought bitterly, was probably what would happen to Ghostbusters.
Then there was the whole hoo ha about it getting a female cast, and I thought dark thoughts about tokenism, and how even though it might work they would probably find a way to fuck it up so that it became like The Female Eunuch but with jumpsuits and ectoplasm, and it would set back feminism by about four hundred years.
As the time for release came nearer, and more and more people were throwing their toys out of the pram because it was either a ‘desecration of a sacred memory of one of the finest films of a generation,’ or because, ‘girls can’t do that shit.’ I began to get really angry and root for the film to succeed despite all my misgivings.
Because love the original film as I do, it is hardly Krzysztof Kieslowski. It was just a fun movie made to make people laugh and stop them wanting to eat their tax return in protest at the fascist nature of form filling. Similarly, anyone who says ‘girls can’t do that shit,’ immediately brings on the red mist, particularly when what they’re actually saying is that ‘girls can’t pretend to hunt pretend ghosts as well as boys can.’
So I thought about going to see it. Seriously thought about it.
Then I read some reviews. First up I read a review which gladdened my heart by telling me that it was not just a straightforward remake, so it had something other than girls in jump suits to offer as ‘new.’ Second up I read the biggest bunch of misogynistic bullshit comments by people who were seriously, viciously affronted by a film, a film in which people pretend to do things for other people’s entertainment. Comments where people were actually threatening violence against the actresses in the film just for being in a film they didn’t like.
Then I read a review by a woman who took her small daughter to see it, and was absolutely blown away by the fact that the little girl came out of the cinema and talked excitedly all the way home about how she was going to be a physicist when she grew up. Finally I saw footage of lots of little girls all dressed up as mini Ghostbusters and I thought: ‘My God. I would have been so excited to do that when I was a child. So very, very excited.’
I wanted that for my young self. Don’t get me wrong, I was not oppressed into wearing pink and sewing a fine seam as a child. I was a tom boy. I climbed trees, wore my brother’s cast off clothes, had a bow and arrow, fought dirty and was constantly covered in scabs. I had my girly moments too, and I’m lucky that my parents were liberated enough to let me flit between both identities.
But in retrospect, all the tom boy stuff was acknowledged as not my own. Even the word tom boy is about men.The best I could do was borrow stuff from boys. I wasn’t allowed to own it. I wasn’t allowed a pen knife when my brother got one, because it was for boys. I wasn’t allowed a Hornby train set (I appreciate now that this was probably down to the prohibitive price, but you know). I had a Batman car toy, but was considered a bit weird, because it was a car and a boy’s toy.
Wouldn’t it have been brilliant if I had just been able to have that stuff because it was just ‘stuff’ and not gendered? (Equally so for my brother, I might add, should he have wanted to play with dolls or wear frocks). Wouldn’t it have been amazing to be able to just walk into a toy shop and buy a Ghostbusters’ suit and be a girl, and not have anyone make stupid comments about it or to have to get it from the ‘boys’ aisle?
Wouldn’t it be brilliant if a girl wanting to be a Ghostbuster was not something that made people so angry they issued death threats against people?
So that’s what made me decide to see it.
And the film?
Oh, the film was magnificent. I bloody loved it. It was funny, and sharp and clever. It was absolutely daft and utterly escapist and it made me laugh my socks off. I stayed awake throughout the whole thing, and to the very end of the credits until the lights came up and I would and will go and see it again. It made me want to be a Ghostbuster. Hell, I have even developed a complete crush on Kate McKinnon, who totally stole the show for me. It was terrific fun.
I guarantee you that if they had remade it with men in the title role, at least 80% of what people are moaning about, would not even be being mentioned right now. How depressing is that?
The solution though, turns out to be the most pleasurable direct action I’ve undertaken in months. If you want to be part of the positive change, pay for your ticket, go and sit in a dark room and allow yourself to be entertained for two hours. What a joy.
For those of you expecting politics, I can only say that this, to me, is politics. Until people just allow other people to be exactly who they are, regardless of sex or race or religion, it’s political.
Women absolutely should be allowed to be the lead actors in films. They should absolutely be allowed to be paid the same money as men for those roles. They should absolutely not have to get death threats for ‘daring’ to be a different gender. They should be allowed to make films that are entertaining. They should be allowed to be physicists, or Ghostbusters or whatever the hell they want, and we should live in a world where a child can announce what they want to do with their life and it not be a ‘surprise’ or a ‘shock’ or pooh poohed because of gender.
Also, people should make more films that don’t make me fall asleep.