Thursday, October 20, 2016

Feminine mystique

Clearly I had a few election-oriented demons I needed to get out of my system, but fear not - this is still much more of a pop culture blog (such as it is) than a political one.

Case in point: this past weekend my wife and I finally got around to seeing the 2016 Ghostbusters. We had both expressed interest in seeing it back in the summer, but never got around to it. Then a Saturday night rolled around where our kids couldn't agree on what movie they wanted to watch (weirdly enough the eight year old and five year old wanted to watch Toy Story 2 while the three year old would settle for nothing less than Return of the Jedi) and since we were going to split them up to appease them anyway we sent the big kids up to the master bedroom for their Pixar screening and let the bino have the basement all to himself for Episode VI. My wife and I claimed the den (aka The Best Seats and Best Screen in the House) and figured we'd live on the edge and on demand ourselves a movie. And Ghostbusters it was.

The craziest thing was, after all the controversy through the development and pre-production and online trolls screaming about their childhoods being retroactively ruined and other, different kinds of trolls howling that "women aren't funny" and, to be fair, a good number of people defending the premise of the movie and its inherent right to exist, all that, through the movie coming out and not making spectacular box office and being considered a disappointment that probably wouldn't end up spawning a franchise-load of sequels, my wife and I delivered our verdict on the movie the next day and deemed it to be ... fine.

We liked it, but we didn't love it. We enjoyed it, but only as a satisfactory amusement for a quiet Saturday evening in. All of which would barely merit a blog post were it not for all the aforementioned hubbub that originally surrounded the movie.

I felt like the movie was a bit underwritten. Maybe there's a director's cut out there somewhere that gives the whole Abby and Erin arc a bit more drive, but it just didn't grab me. On the other hand, Patty and Holtzmann didn't have arcs at all, shapeless or otherwise, and that's okay because mostly they were dual comic relief, but I kept waiting in particular for a really gut-busting moment from Kate McKinnon and realized that I had already seen all her good bits in various trailers, reviews, and other bits of the collective pop consciousness. I heard that the ghost effects were spectacular in 3D in the theater, but since I saw it at home, I really can't speak to that.

Ultimately my wife hit the nail on the head when she said she had to admit - even though on some level it pained her - that the best-slash-funniest element of the movie was ... Chris Hemsworth.

Which I agreed to without reservation. He really was a hoot, and again it kind of reinforces how mediocre, good-not-great the movie was when "a hoot" can so easily clear the bar of being the best/funniest part.

I've copped in the past to utterly embracing the SJW label, and my wife is in the same boat with me. But I think this is a pretty fair example of the difference between actual, human SJW's and the haters' strawman arguments against them. My wife and I both want to see a fair and just world with gender equality (and racial equality and all the other components of enlightened coexist blah blah blah), which means we support the idea of anything that moves in that direction, gender-swapped reboots of beloved childhood properties included. We want to fall in love with these new pieces of art and we want them to succeed by winning over large numbers of people. But, since those pieces of art are made by human beings as flawed as the rest of us, sometimes they don't turn out as amazing as we might have hoped. And when that happens, we can admit it! We are fully capable of facing reality. I'm glad I only paid $5.99 to on-demand Ghostbusters from my couch rather than buying $34 worth of movie theater tickets. I won't insist that everyone else run out and see it, or sign petitions demanding a G2 in 2018 (despite the fact that I kind of liked where they were going in the epilogue; ultimately I just didn't think they earned it). On the other hand, when I do go bonkers for something and urge other people to embrace it as I have (ahem, ahem, Fury Road) I am 100% sincere and stand behind my proclamations fully. When the haters hurl accusations at people who are rooting for diversity in entertainment of being the thought police and insisting that everyone has to like everything across the board that ticks off the boxes of identity politics and representation and nobody's allowed to say a negative word, I just have to call bullshit on that. I don't do that, and I don't see anyone else doing that, and fighting against the fear of someone hypothetically doing that seems counterproductive at best.

So yeah, for me, the new Ghostbusters was a swing and a miss. But I am glad they took the swing.

P.S. The bino (who is three and a half now) wandered into the den during the middle of the movie. We didn't really make a big deal out of it, figuring that if he thought the ghosts were too scary or too intense he could always show himself out and return to one of the various other kiddie movies playing throughout the house. But he really liked it. He especially enjoyed the demonic apparition at the rock concert, though he insisted on repeatedly calling it a "dragon". Which, admittedly, is kind of hard to argue with.

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