What Would F. Scott Fitzgerald Say About the Ghostbusters Reboot Controversy?

If you haven’t noticed, there is a very heated and very strange argument occurring right now in certain circles of the internet. It’s about Ghostbusters.

There are two sides to this argument:

  • The new Ghostbusters is going to be the worst movie of all time. It won’t be funny and it does not honor the original two films and its very existence tarnishes and taints the original films.
  • The new Ghostbusters is going to be awesome and has a great team behind it. Also, the reason people are going so crazy over it is because they are crazy fanboys and they’re sexist.

A simple googling of “ghostbusters controversy” or “ghostbusters sexism” can tell you anything else you need to know: lots of people are choosing one side or the other, with rational people opting for the latter bulletpoint above. But to get an idea of it, without having to google, here and here and here are a few of the articles summarizing the controversy.

Ghostbusters 2016
The new team.

I have not said anything about Ghostbusters on this blog for two simple reasons: a) I hadn’t actually seen a trailer for it until this last weekend, and b) regardless of what the trailer looked like, I was pretty sure that I would see it no matter what.

Why have I been certain that I would see Ghostbusters? A bunch of reasons:

  • I loved the original ones.
  • I think Paul Feig is a great writer and director, including his work on Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, etc.
  • I think Melissa McCarthy is pretty funny.
  • I think Kristen Wiig is funny and a good actor.

However, I found this stance slightly weakened when I saw the trailer.

What happened when I finally saw the Ghostbusters trailer.

On Friday, I went to a movie in theaters, and I finally saw the Ghostbusters trailer. I should clarify that I haven’t been avoiding it but, a lot of times, I avoid watching trailers on my computer or phone and I wait to see them in theaters, before a movie.

Here’s what happened: I saw the trailer, and it was okay. It wasn’t bad. It didn’t offend me. It didn’t ruin my childhood.

But it also didn’t make me laugh.

My initial reaction was “well, that was underwhelming.” It was also when I realized that the movie was not a loose sequel, as I had assumed, but apparently a reboot.

This isn’t a very interesting story so far, but it was the first time something occurred to me: what if I don’t like the new Ghostbusters? Does that mean I’m one of the trolls like all the other haters out there? 

And then I remembered something: I have repeatedly made the point, on this blog, that you should never judge a movie until you have actually seen it.

Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope

There is one other place where the fanboys are just as hysterical, and that place is Batman. Sure, the Batman controversies don’t have sexism mixed in, but Batman fans are just as bizarre as these legions of Ghostbusters reboot haters when it comes to being childish, delusional, and capable of blowing anything out of proportion.

And it was while pondering Ghostbusters and its hysterical haters that I remembered something: back in 2008, I thought Heath Ledger would make a bad Joker, and I was entirely wrong. I was so wrong that, in 2015, I wrote a few blog posts urging all the Batfleck haters to calm down until after they had seen Batman v Superman and encouraging all the doubters of Jared Leto’s Joker to just give him a chance.

The Batfleck
Remember when people were upset about this?

This is where the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote comes into play, a piece of a paragraph from the first page of The Great Gatsby:

“In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought — frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.”

As I reminded Batman fans, and myself, that reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope, I would urge all the hysterical fanboys to wait. Just wait. Don’t decide that your childhood has been ruined by the new Ghostbusters until after you’ve seen it. Reserve your judgments.

Not saying you should do everything the characters in this book do, but “reserve judgments” seems like good advice.

However, unfortunately, that isn’t enough. I recognize it’s not enough.

Why not? Because the majority of the Ghostbusters haters have already decided that they hate the new Ghostbusters, and there will be nothing to change their minds.

Is it fair to judge Ghostbusters by its trailer?

And there are two more things to note about the new Ghostbusters:

  • The other films made by the team involved in Ghostbusters don’t translate well to trailer.
  • Angry internet fanboys are not the target audience of this film.

Why don’t Paul Feig films translate well to trailer?

It’s hard to say why, exactly, the films made by this team don’t look good in trailers. One reason is likely that many of the jokes in these films are slow burns. Another is that this team often first establishes the characters, their conflicts, and their setting, and then starts providing (and earning) the jokes.

Angry internet commenters have never enjoyed Paul Feig’s films

Bridesmaids has a 6.8 on IMDB but a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 75% on Metacritic. Spy has a 7.1 on IMDB, a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 75% on Metacritic. And the YouTube trailer for Ghostbusters is setting records for the amount of dislikes it’s getting.

What does all this mean? It means, quite simply, that the people who are angry about Ghostbusters are so childish, so petty, so troubled, that this movie isn’t for them. These are the people who randomly pop by my blog to say “fuck you” because I don’t like Tim Burton’s Batman movie. These are the people who are anxious over the possibility of a black Bond, and the same people who were troubled that Daniel Craig was a blond Bond.

But there is still one thing that worries me…

What if I don’t think the new Ghostbusters is good?

Meanwhile, there is my own opinion: what if I don’t like the new Ghostbusters? Will that make me one of them? One of the trolls who spews awful comments on YouTube? Will that put me in the same leagues as people who think the new Star Wars is bad because it starred a woman and a black guy? Will I have become the equivalent of people who are legitimately angry because they think the Joker in Suicide Squad has too many tattoos? (The Guardian recently wrote a good piece about these kinds of fans, and the influence they wield.)

The answer to all of that is: no. It’s okay to not like a movie because you don’t like a movie.

What’s not okay is to decide you don’t like a movie before you’ve even seen it. What’s not okay is to decide you don’t like a movie because every scene passes the Bechdel Test. What’s not okay is to decide you don’t like a movie just because you didn’t like a ninety second trailer you watched on your smartphone, months before the movie even came out.

The new Ghostbusters might be bad. It might be good. It might be okay. It might be just another movie. It might be, like all movies, something not worth getting too upset about, because it’s just a movie. A movie should not “ruin your childhood.” A movie should not even ruin a different movie.

The important part is to do as Fitzgerald recommended: reserve your judgments until you’ve actually seen the movie.

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