Three days after the new “Ghostbusters” opened, I was sitting in the theater, chowing down on popcorn in anticipation. When I left, it took all I had not to start crying with joy.

I had already read the mixed and underwhelmed reviews of the “controversial” film before seeing it. I was deflated; with all the negativity surrounding this movie, I had hoped that it would be so well-received that it could withstand any hate. After seeing it, I realized that it was the reviews that were wrong.

This is not a review. Problems with pacing and plot cohesion regarding “Ghostbusters” are entirely valid. But this movie is remarkable, commendable, and laudable for one simple reason: the characters. And, as viewers have presumably noticed, they are all women.

I can’t remember ever seeing four women (and only four women) star in any sort of action sequence. Watching four women kick ass and take names was an extremely emotional, and badass, experience.  The characters themselves are also inherently inspiring as women in STEM and academia, with both practical knowledge and meaningful insight. They aren’t sexualized the way other female heroines, like Black Widow or Harley Quinn, are. They can wear baggy gray jumpsuits because it makes sense to dress that way, and not because they need to pull the male audiences.

The characters also had no interest in receiving male attention during the film. When is the last time you saw four women starring in a movie with no love interests? The movie showcased the sadly radical idea that women in cinema can exist without any romantic pursuits.

Yet, I am sorry to say that “Ghostbusters” is the exception, not the rule. A study released by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that only 31.4 percent of speaking roles in movies went to women out of 4,370 roles in the top 100 performers at the box office, which equates to roughly one woman for every 2.2 men. The visibility for other minorities is even more dismal. Only 12.2 percent went to black actors, 5.3 percent to Latinx actors, and 3.9 percent for Asian actors. Less than one percent of those roles were queer characters, or 32 out of 4,370. The bar is also extremely low with respect to female directors. Out of 107 films in 2015, only 8 were directed by women.

Although television is delivering more than movies in terms of female representation, there are still vast strides to be made. According to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, 79 percent of television series airing in the 2015-16 season had more male characters than female characters, and only 39 percent of speaking roles in television went to women. Female characters, according to the study, were “younger than their male counterparts, more likely than men to be identified by their marital status, and less likely than men to be seen at work and actually working.” Obviously, in both television and film, women find themselves tokenized and diminished.

Additionally, even the way we label television shows and assign worth has adversely affected the way the stories of women and minorities get viewed and evaluated. We are currently in what is commonly referred to as the “Golden Age” of television. There’s a prevalence of shows labeled “prestige drama,” including shows such as “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos,” and “Mad Men.” “Prestige drama,” as defined by Angelica Jade Bastién at Vulture, is characterized by “high production values, an interest in weighty themes, and, more recently, high-profile actors and behind-the-scenes talent.” This comes opposed to “midbrow” television which often tracks in genres not often found at awards shows like science fiction, romance dramas, or lighter dramatic fare.

One stark difference between the two denominations is the type of stories they tell. Middlebrow television often spotlights the stories of women and minorities. Take, for example, the science fiction drama “Orphan Black,” starring Tatiana Maslany. The series deals with serious issues regarding women’s autonomy and ethics in science. The series overall has been disregarded at awards time, although Maslany’s performances finally garnered her much-deserved Emmy nominations this year and last year. The prestige, or highbrow, dramas prioritize the narratives of (mainly) white, cis, straight men. When those stories are deemed more “worthy” in the eyes of the audience, critics, and the Academy, it leads to the systematic devaluation of shows about women and minorities. When shows about white male leads (like “House of Cards”) are perceived as more prestigious (under the aforementioned definition) while shows featuring a diverse cast (like “Jane the Virgin”) are deemed midbrow, it trivializes the experiences depicted by that show, which adversely affects non-male, non-white actors and actresses. This is not only limited to television: White male narratives are preferred in film, too. When Oscars nominees for the past two years disproportionately feature white men and women, it is clear that those stories are the ones prioritized in Hollywood.

Anyone paying attention to pop culture this summer knows that women, and specifically women of color, are up against the huge enemies of misogyny and misogynoir. Trolls worked to tear down “Ghostbusters” before it even opened, while claiming they just “didn’t want to ruin the original.” Leslie Jones, one of the stars and an outspoken black comedian, was attacked on Twitter with misogynoir assaults. Her personal website was hacked, nude photos were leaked, and the trolls only escalated after Jones’ role in the film. So, not only do the stories of women and minorities face trivialization from greater culture and awards organizations, but those who challenge that status quo are faced with a barrage of hate. Double standards abound in the guise of legitimate fan criticism, such as Rey from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” who got called a “Mary Sue,” code for an idealized fictional character, Luke Skywalker was simply lauded as naturally gifted.

There are battles to fight when it comes to the way women and minorities are represented in film and television. Getting the number of diverse narratives out into the world is a necessary step in creating a more equitable culture, and a more equitable future needs more movies to follow in the revolutionary footsteps of the new “Ghostbusters.”

Meg Cummings is a member of the class of 2020.

  • Jim Peterson

    Oh please. While women flock to the likes of Twilight and Shades of Grey which celebrate women whose whole identities are nothing more than being the possession of the males they’ve attached themselves to, male audiences have proven themselves open to non-sexualised, strong women characters for decades, from Ripley to Sarah Connor to Furiosa.

    There is nothing “revolutionary” about the new GB. A mediocre remake of a movie already done far better years ago with a male cast does the cause of women in Hollywood no favours.

  • MrValderviche

    I’ll address the problems with this in order, I guess.
    It starts to get ridiculous when you say “the reviews are wrong bla bla bla the criticism is valid.” Next, you must have not been paying much attention because only 3 of the Ghostbusters were in STEM fields and the entire reason for hiring Kevin was because Erin was seeking male attention.
    As for the numbers, fair enough. But I think a terrible movie that alienates its original fanbase isn’t going to help with any of that.
    Ghostbusters faced backlash for a lot of reasons. The one you mention is perfectly valid and by implying it’s a cover-up for mysogyny, you’re being just as bigoted as you’re accusing them of being. The leaked nudes were uncalled for, but Jones has also insulted people and made racist remarks (and before you start, yes it is possible to be racist against white people) and has admitted to inciting attacks -the very thing she got Milo [insert last name here] wrongfully blocked from Twitter for.
    Rey, unlike the Ghostbusters, was in a fantastic movie and, in my opinion, is a great character. But, it’s easy to see why someone would think she’s a Mary Sue. Luke said he had a lot of piloting skill. It was established before he did it. Rey flew the Falcon in a dogfight and later said it was the first time she’d done that. Later, she is an amazing shot the first time she uses a gun. Luke was missing shots almost as often as the Stormtroopers on the Death Star. Then, Rey uses a Jedi mind trick and picks up a lightsaber with the Force and beats a trained Force-user within days of learning she can use the Force. It took Luke years of training to get to that skill level.
    As I said, I think she’s a great character. I think the next two movies will give valid reasons for why she’s so skilled, but it’s easy to see why so many people (including a lot of feminists) think she’s a Mary Sue.

    To conclude, Ghostbusters is sexist against men. When men are included in the group who have to accept diversity, turnabout is not fair play. Therefore, it is not the step forward you’d like to think it is.

  • Joe Banks

    As a man, I think this writer has huge chip on her shoulder about feminist issues, and her nitpicking scrutiny of women in media is so skewed by her own personal bias that it almost ceases to be professionally credible!

    As an older man, I remember watching the original Ghostbuster back in the 80’s, and enjoyed it a lot because it was entertaining and funny. I also saw Ripley in Aliens because it was a well written, smart, engaging action film!

    Fast Forward to 2015, and that Ghostbusters 2016 trailer comes out. I was immediately turned off by the politically correct feminist agendas it was trying to push, and the basic question I asked- what dumbA** would remake a film that originally starred ALL MEN, then substitute women? Why would you remake Charlies Angels with men for instance?

    Because of the insulting articles about misogyny and male bashing associated with this movie, I deliberately avoided seeing it when it came out! And a lot of people my age group and Ghostbusters fans felt exactly the same way- which is why It has bombed in the box office!

    Paul Feig was an idiot, and whoever felt that this was ever a good idea to attach some female political agenda to a Ghostbuster franchise severely miscalculated, because the general public doesn’t want to see that in such a film!

    Meg Cummings is a member of the class of 2020. But Meg Cummings has got a little bit of growing up to do about what is profitable in entertainment, and why her Women’s Studies college education won’t be very marketable in the REAL world!!
    And finally, I fear for the future of this country if it producing such young women who feel the need to overanalyze every facet of our culture through some self centered lense of extreme feminism! You might not like how women are portrayed in every damn film or TV show you see, but grow up and deal with it! Men are given a raw deal as well!
    Ghostbusters 2016 sucked- you cant hide that fact.

    • Sky Commander

      You know the best films are? The ones that don’t try to push an agenda and just tell a good story no pandering just good old fashioned story telling.

      • Jim Peterson


  • ruben

    People don’t have a problem with women or minorities, they took a movie with an already set cult like fanbase and completely changed it to push an agenda. The gender rolls were reversed in a way it didn’t add to the story. It was just done for the sake of casting women. The director made plenty of other really good original female movies, why didn’t they stick to that strategy it was working and we got to see hollywood moving in a better direction.

    Star wars had a female and black co star and that movie did amazing because they listened to the fans! Ghostbusters turned its back to the fans and instead of passing of the torch story Paul Fieg wanted to “make the movie his own” when faced with legitimate criticism sony decided to silence people and push a narrative the people against the movie were misogynists and nothing they said was valid. All the people who loved and grew up with the movie were pushed away so they didn’t go see it. Now the franchise is dead and sony has a 70 million dollar loss on their hands.

    Suicide squad with a similar budget came out and took in twice of ghostbusters whole box office in just 2 weeks because the movie was made for the fans! DC is also planning a wonder women movie and that has already gotten a lot of positive feedback after the first trailer. A completely female lead movie that men cant wait to see?!? Where are the trolls and misogynist now? Society and men don’t hate women or people of color we are sick of reboots, cash grabs, and studios who don’t listen.

    • Zack Selzman

      I completely agree with your comments on the decision that they made to go on the warpath and just accuse anyone who did not like the movie with being a misogynist. Real movie buffs are fans of freedom of expression and all of a sudden you’ve got a movie aligned with Jezebel and people who want men to be fired for making stupid dongle jokes. How does that appeal to me?

  • Zack Selzman

    What was Sony thinking going on the attack and getting Milo banned from twitter? The film was marketed all wrong and all the hostile statements around it’s release just guaranteed a flop. It turned itself from a movie I was thinking of watching into representing a cause that I don’t support. You should do a study on how many movie tickets are actually PAID FOR by women versus men. I was deciding what movie to see with a girl I am seeing and told her that if she wanted to see Ghostbusters that I would see it but that she would have to pay for the tickets plus snacks. Surprise surprise we chose another movie and I paid like always. It just seemed like it was marketed in a way that was hostile to me.

    • Chief Smakaho

      Nice move, bro. Nice move.

    • Keiya

      They didn’t ‘go on the attack’. Milo organized a bunch of people to harass another twitter user and twitter reacted. Sony wasn’t even involved.

      • MrValderviche

        Except there is no evidence of him doing that. Leslie Jones, however, has admitted to doing it.

      • Zack Selzman

        That’s defamation of character. You’ve made an accusation that Milo ‘organized’ other people who did undesirable things. That is absurd, twitter users are not ‘organized’, they are all individuals acting on their own. Unless you can demonstrate steps that were undertaken to ‘organize’ these idiots you have just defamed Yiannopoulos by making a groundless and unsubstantiated claim that he organized people despite there being absolutely nothing that you can refer to that demonstrates he did anything of the sort. You cannot just make completely baseless allegations, either stop making completely baseless allegations or demonstrate that there was some sort of collusion or organizing involved in tweets that Milo did not make. People like you really should be sued. You have absolutely no substance that supports your baseless claims.

  • LockingMekanismsOnVehicleDoors

    I’m so glad that the men rushed in here to mansplain all the ways that you are wrong, Meg. ;)

    My reaction to seeing GB16 in the theaters was nearly the same as yours. I was excited for years, as soon as the movie was announced. Then I let the haters affect me and went to the movie expecting the worst. Not. The. Case. Everyone in the full theater laughed, cheered, and had a great summer blockbuster of a time. I walked out with the same genuine elation that you did. (dat Holtzmann scene tho, amirite?!?) To my surprise, the two adult men who saw the movie with me said they liked this one better than the originals.

    It’s ridiculous how much negative attention this film got and too coincidental. Passionate GB fans were the vocal minority in this situation; their valid concerns were vastly overpowered by the sounds of pure misogyny. The poisonous bias was spread thick and far and this film suffered as a result. If someone like me, who anticipated the film for so long, hesitated to see it, trust that the propaganda worked.

    I love what you had to say about the prestige productions, and it rings very true. I think this editorial does a good job of describing how many women feel about our representation in the industry, regardless of how many men think that our personal perspectives are wrong.

    • Chief Smakaho

      I’ll take things that never happened for 500, Alex. “GB16” lol! “the two adult men who saw the movie with me said they liked this one bether than the originals” HAHAHAHAHA! You are either a) lying or b) the men only said that to score brownie points.

      Other lies you might believe: The patriarchy, rape culture, toxic masculinity, safe spaces, trigger warnings, etc.

    • MrValderviche

      My comment with the link to a video that proves you wrong has been pending for a day. Just look up RedLetterMedia on YouTube and watch their Science Man Ghostbusters video. They literally did the math to prove sexism was a very small percentage of the backlash. (I think it was 13%, but I don’t remember for sure.) And that’s counting mentioning the movie’s feminist agenda as sexist, which isn’t a sexist thing to do. So the percentage should actually be lower.
      So no, nothing was overpowered by mysogyny. Sony just did their best to make people think all the criticism was sexist. In your case, they succeeded.

      Also, you’re a hypocrite. You’re complaining about mysogyny while using the term “mansplaining” which is meant to be insulting to men.

    • Bob

      I go to movies like GB16 to laugh and be entertained, not to be force-fed social justice and feminist pablum. In a nutshell, GB16 was a non-starter because of the loud social justice and feminist buzz GB16 generated prior to its release.

    • J B

      Your full of crap.

  • Chief Smakaho

    Let this be an example for anyone else planning to force-feed the dying feminist agenda to the masses with appropriated material. They got quit the little spanking in the box office. Bah dah, bah, bah, bahhhh…I’m lovin’ it :)

  • Pedro Ferreira

    If you were crying it’s because this film is bad, not because it’s good. You could have put Adam Sandler in the lead role and it still would’ve been a rubbish movie.

  • David

    I understand the negative backlash of this film before it even started and I still saw the movie even with all the bad reviews. I think the only good reviews for this film were done by feminist and young millenials who weren’t even around for the original Ghostbusters film. This movie was completely sexist and made all male actors in this movie fools, they destroy the final ghost by shooting its lower. Name one man in this movie that isn’t a bad guy, foolish idiot, a creeper, shovenistic pig, and sexist. Look how the original cast members were used in this film. I understand the original ghostbusters had some crude jokes and humor toward women but this film was made in the 80s and this unfortunately for women was the times. Give me 5 movies made in the last decade that depicted women the same way Ghostbusters 2016 depicted men you’ll probably have a hard time. Where I can give you a list of very strong female character leads example, Aliens, Underworld, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Kill Bill, all Disney movies, Divergent, Hunger Games, Twilight, Terminator, Charlie’s Angels, Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel Films, Harry Potter etc list can go on and on.

  • Joe

    There are so many movies with women as the stars but people like the author of this pretend don’t exist so they can push there feminist agenda and blame a crappy movie on internet trolls and misogyny.. Its pathetic

  • Tyler Foster

    As a lifelong fan of Ghostbusters, I hate to break it to you guys below, but fans are pretty meaningless in terms of box office performance. Look up the grosses for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Kick-Ass if you want to see the results for movies driven by fan interest.

    There is no stretching of the numbers, no twisting of logic and reason, no rational understanding of fandom that can account for the fact that Deadpool is the most successful X-film. Before the first X-Men movie in 2000, there were probably average joes that could pick out Wolverine from a set of pictures, and then the series established Hugh Jackman as a movie star and associated him over and over again with that character. Yet, despite being arguably the biggest celebrity completely established by the current generation of superhero movies (Robert Downey Jr. is bigger but was around for years beforehand), the global grosses for his two Wolverine movies beats Deadpool’s worldwide gross by barely $5m, and it’s not just because one of them sucked.

    If you divide the gross for Deadpool by the National US ticket price average, you’re looking at 92 million tickets sold. When the movie opened, there weren’t 92 million hardcore Deadpool fans. Frankly, I’d be shocked if there had been 1 million genuinely devoted readers. Being a faithful version of the character that pleased Deadpool fans certainly didn’t hurt it, but the reason it was a success has basically nothing to do with them. It’s because Ryan Reynolds went on television and told people it was funny, and they thought he was right. Average people. People who don’t care about comic books or continuity or accuracy or X-Men or any of it.

    Fans are also notoriously wrong and ridiculously afraid of anything they don’t know. The same fans who threw a minor temper tantrum (the kind that I’m almost wistful for now) when Christopher Nolan cast pretty boy Heath Ledger as The Joker now use The Dark Knight as the template every comic book movie should follow. The people who threw a shit fit when Zack Snyder cast Ben Affleck as Batman are now chomping at the bit to get around to the Batman movie he’s directing.

    I love Ghostbusters. Part of loving it is letting it evolve and change. The new one was fun and it’s hard to comprehend the idea of being pissed off that new people like the author here are now excited about the series. And the old one still exists, and will keep on existing.

  • Ben Wasserman

    You guys all realize the new film got mostly good-decent reviews. So in the end this whole freakout between Sony and the fans was for nothing.