(. . . Aside from the fact that it’s 100% less rapey than the 1984 flick.)
Vague spoiler warning. I’m not going full detailed review here, but if you don’t want to hear about general plot points, backbutton now or forever hold your peace.
Okay, first of all, the obvious. I had a hell of a lot of fun. I laughed a lot, and I spent a couple hours with characters who were genuinely likable and sympathetic and who I’d love to hang out with. I want to hang out with them more, and I want to see the movie again. I’m sure there are jokes I missed.
Speaking of jokes, the ones about responding to misogynist comments on the internet? They weren’t just throwaway lines shoehorned in to make fun of Redditors, they were completely in line with the story and theme. There was a coherent theme running though that I haven’t really seen people talk about yet: bullying and how to respond to bullying. Reviewers have talked about how it’s the motivation for the villain, but it’s made pretty clear actually most of the main characters have been subjected to bullying. (For Patty and Holtzman it’s not outlined quite as explicitly as for Erin and Abby, but it’s still spelled out pretty well.)
So what you have in a comedy about trapping ghosts with energy weapons is a character study in different ways people respond to bullying:
- Erin Gilbert: After years of being made fun of as “Ghost Girl” for her childhood paranormal experience, she develops a close friendship with a fellow-outcast, but as she grows up tries to fit the accepted mold. She works really really hard to prove herself to those who rejected her. She wants to be seen as legitimate, worthy. She tries kissing ass, but it doesn’t work. And she’s miserable.
- Abby Yates: A fellow outcast and childhood friend, is loyal but goes the “I don’t care what other people think” route instead of trying to prove herself to the bullies. She was clearly really hurt when her best friend decided to distance herself from what they’ve done together.
- Jillian Holtzman: Is pretty much introduced as completely wacky and beyond ever trying to fit in. She comes off as completely confident and comfortable in her own skin, just not trying for approval. The moment of complete awkwardness in the toast suggests, though, that this is a kind of armor put on because of a difficulty in forming connections.
- Patty Tolan: As a dark skinned black woman, she knows she has to defend herself because nobody’s going to do it for her. Frankly, the crowd-surfing scene is another moment of bullying as a comedy beat, and she calls it out. Clearly her great breadth of knowledge goes unacknowledged and disrespected by most. She went for an MTA job because it was steady even if it didn’t utilize her talents, and she knows leaving it is a major risk for her. But, she puts herself out there. She offers her help, her support, her friendship.
- And then there’s Rowan. We don’t need much character development for him, because he’s That Guy. He’s That Guy in full on creep mode. Where his anger and hatred are so palpable that people edge away. The one who internalizes bullying, refuses to acknowledge that anybody else suffers, and wants revenge on the world because nobody hurts like he does, and so he wants to hurt everyone.
They’ve all been shit on. The heroes band together, form a support structure, and try to do good things, even when people lie about them and try to scapegoat them. I want to be friends with them. I have been friends with versions of them. I love these people. They’re my tribe. The bad guy writes his badly cribbed manifesto in someone else’s work and tries to perpetrate mass murder.
Yes, this is very much a Ghostbusters for the 21st century. I like it that way.