science, technology & society, travel, reading

Ghosts, nerds and gender equality

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As much as I tried, I found it difficult to escape the debates around the new Ghostbusters movie: that the trailer is bad, that it is another cash-cow, that it will trash a beloved cult classic, and that…hold on to your seats…it has an all-female cast. Yes, I went there!! I brought up the gender card. And continue to bring it I shall. (I have not seen the movie, so do not worry about spoilers.)

I will start with what I did not like about all the madness: that it was an either/or affair. Either you like the movie, or you hate women. Either you dislike the movie, or you are a crazy feminazi. And all this before anyone actually SEEING the bloody movie. Sure, it started more nuanced, but towards the premiere date the nuances were gone. Replaced by the game of who can throw more insults alongside the gender lines. Men felt like they were supposed to like the movie just because it had women in the star roles, and women felt that the movie was disliked because it had women in the star roles. Simplistic? No kidding.

I do not like oversimplifications. They are lazy and dangerous. As I spoke about nuances before, I feel the need to peel some layers of this phenomenon. Well, first there is the issue of the movie´s quality, regardless of the gender of its stars. However to judge the quality, I feel that you need to see a movie, or at least wait for others to see it and comment on it, before proclaiming that a movie is bad. The trailer is just a trailer. Is like judging a book based solely on its covers. One might trust the association and be proven right, or loose a great literary experience because the art editor was half-witted, to pinpoint the two extremes of the spectrum. Moving further, the funky thing is that part of the discussion on the movie´s quality, alongside special effects and witty dialogue, should be its introduction of a new perspective: gender in the nerd culture. How did the movie do that? Did it bring any valuable perspective? No one had time to answer because oh, boy, did that backfire! Background: the nerd culture is THE shit right now. It is cool, hip, happening, trendy or whatever hipster epithet you might want to throw in. It might also have a gender problem according to some gender studies scholars. (Stephens, M. GeoJournal (2013); Massanari, Adrienne. “# Gamergate and The Fappening: How Reddit’s algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures.” New Media & Society (2015)). But, I will not open this black box. I will not talk about gender in the nerd culture.

I am kidding. I will totally talk about it! Because this is point two on the list of nuances here. The nerd culture is the science people culture (Big Bang Theory anyone?). And although it is doing much better now, the science world still has its share of woman-hating Neanderthals. And honestly, even one guy who believes women are dumber than men is one too many. So even when just one guy would come and say that the movie is ruined because the cast is all-female deserves some shaming from the other bros, right?

Well, point three: should other men come forward and criticize the moron(s) with women-hating speeches? Should they go so far as to accept a potentially low-quality movie just to make a display of solidarity? Hm…tough ones. For the first question, the implication of not speaking out against misogyny should not be that it is tacitly accepted. Although it is if you think about it. Anything bad happening under your nose without you doing anything to stop it has your approval. However, if it is well understood in society that misogyny is not condoned I do not think you need to condemn it over and over. It would be like I would expect apologies from my boyfriend any time I read about women being mistreated anywhere in the world. Although I would expect him to react if another guy tells me that all I need to do in life is look pretty. Nuances, nuances. As for rooting for a movie you might not like (in the worst case, because remember, you still did not see it) just to shove it to the women-haters, I would not consider it such a great sacrifice. You know what? You do not need to root for it. Just ignore it. After all: thousands of years of treating women like crap, women still subjected to emotional and physical violence in many parts of the world, etc. Still difficult? Movie means too much for you?

Point four: why? Why is a movie about ghost catching more important than gender equality? Maybe because it is not just about ghost catching and gender equality is not the point here. Or so I have been told. It is a movie where the nerds are the heroes, which does not happen very often. It is a classic movie with great dialogue rebooted to substandard quality but given a gender twist so Big Hollywood could buy themselves some new jets. Everything clear so far. But why women cannot be nerd-heroes? If I am going to see another woman nuclear physicist with perfect make-up on high heels in movies I am going to throw up. Oh, wait. Women can be nerd-heroes: Rey in Star Wars. So, they can be nerd-heroes as long as they are pretty? Any why so many reboots and remakes that destroy classic movies and are obviously made just to squeeze money do not gather half of the negative reaction this movie made? As for gender equality not being the point: it is totally the point. The movie was created around this point, hence the all-female star cast. Yes, this movie had a feminist agenda from the start.

Point five: did the feminist agenda go too far? Well, political correctness can get a bit much (Fox taking down X-men Apocalypse billboards because Mystique was being strangled). Every great cause has its lunatics. But for the Ghostbusters, the feminist lunatics did not even have a chance to blink. A feminist reboot of a nerd culture classic was judged bad before anyone even seeing it. Women haters were not so important because a movie was supposedly badly written. The funny thing is that the movie might be truly, objectively bad, but when a critique starts with “I am not a misogynist, but” it looses the force to convince.




One thought on “Ghosts, nerds and gender equality

  1. Pingback: S02E22: Ghostbusters & gender – cross the streams? – Aufnerden

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