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Spoilers ahead! You’ve been warned!!
Here’s a conversation I’ve had with my 7 year old daughter hundreds of times now:
Me: What character was your favorite?
Her: The girl.
As the credits starting rolling on Ghostbusters though, my daughter jumped up out of her seat clapping and squealed, “I DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE IS MY FAVORITE!!”
I take my kids to the movies with some frequency. Not because I’m a film aficionado—though I’ve always been a theatre/acting nerd—but because we don’t have air conditioning. I’m convinced this is the impetus behind the whole summer blockbuster phenomenon. Parents, weary from school-free days and long weekends at the beach, just need a dark hole and glowing screen to occupy their kids for two blessed hours of no arguing, no poking, no sandwich making, or boo-boo tending. Thank you Regal Cinemas, you’re a life saver.
My kids are seven and nine. They’ve never seen the original Ghostbusters. They weren’t aware that this was a remake. When I asked if they wanted to see it, they agreed on the merit of the trailer alone, and on the condition I would get them candy at the theater.
For me, there was a little more baggage. Not that I cared much about the original movies. I was three when the first movie came out, so I only ever saw them as the Saturday afternoon movie on television or perhaps as a pick from our dusty collection of VHS tapes. I didn’t think they were bad or anything. Just dumb movies full of goofy guys busting ghosts and charming the pretty ladies. Pretty standard fare for the day, really. I wonder if anyone ever asked kid-version me who my favorite character was. Maybe I would have shrugged, “Eh, the girl.”
But thanks to the internet wrath unleashed upon the trailer, I actually felt some trepidation taking the kids. Would there be hecklers in the theater? I expected hecklers. Would the special effects be lame? Would the jokes be unfunny? Would it be a chick movie? Would there be a stupid romance? Would it pass the “good movie” test of both my daughter and my son?
Turns out both kids enjoyed it just the same, though I think the experience was probably a little sweeter for my girl—and I’m sure she wouldn’t be able to articulate why. For the first time, we see a group of women doing something weird and super nerdy, and cool, and they’re not even trying to be sexy. They did funny dances. They made goofy faces. There were fart jokes, but no fat jokes. They picked on each other because it was funny, not catty. No one had a story arc that revolved around getting the guy. They blew stuff up. They ran from ghosts. They got slimed. They ordered food to eat like people instead of picking at pints of ice cream. They jumped in and saved each other without hesitation. They were smart, savvy, and funny.
And all of that is subversive.
About halfway through the scene where Kate McKinnon is somersaulting through an big action-sequence shoot-out with the the spectres overtaking Manhattan, I glanced over to see Freyja’s face locked in a grin, her small hands gripping the arm-rests, ready to lift herself up off the seat. I want to hope that she doesn’t grow up thinking that her single connection to the arts and to culture is the girl in the film. I couldn’t think of an 80s or 90s equivalent in my youth—where the women are just people in the movie, not dolled up for posters, less like characters are more like scenery. I got choked up in the moment—for real! I had feelings! At a Ghostbuster’s movie! I felt for my own inner 7 year old girl, who was nerdy and funny and loved weird stuff. I would have really, really enjoyed this movie when I was a kid. I would have started planning my own Ghostbuster Halloween costume as soon as I left the theater—just like my daughter did.
And the boy’s verdict? Yeah, it was pretty good! He told me, then added without a second thought, I bet Dad would like it. All be damned. It turns out normal women can just be normal for boys also. My little human experiments prove it!
After the movie, we stopped at the Target store in the mall to get ice cream sundae fixings. Then as we were walking past the theater again, Freyja stopped at the Ghostbusters poster. She pointed out every character, lingering over them for a moment. It occurred to me that this would be a beautiful problem for her to have more often: impossible to pick a favorite.