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Ghostbusters: Is the movie haunted by the past?

The decision to keep the only black Ghostbuster as a non-scientist has inspired criticism.

MOVIE NOSTALGIA MEANT we got new sequels to Jurassic Park, Terminator, Star Wars and Mad Max last year – and plans had been in the works to do a Ghostbusters 3.

But after the death of Harold Ramis and Bill Murray’s refusal to sign on, the studio opted for a reboot. Instead of just remaking the original they decided to do it with a twist: an all-female cast.

Paul Feig, who directs the reboot, is known for movies with strong leading ladies such as Bridesmaids, Spy, and The Heat. He brought back Melissa McCarthy and Kirsten Wiig alongside SNL regulars Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to star in the newest Ghostbusters.

The movie has received negative feedback from many for being a reboot starring all women, with online commenters saying the film was ‘pandering’ and ruining the original.

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“The character was gone”

The film has also received criticism for the fact that it throws back to the past in a different way.

There was a backlash against the decision to make the only black main character, played by Leslie Jones, a mass transit worker, while all the other main characters are scientists.

In the original film, Ernie Hudson plays Winston Zeddemore, a random guy who responds to a help-wanted advertisement to become the fourth Ghostbuster.

According to Hudson, the character of Winston was very different in the beginning. In his piece for Entertainment Weekly he said:

When I originally got the script, the character of Winston was amazing and I thought it would be career-changing. The character came in right at the very beginning of the movie and had an elaborate background: he was an Air Force major something, a demolitions guy. It was great.

But when he got the new script the night before filming, he was shocked.

The character was gone. Instead of coming in at the very beginning of the movie, like page 8, the character came in on page 68 after the Ghostbusters were established. His elaborate background was all gone, replaced by me walking in and saying, “If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.” So that was pretty devastating.

The Winston character was left out of the movie poster and the trailer.

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Repeating past mistakes?

The reboot retains the character format. Jones’ character appears midway through the film and is characterised as being the street-smart every(wo)man.

The Guardian said:

More puzzling is why they’ve retained the original’s (movie’s) mistake, which was relegating the one African-American ghostbuster to a lesser role. Leslie Jones gets more screen time than poor Ernie Hudson did, but her character – the sassy black woman trying to keep up with the more educated white women – certainly feels like something from the 80s, but not in a good way.

Variety writes:

Though Jones gets some of the film’s most memorable lines, her character channels a shameful racial stereotype — one that traces back to the days of blackface when it amused audiences to see African-American characters spook easily, bugging their eyes and running for their lives whenever confronted with a ghost.

Jones has responded to the criticism, asking “why can’t a regular person be a Ghostbuster?”

Jones said “I’m playing a hardworking woman. The regular one that rep (sic) the people. You guys are the racists by labeling her as a lowly MTA worker. Not me”.

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Haters

Jones has been forced to deal with the brunt of the backlash against the film, and recently fought back against commenters on Twitter, calling them racist and sexist.

Jones also seemed to have a problem getting a dress for the premiere and tweeted that no designers had offered to dress her.

Christian Siriano responded to the Tweet and created a bright red, off-the-shoulder gown for Jones to wear.

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In spite of the scandals surrounding Ghostbusters, critical consensus seems to be that the film is good, with mostly positive reviews.

Read: Reviews of Ghostbusters are flowing in – how is the internet handling the fact that they’re not that bad?

Read: Ghostbusters backlash reflects sexism problem in Hollywood 

About the author:

Elizabeth O'Malley

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