We’re on our way to see the new Ghostbusters and I’m trying to talk about Big Issues with my stepkids, which you know kids love, especially on super hot days.
“So what do you think about all the man babies making a huge fuss about how recreating the movie with women is destroying their childhood?” I ask neutrally.
“It’s bad?” guesses my stepson, who is eight, and who has an older sister, and who therefore will be stunned to someday realize that women don’t rule the universe.
“Yes, it’s very bad,” I say. My stepdaughter rolls her eyes.
“I don't understand the big deal,” he shrugs, and I wonder if we’ve been doing too much talking about how we want the world to be and what the world should look like, and maybe not enough about the realities of what life is really like outside of our bubble.
Our lovely girl is 10, and she and I have had a date for months to see the new Ghostbusters. (It’s rated PG-13 for scary scenes and some violence, which I felt she could handle.) Then I realized, yeah, of course she needs to see women being strong and awesome and funny and brave, but our boy needs to see it too. She needs to be told you can be anything you want. He needs to be told everything in the world doesn’t belong to him, which is pretty much the opposite of what boys are taught from the day they’re born.
During the movie, I think of what I watched as a kid: Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds and 16 Candles, and how casually and easily sexism and rape and racism were played for laughs. I think of how few movies I’ve seen with women that don’t feature a damn makeover montage, and how many jokes we’ve endured at the expense of women’s weight, and how much bemoaning women have done on screen about their single status. I think of how few movies I’ve seen where women weren’t completely sexualized. All of this sh*t is deftly sidestepped in Ghostbusters and it feels breathtakingly revolutionary.
Is it a fantastic movie? I mean, it’s a movie about ghost busters. But if you want to get a little misty watching your rapt kids delightedly follow along as smart, strong, hilarious female characters kick ass, yeah, it’s fantastic. The kids and my nephew all loved it, but not in the same way I did, of course. They just thought it was a super fun, slightly scary movie, but we try showing them examples of cool women doing cool stuff all the time, and they sure aren’t watching junk like 16 Candles, so it was hardly the game-changing balm it was for me.
There's a powerful moment at the end (spoiler!), after the women have been dismissed and publicly scorned by smarmy politicians and cops despite their amazing feats, where they look out over the skyline at night to see that all of the office buildings' lights spell out "We Love GB." These messages shouting "Don't worry, we believe in you," in lights shining through the darkness was a total gut-punch, and I let out a quick, shocked "WTF I'm crying in Ghostbusters" sob.
The conversation isn't over. On our way home, we talked about everyone’s favourite ghost, and everyone’s favourite character (unanimous: Kate SWOON McKinnon’s) but we also discussed the horrible, racist abuse that Leslie Jones had to deal with on Twitter last week. I want these kids to feel so much hope for what the world can be, but I also need them to know about how much fighting it’ll take to get there, too.
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