Sorry “Ghostbros,” but you can’t have this both ways.
We live in a world where there’s a certain kind of default that’s so ingrained in us it takes some work to root out. That default is white, male, straight, or some combination of these traits. Critics can rant about the dangers of “identity politics” all they want, but the truth is—at least for now—Hollywood sees these as not just safe bets but as the basic. And those outside the scope who aren’t represented, just have to accept it. In fact, we’ve been subconsciously training for this our whole lives; grafting bits of ourselves onto characters who don’t look like us, delighting at the little nuggets that dig deeper.
Which is why the gamergate threats of rebooting female comedies to give us a taste of our own medicine is so off-point. As I’ve written before, stories about women, people of color, LGBTQ people, etc. are naturally imbued with another layer of storytelling. Historically comedies with mostly female cast members are about characters in specifically gendered situations. “9 to 5”; “Clueless”; “Mean Girls”; “Legally Blonde” all exist because the protagonists are female, and dealing comedically with how that affects their world. You can lift these stories and gender-swap them (You could argue that’s what “Horrible Bosses” did with Charlie Day’s storyline) but it would remove the foundation of the gender dynamics from the story.
Male stories, on the other hand, not so much. The stories are built to be “universal” even if they aren’t actually trying to represent anyone. There’s no gendered byproduct to an all-male ghostbusting team. It’s inherently designed not to be; it’s just the default.
Trust us: the feminine form of ‘ghostbuster’ is ‘ghostbuster’.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) July 15, 2016
So as “Ghostbusters” (2016) continues to rake in cash and goodwill, let some men stew in threats about gender-flipping their own reboots. Frankly I’d love to see you try. By design it won’t be as easy—though, they’ll probably have an easier time with studio heads.