How do you make the most disliked YouTube film trailer in history? That is presumably the question that Sony executives have had to ask themselves when the debut trailer for their upcoming Ghostbusters reboot was met with a flurry of negative online comments. As of this writing the first trailer for the new Ghostbusters film has over 888,000 “thumbs downs”, and is currently in the top 100 least liked of all videos on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLirAqAtl_h2o1ism1dr5SbvB8Mf7Ve6Aa), It is also only trailer to feature in that list. A feat that remains all the more impressive when you consider that the film has yet to be released.
So why all the dislike? Scrolling through the comments section, complaints ranged from the quality of the writing, to the editing, and the quality of the visual effects, to questions over whether the entire enterprise should have been done without the participation of the original cast, even though both Dan Akyroyd and Bill Murray have spoken out in support of the project and have even agreed to make an appearance within it. Whilst the comments about the film’s quality can only be proven or disproven by the film’s release, the more pertinent question that reappears within this negative barrage of complaints is whether or not the dislike is motivated by misogyny, from the beginning it has been suggested that a significant amount of the negative attention actually stems from the fact that the the original all-male Ghostbusters have been replaced by an all-female team.
Going through the comments on YouTube, there is definitely a significant minority complaining about the fact that the Ghostbusters are female examples include one commentators statement that “I was so excited about this movie until I saw it was about 4 lesbians total disappointment”. Whilst another states that “there’s a very vocal contingent of angry middle-class women in their mid20s who are fat and have coloured hair that are sexually frustrated and hate men as a result. They tend to live most of their lives online, pretending to game, on tumblr and buzzfeed.” It was comments such as these that Paul Feig, the film’s director, was referring to when in an interview with Catherine Shoard he said that the bigger problem lies with the Internet “which puts a small minority of voices into a sort of bullhorn” (Shoard: 2016). These comments are then repeated by the media, getting amplified in the process, turning the misogynistic comments into the story and helping to create a space for people who agree with these views to further expound on them.
The negativity towards this change is particularly revealing when you consider the reaction to a previous reboot of a 1980s franchise in last year’s Terminator: Genisys, (Taylor, 2015) a film which had negative buzz around it before release and was practically universally derided afterwards. It’s score from the film critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes is 26%, meaning that just over a quarter of critics gave it a positive review. It was given an extremely negative review from TheTerminatorFans, a popular fan site for fans of the series. A review that finishes with the line “This isn’t The Terminator I remember, nor does it whet the appetite so keenly awakened by the dark beginnings of the franchise, (Morgan, 2015). Despite all of this the film still only has 10,000 negative responses to its trailer on YouTube, and that is for a film that has been released for almost exactly a year as of this writing. (Terminator: Genisys was released in the UK on July 2nd 2015). What this shows is that whilst a film’s overall quality can be a feature of the negative approval on YouTube, it would not explain the overwhelming dislike that the new Ghostbusters has faced.
This seems to place the negative responses to the news about the Ghostbusters reboot alongside similar reactionary attacks on what a highly vocal minority of people have perceived as female incursion into geek culture, which is, after all generally regarded as a male dominated subculture. Specifically the Gamergate movement and the widely reported accusations of some female comic-con attendees being accused of being “fake geek girls”, an attitude that puts forward a similar argument as the second of the YouTube comments that was listed earlier, namely that females with geeky interests do it for attention. An attitude which Noah Berlatsky rightly describes as a paranoia “about male insecurity not female duplicity (Berlatsky, 2013).
What I find particularly disheartening about this negativity is the assumption that this is an unnecessary publicity stunt on the part of the filmmakers, particularly when you look at the career of the film’s director Paul Feig, who, over the space of his career has constantly used his work to explore how gender roles are constructed. Most famously in his long standing collaboration with Melissa McCarthy, but also in his web series Other Space a Red Dwarf-esque science-fiction series set in a society where traditional gender barriers have been almost completely broken down. This subject was already the center of a thorough article by Brandon Nowalk at the AV Club, with one of the clearest examples of this being in the opening minutes when a general is seen accompanied by two associates, the male in a skirt and the woman in trousers.
A detail which was not drawn attention to by any other aspect of the show’s construction, and is instead portrayed as completely normal, a sign of how thoroughly gender barriers have been broken down in Feig’s future society. (See image left: still from Other Space, Into the Great Beyond… Beyond (Yahoo Screen, 2015). (Nowalk, 2015).
Perhaps, what we are beginning to see is the beginning of a backlash against Hollywood’s reboot culture, a system which is increasingly churning out new variations of the same thing, (we are, after all, about to receive our third Spider-Man series in 15 years, with next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming). Alternatively the new Ghostbusters film may indeed turn out to be a crushing disappointment with weakly defined characters, a paper-thin plot and worst of all, not very good jokes. But that is something we will only find out when it opens in the UK on July 15th. But even if it were the colossal failure that these detractors clearly want it to be, it would still not justify the outpouring of negativity for what is in essence a project no different from so many other upcoming Hollywood blockbusters, only with the slight twist that the genders have been switched.
Berlatsky, N. ‘Fake Geek Girls’ Paranoia Is About Male Insecurity, Not Female Duplicity, The Atlantic, accessed: 27/06/16, http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/fake-geek-girls-paranoia-is-about-male-insecurity-not-female-duplicity/267402/.
Feig, P. (2015), Other Space, Yahoo Screen. Ghostbusters Trailer, Youtube, accessed: 26/06/16, http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLirAqAtl_h2o1ism1dr5SbvB8Mf7Ve6Aa
Morgan, E. (2015), Terminator: Genisys Review, TheTerminatorFans, accessed 27/06/16, http://www.theterminatorfans.com/terminator-genisys-2015-review/.
Nowalk, B. (2015), Where no show has gone before: The bisexual future of Other Space, The AV Club, accessed 26/06/16, http://www.avclub.com/article/where-no-show-has-gone-bisexual-future-other-space-224492.
Shoard, C. (2016), Ghostbusters trailer is most disliked in YouTube history, The Guardian, accessed: 26/06/16, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/may/02/ghostbusters-trailer-most-disliked-in-youtube-history.
Taylor, A. (2015), Terminator: Genisys, Paramount Pictures.
About the Author
Nick Furze is a PhD candidate and sessional lecturer in the School of Media, Art and Design at Canterbury Christ Church University, he is currently writing a thesis on how history is adapted into film and television.