About 33 minutes into comedian Bill Burr’s podcast episode with Jason Reitman, the director makes an outlandish statement. Some might even call it hyperbolic, maybe even a bit melodramatic. “We are living, right now, in a time where everyone is judged by one moment. They’re judged by one millisecond and, you know, you say one wrong thing, and the rest of your life is kinda thrown down the drain, and we lose qualified people because of that.”
Following the announcement of an all-female reboot in 2014, the internet went into a frenzy, where anger and frothing debasement ensued. Accusations, harassment, sexism, misogyny and rage-fueled conversations were everywhere on social media. So much so that Sony announced another, all-male reboot in 2015 in the wake of the outrage. Don’t think it was a direct response? Look at the sub-headline for that Deadline announcement: "Guy 'Ghostbusters' in Works With Russo Brothers, Channing Tatum & Drew Pearce."
Because this is the world in which the Ghostbusters conversation exists, and it would be willfully ignorant to pretend otherwise. Surely, both Reitmans know this; Paul Feig—the director of the 2016, all-female reboot—knows this; the stars of that film know this; several original-film stars know this; and the fans on all sides know this, too. A contingency of fans who believe themselves to be the pure loyalists, the ones to whom Ghostbusters belongs, turned a piece of existing cinema into a toxic and fraught situation for everyone—especially for people who made it, were genuinely excited about it or had to cover it in the press. Comments, think pieces and tweets flurried about. Indeed, the discourse around Ghostbusters has been this heated and divided since 2014. So that’s why it sucks to hear Reitman talk about feeling as though he has to return the franchise to someone.
“We are, in every way, trying to go back to the original technique and hand the movie back to the fans,” Jason Reitman said at the end of his chat with Burr. Before that, he’d also stated, “I love this franchise. I grew up watching it; I consider myself the first Ghostbusters fan. I was like 7 years old when that movie came out, and I love it. I want to make a movie for my fellow Ghostbusters fans. So it is 100 percent a love letter.”
It’s about implying that there’s a 'right' and a 'wrong' to be a fan, or way to tell a story. It’s about gatekeeping. It’s about what we condone by how we talk about things.
That’s the subtext of what is being said when contextualized by the world in which Ghostbusters has existed the last few years, and that’s why people are upset. Because “handing it back” is just another way of being a gatekeeper to fandom.
Let’s get one thing straight: This discussion is not about the quality of the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, whether you liked it, or even the idea of reboots in general (a practice that has existed since the dawn of Hollywood). It’s not about the content of the film, or whether or not you felt it was necessary; it’s, honestly, barely even about Ghostbusters at all. It’s about implying that there’s a “right” and a “wrong” to be a fan, or way to tell a story. It’s about gatekeeping. It’s about what we condone by how we talk about things, and what people so often don’t consider: how male rage turns into harassment and violence on- and offline that so often goes ignored.
And it’s about what happens when we allow that rage to dictate culture and the conversation, particularly when it comes at the cost of ignoring the very real harassment and threats of violence and rape that women—be them fans, actors, writers, producers, reporters, social media managers, the list goes on and on—faced simply for being fine with a new version of a movie existing. It’s about the fact that that harassment comes, regardless of the reason. It’s also a tiny bit about who gets harassed for being slightly hyperbolic and speaking emotional truth to their feelings, and who gets high-fived. It’s about resisting the idea of ownership about what made-up stories are and should be when stories change all. the. time, and have for all of history.
By inadvertently or otherwise standing up for those fans—those purists bleating raging vitriol at women online because of a lack of sanctity regarding the gender of those who can busts ghosts or whatever—Reitman validates their anger, rage and harassment. Reitman has recently backpedaled, which we appreciate, and while we don't intend for him to be the sole target of a frustration that is about much more than just his words, I don’t apologize for the sentiment or emotion of my tweets. Call it an outlandish, melodramatic statement if you must, but this is how it feels all the time. We’re tired of being haunted by these fucking ghouls.