The New Ghostbusters and What it Means for My Children

I got lucky this weekend. My parents came up to take my kids out, so Andy and I were able to see the Ghostbusters reboot on its opening weekend. Considering how controversial this became, and how I crave to see movies with female leads saving the world, it pretty much felt like a social obligation to see it. I was also scared it would flop, that it would be bad. However, I can say I genuinely enjoyed it. What’s more, the theater was packed (this was an early afternoon showing, too), the audience seemed to be enjoying it, it got a lot of laughs, and as we were leaving I overheard several other people talk about how they really liked it.

At 5 and 2, my children are too young to see it (for a parent’s guide, see here. I will also note there was a mother with two little girls behind us, and both of them were terrified. I’d say 8 and over, otherwise leave the kiddos at home). But it makes me so excited to think that they will grow up watching movies with more female characters doing interesting things and showing more than two ways to be a woman.

I have one sibling, a sister. Growing up, unless the show was specifically targeted for girls, we often ran into the only two female characters to choose from problem. By chose from, I mean that when we decided to role play as characters based off a show we liked, if we wanted to play a girl, we had only two characters to choose from. With the original Ghostbusters, we could be the Sigourney Weaver love interest or the secretary. In a lot of the 80s kids shows we were raised with, w fell into the either being Miss Piggy or Skeeter character type, the snobby girly girl or the athletic tom boy. We could be Counselor Troi or Dr. Crusher. We could be Princes Leia or…well, we drew from the novels and played Mara Jade.

These roles were limiting, and I’ve noticed girls handle this in one of two ways, they either gravitate towards the more interesting male characters, or they create their own stories with their own more interesting female characters. My sister and I did the latter. Both of us strongly identified as female and wanted to play female characters. Neither of us had any interest in being a man, or even pretending to be one. So we would create our own worlds populated by many different female characters to choose from. We even created a world based on Star Wars but with equal gender representation as teenagers and wrote stories about it together.

I’ve written a bit about how exciting The Force Awakens was for me. But now with a reboot of Ghostbusters staring four women, two of whom are also not sticks (points for body type diversity), on top of movies such as Frozen and The Hunger Games, and I feel like I’m being spoiled with all of the amazing stories that are now being told about heroic women now. What’s sad is we still don’t have true gender representation in films! But when I think about how Sissy, instead of having to choose between one or two women in a show to imitate, can choose between four! If she decides to role play, she can be Abby or Patty or Holtz or Erin. Or Rey or Leia or Maz Kanata or Captain Phasma. Or Katniss or Prim or Rue or Johanna or Effie. Sissy will have a wider variety of characters to choose from. It’s no longer just the prissy girl and the tom boy.

I also get excited that Buddy will have movies like this. I think it’s good for Buddy to see women as interesting, capable people with fleshed out interests that might not include men. For the record, Buddy is a huge Frozen  fan and his favorite character? Elsa! I want Buddy to see women as people and worthy of respect, and having movies and media that show women as something other than a love interest is a good way to do that.

But I do have to admit, it’s when i think about how Sissy will have shows and books that feature amazing women that I really get misty eyed. She won’t even be subjected to the tired plots that focus on yes, girls can do anything the boys can do (the Ghostbusters reboot completely did not go there, it was just taken for granted that women could be scientists, historians, engineers, and ghostbusters). My generation was the generation of stories of women proving they could be just as good as the men. There is a shift now, with stories that take that premise for granted. It’s not something to fight over anymore. So now the focus is on getting a truer gender ratio (women are half of the population after all) and showing them as having interests and a life outside of their relationship with men.

Gjostbusters delivers. And I can’t wait till my kiddos get old enough to share it with them.

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