In the past year, remakes, reboots, and sequels of past beloved film franchises have made a resurgence. The long awaited sequel to Finding Nemo, adored by movie-goers of all ages, Finding Dory currently stands as the number one top grossing movie of the year. Further, X-Men: The Apocalypse, The Legend of Tarzan, The Jungle Book, and Ride Along 2 have all secured a spot in the top 20 movies of 2016.
Appealing to a broad range in audience, all of these sequels have and continue to gain massive numbers in weekend box office sales. Although typically, major blockbusters ride the success of male lead casts, in recent months, there has been a new surge of female power roles in film.
The most notable, and perhaps the most controversial, is the 2016 remake of the 1984 classic Ghostbusters. Featuring an all-female lead cast, the remake tells the story of a paranormal researcher Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and a physicist Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) trying to prove that ghosts exist in modern society. When mystifying apparitions appear in Manhattan, Gilbert and Yates turn to engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) for help. They further enlist Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a lifelong New Yorker who is privy to the ins-and-outs of the city, to join the Ghostbusters team. Armed with proton packs, the four women prepare for an epic battle as more than 1,000 unscrupulous ghouls descend on Times Square.
On March 3, Ghostbusters fans of all ages set eyes on the first official trailer for the female take on the 1984 mega-blockbuster. Almost immediately, a conglomeration of reactions set out all over the media. The trailer quickly earned the undesirable honor of becoming the most disliked trailer in YouTube history. Ranging from the typical disparaging remarks left on any YouTube video, to the hateful declarations of disapproval, the action-comedy received mixed reviews months prior to its release.
"I imagine there’s some level of misogyny, but...it’s just too easy," said Ghostbusters film producer Ivan Reitman, when asked about the endless malice that greeted the brief two-minute, thirty eight second trailer. "Most of the people who are writing negatively are men in their 40s who saw it when they were 7 or 8 years old...they’re very protective of it."
Director Paul Feig shared his view of the controversy in a somewhat blunt fashion, "I didn’t realize that for certain older guys, the original is the equivalent of a tree house that has a no girls allowed sign on it."
After its release, Ghostbusters 2.0 brought in a whopping $46 million on the first weekend. Although the movie continues to receive mixed reviews, there is no doubt that the purpose of this film goes beyond filling seats in theaters and grossing millions of dollars. The all-female leading cast seems to be a necessity not only in providing some variation in the recent outpouring of remakes, but also in challenging the norms of the film industry.
According to a recent study from Forbes, as of 2015 “Women made up only 1.9% of directors, 11.2% of writers and 18.9% of producers...In productions where women held key positions off-screen—as directors, writers and producers—the films featured women more often, and in less sexualized roles.”
In the past year, the film industry has faced some scrutiny from female actresses who are addressing the gender pay gap. The issue has received more media attention in Hollywood as stars including Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, and Viola Davis have spoken out on the disparity.
The gender pay gap in the film industry and the misrepresentation of women working in film is an issue that has finally garnered some deserved attention from the public as well as from those within the industry. With this, casting an all female-lead major blockbuster is just the beginning of change and progress.
Casting a primarily female-lead movie—especially when those females play heroic, brave, and (in the case of Ghostbusters) comedic characters—paves the way for future emphasis on equality in the film industry. Instead of the helpful sidekick, damsel in distress, or the love interest, women in film are seen as strong and independent individuals regardless of the presence of a male co-star.