The new Ghostbusters trailer is here, but where’s the backlash?
One of the most notable thing about the new Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer is what isn’t there: a backlash.
The trailer sets itself up as a sequel to the original Ghostbusters, with most of the action revolving around a little girl (the granddaughter of Harold Ramis’ character Egon Spengler) becoming a ghostbuster. The video was an immediate success, getting over 7.4 million views on YouTube in under 24 hours, with 240,000 likes and only 14,000 dislikes.
This is a stark contrast to the trailer for the 2016 reboot directed by Paul Feig, which suffered a massive backlash. By the first day, the trailer had more dislikes than likes, and those dislikes tallied over 1.5 million by the time the film was released. The usual explanation was that it was a reaction by misogynists against the all-female cast (although, to be fair, a number of publications and people involved did note that this was unlikely to be the only reason).
If misogyny was the main explanation for the hatred suffered by the 2016 Ghostbusters, then it should be repeating here — the public discourse has gotten worse over the last three years instead of better, and misogynists aren’t known for holding back just because it’s a little girl instead of an adult. But no vocal backlash has appeared. This proves that misogyny was not a primary cause for the mass rejection of the 2016 remake.
So why has this new trailer has been embraced by audiences while the 2016 trailer was rejected? One possible reason could be pedigree — the movie is directed by Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, and has the involvement of all of the surviving original main cast. But this explanation doesn’t hold water — the 2016 movie also had the involvement of all of the original film’s surviving main cast, and was produced by Ivan Reitman himself.
If it isn’t pedigree, or the sex of the main character who picks up and uses a proton pack, then what is left is the story being presented.
The Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer presents a story charting a very different direction than any of the previous three films, telling its own narrative in the world created by the 1984 original and drawing comparisons to Stranger Things from several commentators. In contrast, the trailer for the 2016 film presents a rehash of the 1984 original, but with the ghostbusters being women and an emphasis on low-brow humour. One could swap out every scene with one from the 1984 movie, and it would still be the same trailer (but classier).
In retrospect, it isn’t hard to see why audiences rejected the 2016 Ghostbusters right from the trailer while embracing Afterlife, and it wasn’t misogyny. The 2016 Ghostbusters was an unnecessary remake of a beloved film that centred around a gimmick — how could it come across as anything other than a cynical attempt to cash in on nostalgia? And, since the gimmick was a gender-flip, criticism of it was easily mistaken for (or written off as) misogyny, with any real misogyny a result of people jumping on the bandwagon of the backlash instead of driving it forward.
But, even if Ghostbusters: Afterlife is also playing on nostalgia, its trailer offers us a story we haven’t already seen three times before and its use of nostalgia is sincere, giving audiences something they can wholeheartedly embrace.