Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nostalgia, Ghostbusters and the Movies

If you've been on any movie or entertainment site lately, you probably want to kill yourself because of all this Ghostbusters news. If you haven't been, I'll sum it up in the most non-wrist-slittingly-way possible: Sony, that master of franchises, wants to put out a Ghostbusters movie with an all female cast. The Internet reacted poorly as it always does. I personally just thought it was at least something different from a remake with an all male cast, which would just be contrived as hell, so eh, whatever.

But lo and behold...

I swear it's like they're just trying to spite me now.

It's the nostalgia dollar at work again. People just love stuff from when they were kids now. I'm a 20-something millennial whatever, so I can speak from experience – we all just love remembering the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s. Why? I think it's a product of the Internet, fast moving technology and what it's all doing to our poor, putty-like brains.

With the Internet, time moves faster and people are closer together. We grew up with this Internet thing foisted on us by the over-eager minds of big tech companies. With that came the ability of hindsight to things we couldn't just watch normally without a Youtube or torrents. When people my age were young, we watched shows like everyone used to – you know, on the TV and then we had to use our memories. Nostalgia! Then Youtube came along and Netflix followed and it was all a snowball effect from there – no longer did we have to rely on just thinking about things we were nostalgic about. Now we could relive it and watch it in all its glory!

Now, even though it's not that old, we're reliving that sweet nostalgia like 80 year old men discovering childhood favorite storybooks on a trip back to our childhood home before we die of cancer. I know that sounds sardonic, but really I think it's just a human thing that everyone goes through no matter the age – we all love remembering things from when we were younger. Nostalgia doesn't have a time limit. Everything in our pasts has some kind of rosy border.

The problem came when movie studios dug their pudgy fingers into that proverbial rosy-bordered nostalgic pie. As they are wont to do, they turned it from a sort of charming, somewhat happy new trend - “we can watch all our favorite Nickelodeon cartoons on a tiny screen in our bedrooms!” - into a giant corporate megalith: the remakes and reboots we have all come to loathe more and more every year.

This is always how it goes. They listen to us, they listen to the demand – not out of some kind of love for genuine art and fun, but because they see us as money-spewing machines that will churn out dollar bills at the drop of any new movie about something we used to love. That's the corporate machinery at work. Maybe at some minuscule level someone enjoyed what they were doing, but I dunno, I just get the feeling a lot of these guys have to go visit guys wearing cowboy hats in the middle of the night and get threatened with death if they don't obey what they say:

Unfortunately, this is the way it always goes – something starts off genuine, then the big bucks come in, and it becomes a corporate, controlled version of itself. So I imagine we'll probably get a live action Hey Arnold movie with kids from various teen pop acts and maybe Shailene Woodley or Ansel Elgort thrown in as a consolation prize. Or a Rugrats movie that imitates Baby Geniuses. With dialogue written by low-rent Diablo Codys. Maybe they'll make a Powerpuff Girls movie next and then make a male version of that to appease all demographics! The possibilities!

I also just think it's strange how political pretty much everything has become thanks to the Internet. I mean, people always liked to spout off about politics, and movies have always – always – been powerful tools to espouse certain viewpoints. But with the Internet, we can make anything political now! Now, everything that comes out gets scrutinized to no end and held up or beat down by increasingly polarized, extreme opinions. When the all-women Ghostbusters idea came out, people went nuts – some people were hailing it as a victory for feminism; others just beat the old dead horse of “women can't be funny” with some bitching about "feminists ruining everything" to round out the horribleness...either way, it was a circus. Rinse and repeat with the announcement of the all-male one again.

Can't this just be a fun movie? It's fucking Ghostbusters. It was a silly 1980s comedy with great comedians in the starring roles. Now, it's a big political debate. That's what the Internet does, though – it gives all these people voices and they become so loud, they dwarf the qualities of the films we're arguing about. Movies like Ghostbusters aren't so much about the movies themselves now, so much as they are political tug-o-war talking points for feminists and anti-feminists and who the fuck ever else.

Not to say you shouldn't discuss or argue about things that bother you in these films, but you shouldn't lose perspective either. By all means, talk about feminism in movies and the all-white-male demographic of Hollywood's moneymaking elite, but not everything has to be another hurdle in the battlefield for equality – as important as it is for men and women to be equal and for there to be diversity, I just don't see Ghostbusters as being any part of that equation. I guess some people do though, so...more power to you, I guess?

(Plus, the funniest part of the whole "all male Ghostbusters cast" thing is that people have apparently forgotten that they did two movies already with an all-male Ghostbuster cast...so, whether or not you're happy with an all-male cast in some new movie, it's just hilarious that you'd act like this is some unprecedented thing. I get the idea that eventually, in an Idiocracy-esque way, people are going to forget the original Ghostbusters even existed. They'll keep on arguing about the remakes, but then go "who?" when Bill Murray's or Harold Ramis's names come up.)

I'd be lying if I said I expected greatness from a new Ghostbusters movie in 2015. But that's not even the main point, and neither is the male/female cast debate.

The point is that they're only now making any new Ghostbusters movies, because now, people think everything from their childhood is God. Why didn't they make a Ghostbusters III or spin-offs back in the 90s when the original was still fresh? Because there was no market for it then. There is one now, thanks to the nostalgia craze born from the Internet. Hollywood saw dollar signs and decided they could make money off it. That's the truth. It's commercialized, focus-tested nostalgia and it's how they do everything, from superheroes to remakes of classic horror films to now, classic childhood movies and cartoons. Nothing new under this sun, folks.

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