Today the trailer for Disney’s remake of Beauty and the Beast came out. And men on YouTube (Exhibit A, Exhibit B) continue to say they won’t see the upcoming remake of Ghostbusters. I think I can identify why a Beauty and the Beast remake seems less necessary than a Ghostbusters remake with leading female protagonists, while also addressing when a remake actually is necessary–and why I am going to see Ghostbusters when it comes out in theaters.
I was lucky enough to get to work with my colleague Emily Lauer on a conference session on failed adaptations from page to screen. And I keep talking about adaptations, largely from comics to TV and film, in ongoing reviews from DC Comics TV shows or My Hero Academia.
And I still have not talked about adapting content, not from page to screen, but from, well, screen to screen: remaking older films.
Two upcoming films that are remakes, Beauty and the Beast and Ghostbusters, have had their trailers come out. I’m not at all interested in seeing the former, and I realize far too late I have to see the latter.
I’m not trying to be idealistic and ignore the actual reasons why Disney wants to remake its 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast (it’s about more money, it’s about getting newer audiences to see a film rather than some old 2D animated film). But in terms of narrative and textual analysis, remakes tend to work best when they function as a way to fix obvious errors in the previous film. I’m hard-pressed to find obvious errors in the 1991 Disney animated film, in terms of plot, characterization, and cinematography, that warrants a remake.
I’m bothered as well that the main “error” that Disney would attribute is that it is not live action but animated–as if animation is itself is not as valid an artform as live action (an obvious lie), and as if the techniques used in live action do not include extensive animation (the recent live-action Disney adaptations of Cinderella and The Jungle Book).
Finally, when discussing issues of remaking and re-adapting a work, there is the upcoming Ghostbusters remake–and the sexism directed at that film. The analysis I read and hear (thanks to numerous men coming out with as many YouTube videos as they can) tend to identify problems they have with the jokes–without actually quoting the jokes to analyze them–or even the remix to the iconic theme–as if no other well-done remake did not also have a remix of its iconic theme, sometimes even (GASP!) managing to make the remix of the theme song passable to excellent. (If the best argument you have against seeing Ghostbusters is because of the music in the trailer, I think most reasonable reviewers are going to dismiss your excuse pretty easily.)
I fail to see why this Ghostbusters remake, however bad it looks, is the straw that is breaking the back of so many reviewers who say they will refuse to see this film. Really? This is the film that irritates you? Not remaking Point Break with a new cast, when you could have Keanu Reeves still playing Johnny Utah because the man never ages? Not remaking Batman or Spider-Man’s origin story yet again in the same decade when two-year-olds have that origin story memorized already? Not how remakes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teen Titans reduce previously likeable characters in familial units into unlikeable, bickering, even amoral buffoons? This is what ticks you off, getting a Ghostbusters remake you wanted for so long, then whining that it has female leads?
I don’t go out to see films that often, so as much as I enjoy Ghostbusters and can cite knowledge from the original film to the cartoons to the comic book continuation, I had no intention of seeing the film: aside from Melissa McCarthy, I’m not a huge fan of any of the actors.
The fact that the film itself actually looks frightening, however, with decent CGI and eye-catching designs to the ghosts, has attracted my attention and makes me more optimistic that it can be stylish and unique visually, even if the comedy has yet to appeal to me.
I’m also not a fan of the kind of awkward comedy shown in the trailer, such as Chris Hemsworth’s Jaws joke that is left hanging so we can laugh at how awkward is his character, and with Leslie Jones’s character slowly exiting the concert with tired gags of stunned silence and (I hope soon to be outdated) selfie culture.
Granted, I was born without a sense of humor–tragic–so what do I know about comedy?
Such awkward comedy is also a staple of Paul Feig and emerging from what is not simply a trend nowadays but a staple of comedy as cemented by the United States version of The Office (another remake that didn’t infuriate so many people!). That comedy still works in other films with Feige’s creative input, such as The Peanuts Movie–and that is because Charles Shultz also set up a lot of the comedic rules around awkward comedy.
If you don’t like awkward comedies, sure, that’s a reasonable complaint about the film, yet I fail to see how that tone is enough to lambast a film as the worst production ever. Online criticism breeds extreme views: everything has to be the best thing ever or the worst abomination of my childhood. Nuance does not get to thrive.
Yet none of these are reasons that absolutely make me boycott a film. It is a challenge, after stripping away the various excuses given not to see the remake–it is pointless, it is a cash-grab, the jokes aren’t funny, the music is what I remember, the special effects look bad–without presenting clearer evidence and clearer logical inferences emerging from those claims, I am left with the one difference this film has from the previous Ghostbusters films, and that is the gender of the lead characters. That one key difference is why, correctly or not, accusations of sexism and misogyny have been made against those critics, so it’s left to those critics to provide a better explanation why this film and not so many other re-makes leads to a boycott.
It doesn’t help when an argument fails so absolutely that a person is left with citing imaginary gender differences out of caveman “dawn of time” thinking to prop up their weak claims and foolish dismissal of a film without seeing it–and actually arguing women are naturally risk-averse and wouldn’t start a ghosthunting business.
Yes, someone somehow linked “Cavemen did things this way!” and “Women can’t be Ghostbusters!” in the same thought.
No. That’s just a dumb argument.
The only time “cavemen” and “ghosthunting” should be used in the same string of sentences is, “You know what would be a cool story idea? Ghost-hunting cave people! Greenlight that film, now!”
Such foolishness, ignoring temporal context to apply prehistoric thinking to the year 2016, then following it up with gender-shaming and sexuality-shaming the director Paul Feig, can be dismissed immediately by any reason seeing the inherent lie to such sexism and homophobia.
(Also, in that linked video, the person misreads Black Widow versus Hawkeye in The Avengers badly. *Cough*Read my article*cough.)
But it’s hardly fair for me to criticize. I think I am a pretty stupid man and a pathetic scholar in gender studies if I sit out of this film and don’t see it myself to assess it on my own.
So, I’m going to see Ghostbusters: I can see that film addressing a flaw in the original film, that being a lack of leading female protagonists in overall mainstream cinema.
But I’m probably not going to see Beauty and the Beast, since I don’t see how making something live action is enough to fix some perceived flaw in the previous Disney interpretation of that film.