Bad Female Characters

Recently a friend on Facebook asked for opinions of the rumored reboot of Ghostbusters which is supposed to feature a female cast. My answer ended up growing too long for a Facebook reply, but I have been thinking about the question since.

Yes, it absolutely could work, but it probably won’t work.

Why?  Because it’s doubtful that Hollywood will allow a film to proceed with bad female characters.

I don’t mean characters who are poorly written, and I don’t mean characters who are poor portrayals of women.  What I mean is characters who are female and also bad people.

A big part of what made Ghostbusters so funny was that the men themselves were not heroes.  In fact, they were pretty much jerks.

Venkman was a conman who had seized on academia as a way of avoiding getting a real job, and used his influence as a professor to engage in (at the very least) unprofessional relations with young women.

Stantz was socially inept and easily pushed around.  He was also spectacularly impractical and clearly far from the brightest bulb in the marquee.

Spengler was basically high functioning autistic. Brilliant in his narrow scientific specialty, he wasn’t terribly adept at dealing with people, or even noticing that they exist.

Zeddmore was a likable enough guy, just a regular Joe, but in his first scene he admits that he’s willing to pretend to believe in anything for money, which hints at a certain ethical flexibility.

Could these characters be played by female actors?  Absolutely.  The question is, would they be allowed to? Sadly, I fear the answer is no.

To avoid complaints of sexism, I fear that Venkman would be made into a failed idealist, and Stantz would become a shy charmer.  Spengler might survive mostly intact, but would probably be given some hip, cool mannerisms that the original would never have had. Zeddmore could be played by a Hollywood actress, but then, Zeddmore wasn’t allowed to be a real jerk in the original, either, because he was the token Black.

In short, I feel that a reboot with female characters under current Hollywood management would Nerf the acerbic unpleasantness of the 1984 cast, and in so doing would lose much of the power of the original film.

This, in my opinion, is the real sexism, and racism, and homophobia.  Because when you don’t allow someone to be bad because of that character’s gender or race or sexual orientation you are not allowing that character to be fully human.

My roommate has been binge watching Criminal Minds and while I haven’t been watching the episodes, I have been listening to them from my office.  A few days back there was an episode that featured a female serial killer.  Much of the episode dealt with the killer’s backstory and it was revealed that she had been raped and her story not believed and that is why she killed.  In other words–she was really just a victim and men were the real bad guys.

What is that really saying?  That women don’t have the force of will to be evil? That in order to be terrifying a woman needs a man?

Screw that.  To be human is to have the choice between good and evil, and the power to become hero or monster by an act of will.  Are men who prey on women shown to be victims of bad mothering or cruel exes?  I think not.

It isn’t inclusion to show certain genetic makeups always in a positive light, it’s pandering.

I would love to see a reboot of Ghostbusters with a female cast.  I think it could be a very funny movie, every bit as good as the original, but only if the new Venkman, Stantz, Spengler, and Zeddmore were played as well as the originals, not unlikely heroes so much as total scoundrels who got on the wrong bus.


About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle.
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing, Who I am and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Bad Female Characters

  1. I wonder if they’re even going to keep the original character names. If they switch that then they could end up rewriting the personalities too and turn into something that is Ghostbusters only in title. Maybe Slimer too. I just don’t know how you can remake something like this with so many iconic lines, scenes, and characters.

    As for the bad characters part, I agree and slightly disagree. I don’t think these characters would be made as ‘bad’ as the originals and a major part of that would be the gender. Yet, there seems to be a slow rise in ‘bad’ female characters like in Bad Teacher and nearly every Melissa McCarthy movie for some reason. Unless I don’t fully understand what you mean by ‘bad’.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I’ll admit that I’m out of the loop as far as non-genre movies are concerned–I haven’t seen “Bad Teacher” and I have no idea who Melissa McCarthy is. So it could be that you’re right about that. In the films that I have seen, though, Hollywood doesn’t seem willing to let female characters be genuinely evil without some man behind it.

      • Melissa McCarthy is probably going to be in the female Ghostbusters. She’s actually in an upcoming movie opposite Bill Murray. The last year or two has seen a rise in evil or bad women, especially in comedies.

      • Kurobana says:

        Melissa McCarthy is so funny! If you don’t know her, you should watch “The Heat” with her and Sandra Bullock. Both of their characters are flawed, but I agree, they’re not really “bad people” because even Melissa McCarthy’s character is being extremely hard on people in the name of justice. There’s not really that much moral ambiguity in her reasons for doing what she does, just in the way that she does it.

      • MishaBurnett says:

        I tend to avoid comedies in general because my sense of humor is very different than most people’s. But I do recall seeing previews for “The Heat” and being intrigued.

  2. Very interesting, and an excellent point. A few nights ago I was telling my friend about a story idea I had, where you would write the entire book using unisex names, and then at the very end go back and flip a coin for each character to figure out which gender they were. I think that would come up with some very interesting characters, since they would have been developed entirely without consideration to gender. Maybe the Ghostbusters reboot needs to get into that mindset … although you’re right, I don’t think it would fly in Hollywood at this point in time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.