I find the effect that the Ghostbusters reboot has had on the public quite interesting. When the trailers were released, there was much outcry about "leave the classics alone," which claimed to have nothing to do with the fact that all the leads were women and it was a female-dominated cast. They claimed it had to do with the writing and plot, despite the movie not being out yet. Despite the fact that not many modern reboots or remakes get such outrage before they even release.
Once it came out, it got strong reviews. It has a great rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a solid one on Metacritic. Never mind that its main criticisms were things that the original was praised for, like sub-par special effects and "cheesy" comedy, much of the reaction to one particular character revealed that yes, much of the skepticism and much of the resistance to this movie was largely dependent on its female cast. "Ghostbusters" has indeed encroached on a "classic film" space, but by switching the gender dominance in the cast and having one of the only males be a shallow, utterly flat character, it apparently encroached on some sacred "boys only" clubhouse. And I love it for that.
The comedic moments in this movie do what perhaps great comedy should: point out a truth in our society and culture. These truths can often be found in movies that reflect our culture. I went, finally, with a friend to check out this movie, and I left adoring it for more than just the laughs and the involvement of Melissa McCarthy (who I still see as Sookie). I adore it for its unapologetic jabs at a male-dominated film world.
Kevin, played by Chris Hemsworth, doesn't even appear until well into the movie. He comes in to apply for the secretary position, which is wonderfully ironic given that this position is mostly delegated to females and given to one of the only females in the original movie, and he cannot seem to get anything right. He's ridiculously shallow and not the brightest. He's simply eye-candy. He says ridiculous one-liners like, "You know, aquariums are just submarines for fish," and after drinking and spitting out coffee, "I hate coffee," and he seems to think his sense of hearing has to do with his vision (he covers his eyes when the Ghostbusters tell him not to listen). He shows glimmers of depth, but those quickly fade into his becoming the butt of a joke about his abilities. He endears himself to the group, but not for the fact he's a Ghostbuster. He's just kind of...Kevin. He's never even given a last name.
And this is, frankly, the point. His stupidity and place as the attractive side character, such as when Abby says, "We won't find another one that pretty," and Erin confesses she only wants him hired to have something to look at, is reminiscent of many female portrayals in movies for decades. He has no development, no real role and might as well not be there at all. This is a character that is supposed to make male viewers feel insulted.
When I see criticism by men that bring in the fact that this character was one of the only males and only kept around because he's attractive, and they don't make such comments when a female is used this way, as they overwhelmingly are, I realize the powerful statements that are at the core of this movie. The female leads only discuss men if they are talking about Kevin, and the plot focuses on these strong, smart and funny women and their battle with ghosts to figure out what's bringing them to New York City. They don't need the male superhero character. They figure out this mystery, train and battle all on their own. In fact, Kevin becomes a nuisance when (SPOILER) his body is possessed by the villain and used to further the villain's evil plan.
I wonder if the men offended by this flat character realize the irony here. For years, women have been portrayed in the media as such: eye-candy but ultimately useless and could be done without. They are treated with disdain and exhaustion due to their flaws (such as Kevin is when he fails to answer the phone correctly) but still objectified and flirted with (such as during Kevin's interview when he is asked personal questions and at the end when Erin tells Kevin to "hold my hand longer"). They slip in and out of scenes and have no purpose. Perhaps making men feel this way about a male character could be productive. It may not be the nicest of ways, one may call it an "eye for an eye," but if it works, it works. Why should women have to bring up these issues politely? Men have made no such effort in being outraged over this shallow male character.
Women have tried speaking out about it, and they aren't listened to. Many are told they're overreacting and "playing the victim card." If this gets men to see the problem with female representation in movies and media, by experiencing some of the unfairness themselves, then that's what has to happen for changes to be made. Those men may not agree with such a method, but the indignation and anger they feel proves that this is a real problem with how females appear in the media. Seeing it with one of my friends, we could immediately get the sense that Kevin is supposed to be the typical female character in the movies, thrown into a male-dominated cast as expendable and not really helpful, just pretty. Just the release of the information that it would be an all-female cast attracted a lot of negativity, and people were suddenly convinced the movie would be awful. I even saw blatant comments such as, "Women aren't funny."
This means that sexism in the film industry is alive and well, and that this movie with female leads and no reliance on men apparently was radical enough to attract negativity and preconceived notions. Chris Hemsworth's character sparked some tangible resistance and anger from male audiences. And these grievances were heard, unlike the anger from females over shallow female characters. That's powerful and, past all the comedy, really makes a statement about what and who we value in our movies and, by extension, society.