Nostalgia, Remakes, and the Female Ghostbusters


While by this time it is rather old news, a little while ago the all-female cast of the new Ghostbusters remake was announced. In the places I frequent online I noticed a very common response — a lot of people seem to absolutely hate it. Many called it pandering, doomed it to fail, or otherwise complained about the “damage” they were doing to a beloved nostalgic film. While the kind of hate it has drawn has a range of implications, I think a lot of it boils down to the simple fact that most people hate change.

When dealing with something people love, or are even just comfortable with, change is often perceived as a threat. Even if the changes produce something just as good, if not better, it is unlikely people will take to it without putting up a fuss. This becomes especially more difficult when nostalgia is thrown into the mix.

From a personal perspective, however, I love what they are doing with the film because of the changes — conceptually, anyway.

Remakes have been a big deal in movies the last 15 years or so. Countless films have been remade, to the point where we are starting to see film series reboots within a decade of each other — the most famous example being the Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man films. A lot of other films have been produced as well specifically adapting recognizable properties from video games, television shows, comic books, and more.

Spider-ManPostersThe film industry has become one that feeds heavily upon nostalgia. This isn’t always a bad things, since I think a lot of great work has been done with the Marvel Cinematic Universe for example. However, it is something that easily draws a lot of ire from fans of the original work. They don’t want to see the subject matter that they love “ruined.”

Over the years I’ve learned to try to approach the remake issue from a different perspective. Firstly, I find it helps to remind yourself that whatever the outcome of the new version, the original still exists and hasn’t changed. A remake is merely an alternative version; an often inferior version, but an alternative nonetheless.

Secondly, for me, the mark of a good remake has become what they do differently with it. Since it is a remake, I know it can’t be too different, but I need it to be different enough. Why? There is literally no point to it happening for me if they don’t. The worst offender for this to me is the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho released in 1998 by Gus Van Sant. If you are simply going to try to replicate the original film, with only new actors and a modern setting (and make it an apparently inferior product at that) why even bother in the first place?

PsychoShotsI want to see the idea done differently, while maintaining the spirit of the original. I found the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake to be a great example of this. There are a similar motifs and themes running through the two, but the remake is a distinct and well-made movie that stands on its own. I give credit where it’s due to the Amazing Spider-Man films for this as well.

Changing the genders of the Ghostbusters cast is a change that fascinates me. It might still end up being sub-par compared to the original, but I like to see that a risk is being taken, especially considering remakes are generally made to avoid risk-taking. The cast being four women changes little, yet a lot at the same time. Gender is a defining factor in our lives that affects who we are as people, and this kind of change can affect the context of the story in ways we may not be considering — so long as the writing is on point. Men and women are equal, but that does not mean we are the same, and it is a key difference I hope to see explored effectively in this remake.

I want to see this remake succeed in all ways, not just because it fascinates me and it looks like a fun idea, but because I hope it sets a precedent that taking risks can be rewarding.


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