Bustin' Makes Me Feel Ditzy
I wrote a bit about the Ghostbusters film at Quartz, but found I had a little more to say. So I thought I'd write about it briefly here. This post is viewable by everyone, so feel free to share if you're so moved.


As everybody knows by now, the MRAs are cranky about the new Ghostbusters film which has (gasp!) female protagonists. More than that, it doesn't have any real male heroes. Upset men, worried for their sons, have toddled around the interent, bemoaning the lack of role models. All the men in the film are evil or (worse!) incompetent! What message does this send to young boys? Think of the children!

This is silliness, of course. If men want to show their sons images of guys being heroic, they can go to just about any other film in the history of the cinema. From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Captain America: Civil War, from Birth of a Nation to Schindler's List with lots of James Bond films along the way, manly men are always being manly and heroic in manly ways. A boy who doesn't know he's supposed to be a hero is a boy who has never seen any film ever, and probably hasn't read a book either.

Which is kind of a problem.

Boys don't have too few heroic role models. They have too many.  Boys are expected to be heroes…and being expected to be a hero can be really dangerous. If you're a boy, and someone threatens you or your loved ones, you're supposed to fight. If someone insults you or your loved ones, you're supposed to fight. You're supposed to be daring and drive with reckless abandon. If there's a war, you're supposed to go off and get shot. Boys have to be gallant, fearless, and heedless of their own safety. That's why men are not only the assailants in most gun crimes, but are the victims in 85% of them. (http://qz.com/720473/gun-crime-victimizes-men-the-most-which-is-also-why-its-so-hard-to-stop/)

But Ghostbusters is different. The main male character in Ghostbusters, Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), is not a hero. He's a big old beefcake ditz. He wears glasses without glass because the lenses got in the way when he wanted to rub his eyes. He works for the Ghostbusters answering phones, but can't even remember the name of the firm. He bumbles and stumbles through the simplest clerical tasks. He's cheerful, but completely incompetent. When he tries to help the Ghostbusters bust ghosts, he gets instantly possessed by the villain. The Ghostbusters have to save him, not the other way around.

If every portrayal of men in film was like Kevin, then yes, that would be a problem. But Kevin isn't conforming to type. On the contrary, he's pushing against male stereotypes. Instead of being hypercompetent and heroic, he's inept and vulnerable.

And,I'd argue, boys need examples of men being inept and vulnerable—and not being punished for it. When Kevin is captured, the Ghostbusters are resigned and somewhat exasperated, but they don't make fun of his masculinity.  His utter foolishness makes them downgrade him as a romantic possibility, but they still like him. In most action films, guys who fail or who are insufficiently manly get humiliated orkilled. Men in sitcoms, like Homer Simpson, are often presented as being emotionally stunted or retrograde, But Kevin doesn't have difficulty expressing feelings; when he wants to be a Ghostbuster, he stands in the street and shouts it out .He's just spacey —and Hemsworth seems to be having the time of his life withthe character, struggling with the phone, rubbing his eyes through his glasses,and generally failing at everything.

It's a fun role because it's one that men don't usually get to take on. Many people have pointed out that Ghostbusters presents expanded possibilities for women.Fewer have noticed that it provides expanded possibilities for men as well.

Tier Benefits
Recent Posts