Y’all, I’m worried about the new Ghostbusters movie.
Yesterday was Administrative Professionals Day, a day when we should take the time to express appreciation for the administrative professionals in our lives. In the spirit of that, Sony Pictures Entertainment released this trailer focusing on Kevin (played by Chris Hemsworth), the Ghostbusters’ AP. It’s a pretty funny trailer, showing Kevin as “this big dumb puppy dog/Kevin doll with the insides scooped out.” He’s utterly inept at his job but is very attractive, tries hard, and wants to be a Ghostbuster. Sounds cute, right?
However, as I watched/re-watched the trailer, I started getting worried. Kevin appears to have several scenes in the movie, including helping the group put together a logo, rallying the group together to be Ghostbusters, and driving in on his motorcycle to save the day. The director, Paul Feig, says he was so delighted with Hemsworth’s portrayal that he expanded the role. Leslie Jones, who plays one of the Ghostbusters, says when she watched the movie, she just wanted more Kevin. And on IMDB, Hemsworth gets top billing – even though he’s not supposed to be one of the main characters. Leslie Jones, who’s an actual Ghostbuster, doesn’t even make it above the “See full cast” cut.
In a movie, the main character is supposed to have a character arc. Through the film, they should undergo experiences and meet people that force them to change. Who, in this movie, is going to have a character arc? Is it our four Ghostbusters, who know who they are, and simply want to stop the ghosts from overtaking the city? Or is it Kevin, who starts out as a dumb, happy secretary, gets really involved in their work, and then becomes a Ghostbuster himself, learning that he is more than he thought he was?
It is worrying that a female-centric Ghostbusters would make its one male character the person who gets a character arc. It’s worrying that he would get the funniest lines, the silliest situations, and the most growth. This is nothing against Hemsworth, whom I like not just for his adorable Australian accent and beefcake status but also as an actor with good comedic timing and a decent range. But the purpose of a female-driven Ghostbusters was supposed to be about including women in the world and showing how capable women are. If this movie is supposed to be about empowering women, why does the dude get top billing?
It’s not like Kevin is just calling back to the original secretary, Janine Melnitz, either. In the original movies, Janine’s role is very basic – she answers the phones, makes appointments, complains, gets put down, runs errands, and makes out with a man. She’s not even seen as particularly attractive. She certainly doesn’t get to suit up by the end of the movie or even reorganize the men’s schedule and public image.
Almost always, when there is one female character in a sea of men, she doesn’t get to do much. If she’s the designated Strong Female Character, she’ll mentor the inept male for a while before he suddenly gets better than her and doesn’t need her anymore. If she’s the mother or girlfriend/wife, she’s there to either be captured or fridged (killed) to further the male character’s character arc. The closest example of a lone female character suddenly stealing the show that I can think of is Mako Mori from Pacific Rim – but even then, it’s ultimately Raleigh who saves the day (Rey from the new Star Wars is another example but, as cool as she was, who had the character arc? Who showed the biggest growth? Who got the most applause in the movies? Who had the most lines, biggest laughs, and most memorable scenes?).
I hope that I’m wrong. I hope, as one friend pointed out, maybe the franchise is just pulling an Olaf and making us think Kevin is everywhere when he’s actually not. Maybe this Ghostbusters will actually be a female empowerment movie where the ladies get the best lines, the best action sequences, and the best character development. Maybe. That still begs the question, “If Kevin is just supposed to be the secretary, why does he get a fucking suit?”
* Image taken from http://www.polygon.com/2016/2/3/10904782/chris-hemsworth-ghostbusters