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Will the Ghostbusters remake herald greater representation of women in film?

ByMolly Millar

Oct 23, 2014
Image: http://img2.timeinc.net

The prospect of a new installation in the Ghostbusters franchise has been thrown around for a long time, and this month it was finally announced, with the prospect of it having an all-female cast.

When the world of film is still largely dominated by men, this is a highly exciting idea. If anything, the fact that this casting is notable at all points to the fact that the female representation in film is still frustratingly pitiful.

Set to direct the new Ghostbusters is Paul Feig, the man behind 2011’s Bridesmaids and 2013’s The Heat, two comedies known for their female driven casts.

The success of these films and the buzz around this new reboot indicates a potential increase in roles for women, particularly in the comedy genre, but there is still a worrying lack of good female representation in film.

In 2012 only 28 per cent of speaking roles in hit US films were women, a woefully low statistic that needs to be corrected.

With this all-female reboot of Ghostbusters comes the opportunity to wonder at what other classic  films or traditionally male-driven genres could be revitalised by the addition of a cast of women.

Despite the obvious fact that in reality women’s lives are incredibly diverse and varied, female characters are still all too often condemned to the role of love interest or onlooker while male protagonists drive the story forward.

When a film full of male characters is released, this is the norm, but when a film focuses on a female character or, God forbid, a cast made up of mostly women, it risks being labelled with the condescending and belittling stamp of “chick flick”.

The roles for women in supposedly masculine genres such as action movies are frequently unexciting and forgettable, in many instances serving as a romantic prospect; their love a “reward” for the male protagonist after his journey comes to an end.

A film could be set in space, a hundred years in the future, or on another planet, and in too many instances you could still predict the small, bland roles of the female characters. This doesn’t convince anyone of women’s inability to carry a plot, it only highlights a profound lack of imagination on part of the filmmaker.

But women are so much more complex and interesting than this. Imagine, for example, an all female Godfather, taking a classic and revamping it in a innovative way. Probably any male centred movie you can think of could be filled with a cast of characters differing from the norm of white middle class males and this would only make it more interesting.

An Oceans Eleven style heist movie that focused on a group of female criminals, for example, or a war film focusing on women’s efforts as opposed to the endless line of stories of male soldiers. A superhero blockbuster with a non-sexualised female superhero could add a new twist to a familiar and often derivative formula.

Action movies in particular are notorious for featuring women as primarily victims, which makes films such as Kill Bill which involve the reversal of this trope all the more refreshing and exciting. Giving women the reins to their own films – both in front of and behind the camera – as much as possible would be a great stepping stone to ensure more equality in representation.

It’s important, however, for a film such as this upcoming reboot to not rely on the gimmick of a female led cast.

The notion of a female cast shouldn’t be the hook, but an incidental aspect of a great movie.

More than merely switching the gender of characters and calling it a day, there should be more effort to write entertaining and three dimensional roles for women which involve more than standing around looking attractive and needing a saviour.

Women deserve a higher standard of representation in film. Ideally, strong, diverse roles for women would be so commonplace as to be unremarkable.

While this film is a step in the right direction, it’s time for the industry to hold back on the vast, inescapable numbers of films filled with the same male actors and archetypes.

Hopefully this will be an opportunity for women to bust not only ghosts, but stereotypes.

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