How to Talk to Your Kids About the Rise of Female-Driven Blockbusters
As you’ve no doubt heard, a second trailer arrived today for the upcoming reboot of Ghostbusters, a movie more controversial than The Last Temptation of Christ, Kids, A Clockwork Orange, and Lolita 2: Mo’ Lita combined. Why? Simple: It’s about women … who fight ghosts. You read that right: They don’t run from the ghosts, or become the ghosts’ sassy BFFs, or point and yell, “Ooooh no, a g-guh-guh-guh-ghoooooooost!” They fight the ghosts, sans men, in a movie that puts women protagonists front and center and drops them directly into the action.
This isn’t an isolated incident: Last summer, Charlize Theron—a woman, mind you—played a ferocious desert warrior in Mad Max: Fury Road, all but stealing the movie from its titular hero. A few months later, Star Wars: The Force Awakens shocked audiences by focusing largely on Rey, a young woman (there’s that word again!) who could fly the Millennium Falcon and spar with a lightsaber. This winter’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story also appears to focus on a female lead, as does next week’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. It’s no longer an epidemic, it’s an epifemic!
Many worried observers have taken their concerns to the Internet, where they’ve engaged in calm, wholly rational back-and-forths on social media about the new Ghostbusters and the troubling semi-surge in female-driven blockbusters. Perhaps your kids have heard these debates and have questions (and concerns) of their own—questions like, “Why are all of these in-control female characters on my screen all of a sudden?” and “Will they ever go away?” and “What do I do if I’m confronted by a nuanced, honest, fully rendered female character?”
Our advice? Hold your young ones close, and calm their nerves with these three talking points:
1) Let them know they’re not alone.
Kids feel safer when they’re part of a crowd, so make sure they understand that many adults share their concerns about the ever-so-slightly escalating number of big-screen female characters. Just two years ago, Mike Fleming Jr—an actual grown-up at an actual grown-up publication—wrote “Film Chauvinist Asks: Do We Want An Estrogen-Powered ‘Ghostbusters?’” to ask what gave Sony “the right to take Ghostbusters from knuckle-dragging Neanderthals like me who have little else going for us but our all-time top 10 or 20 favorite guy movies, and [to allow for] the prospect of a revamp that feels like the original guy version of one of the films on that list? What’s next, a Goodfellas redo with female mobsters pulling off the Lufthansa heist? A Raging Bull redo with Rhonda Rousey?” (Hilarious! But a valid concern, given that Rousey is starring in a Road House remake.)
Meanwhile, of the 32 million-plus viewers who watched the first Ghostbusters trailer on YouTube, more than 800,000 of them downvoted it, making it among the most hated-upon trailers in the site’s history. One film critic so hates the idea of the new Ghostbusters that he’s vowed not to watch it—not because he’s sexist, but because he’s logical: Why would any film writer at a sci-fi-loving, geek-culture-championing, deeply nostalgic site possibly want to watch a movie about ghosts and demons and laser guns that’s being spun off from one of the most popular ’80s franchises ever? (Whatever the reason, rest assured, it has nothing to do with sexism).
See? Your progeny may be afraid, but they’re not alone. When it comes to fearing women-centric films, there’s safety in numbers.
2) Remind them that men still do most of the heavy lifting around Hollywood.
Sure, the last few years have seen the female-driven (or, at least, female-focused) blockbusters like Fifty Shades of Grey, Maleficent, Cinderella, and even franchise titles like The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect, and the Divergent series. Don’t let it get to you, though; when it comes to big franchises, men still rule. Despite the success of the Avengers films—and the Captain America films, and the Iron Man films, and the Thor films—we still don’t have a Black Widow movie in the works (a real threat, given that actress Scarlett Johansson is a bigger box-office success than nearly all of her Marvel-movie castmates). And you’ll notice that despite helping save the world, Wonder Woman didn’t even get a titular shout-out in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In fact, countless ongoing franchises have never included a woman in the lead role, from Transformers to Night at the Museum to Alvin and the Chipmunks. Your kids should feel safe knowing they could watch three hit movies a day for an entire month and never once see a lead female character. Phew!
3) If all else fails, whisper in their little ears: It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie…
Granted, it can be horrifying when a funny (if shaggy) movie made three decades ago is handed over to a bunch of women, even if those women are reliably funny comic performers who have headlined Oscar-nominated movies, and who came up at some of the most respected comedy institutions in the world. But actual women being handed the reins of a major IRL enterprise? That’s just a fantasy, and your children can take comfort knowing that, in the real world, women still earn less than male counterparts, remain underrepresented on the boards of major US corporations, and barely get their own movies made. So while the new Ghostbusters—and its estrogen-energized brethren (sistren?)—may disturb, it’s not like your children risk seeing these women walking off the screen and, I dunno, leading a Fortune 500 company, having a major studio production greenlit, or earning as much as their male co-stars. Ha-ha! Come on, what’s next? Dogs and cats living together?