The planned all-female Ghostbusters remake has people (including one Bill Murray) speculating about casts with the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Emma Stone. A cast like this would be "equal" to the original—and could even kickstart a trend of "feminist" reboots. But we could do better than "equal"—a lot better.
At the core of Ghostbusters is a tender strength in the face of unknowable horror. Cavorting with incorporeal nymphomaniacs doesn't deify or aggrandize the characters, or make reassurances to the audience that hey, humanity will always win out over weird cosmic fuckdogs. Our heroes are bitter, burned out—they bicker with their secretary and turn up the music to keep away thoughts of their own futitlity. They save New York not with a bang, but with a "oh wow, we lived! We saved New York! Maybe we'll pay our rent this month!"
It's a story about solidarity and friendship in the face of failure—the sort that steps on churches.
To "remake" Ghostbusters with an all-white, all-heteronormative main cast would, while "equal," demonstrate that you really didn't get the first two films.
If pistol-whipping paranormal nightmares ever blossoms into a viable industry, it will not be congenial white women with book deals who save us all. It will be the same sort of women who do your hair, clean your hotel rooms. Educated, upper class-people are notably, woefully absent in the military—what the hell makes you think they're going to slog through their PhDs to fight monsters?
A quartet of female ghost hunters would be educated and dismissed, pioneers of societal contempt. So instead, I present an idea for a remorselessly all-female Ghostbusters cast—no men, no mercy. When Gozer comes around the mountain, I want to see queer women, women of color, older women, the women I have always counted on, to greet them goodbye.
When we ask the media "please include a person of color who is not entirely defined by their race and is not limited to a service role in the film's universe," we are called naysayers, braying spoiled brats. The media wishes for us to trade in our hopes—we can have one person of color, or maybe one queer woman. Maybe a trans woman, but it definitely cannot be played by an actual trans woman. They have "limits" to the degree of reality they are willing to imitate.
I fantasize without reticence. I dream of a film casted wholly with the sort of women I see in my every day life. I won't dream of compromise, or pine for little scraps of diversity. I want to see films with the women I see every day: science-inclined women of color and super-intense older dykes. And I gently press you all to commit your own act of fearless demand onto the media. By collating our desires, by coming into the room with a briefcase full of intergenerational lesbian sweethearts, we could maybe push back against the media and deliver a more favorable outcome of diversity.
These are specters of my dreamscape—I invite you to chase them, catch them if you can. Or just spread the article around and let the women I mention see that we know their worth.
Jane Lynch as Dr. Petra Venkman
To simply "recast" the male parts, to find a woman who can do a dead-on of Bill Murray's deadpan, dismisses the work of the original cast and ignores the blaring, blatant context of being a woman with an educational background.
To this end, I've whipped up some alternative character backgrounds.
We do what we must because we can.
Dr. Venkman was once highly respected among her peers for not simply burning the school down, with everyone in it. She is a generation removed from her colleagues and partners, an enthusiasm for "the good work we do" tempered by long years of academic and social isolation. She had pointedly predicted the link between PTSD and involuntary clairvoyance over a decade before all these ghosts started running around New York—but back then parapsychology was not a real science, and with every breakthrough her doubters dug their heels a little firmer into their ideas of whether women should do science at all.
She still hasn't finished reading the operating manual for the proton packs. If all else fails you can just throw things at a ghost and trap it in the refrigerator—she's sure she read that in a paper she wrote 15 years ago. The thrill of the hunt masks a resentment at the spirit world for taking so long to validate her work (where were they when she needed them to end the world and help her keep her job?), but a romance with the chosen human vessel of the world's destroyer is helping to reconcile those wounds.
Jasika Nicole as Dr. Ramona Stantz
There was a time and a place for the frumpy white guy to be the face of science—and it has long since passed.
Dr. Stantz's doctoral thesis on the influences of societal systemic discrimination on paranormal activity earned many accolades and even more "um, sorry, we're not hiring right now"-s. By the time she finds a job—as an adjunct faculty, doing the work of two professors for the pay of a TA—she's already finished the first draft of an opera about 17th century Phantasmagoria. She takes a genuine joy in her job, which helps her resist Venkman's tempting suggestions to use their equipment on customers who "mistake her for being the team's maid.""
Though not religious, Ramona frequently attends church services in numerous faiths, to help understand people's existential angst about the unknown and to better serve the community. She also hopes to start a family someday, and potluck dinners seem as good a place to start as any. It also gives her a way to use up all the jars of melted Stay Puft Marshmallow Man she has been lining the shelves of her kitchen with.
Aubrey Plaza as Dr. Regan Spengler
Spengler is banned from at least three local haunted houses for trying to coach the performers on how to better emulate actual ghosts. When she was 15, she built a HAM radio that intercepted transmisions from the other side. It was mostly baseball highlights. But from the future! Believing her a sabermetrics prodigy, her parents used her predictions to place bets, for their own amusement at first. By the time they learned she thought the "strike zone" was an actual place on a baseball field, they had already paid her way through a PhD.
Though the inventor of the storage containment that houses the ghosts the team catches, she is allowed only minimal contact with it by the others. The Twitter account she set up to post random photos and snippets of conversation among the raging phantasms will be regarded as the greatest piece of "e-performance art" in the modern era—and the central conversational focus of many a therapy session.
Mindy Kaling as Janine
Janine left home one day with a wrong address and a dream of interning for a prestigious fashion magazine. Now she sits in a room by herself, idly sketching boat neck dresses to the tune of people screaming in terror about what the hell is in the pantry, and can she take it away? It's pretty much the best. Much of the Ghostbusters budget is used to redesign the uniforms every few weeks or so—this has helped make the business a viral fixture of the New York blogosphere. Her only regret is that she wasn't able to get the #YourLoveLifeDescribedByAHorrifyingGhostYouSaw hashtag off the ground.
Laverne Cox as Winona Zeddemore
Winona sang in the choir and taught Sunday School. She did the wives' hair on Sundays. Still the suspicion lingered. There was a plan, a place for her—but it was somewhere else. She came to New York, expecting to lose herself to the invisibility of the metropolis, to do the sort of personal work that needed doing in cover of urban anonymity. Instead, she found need, and a lot of people in it. When she came across the "Help Wanted" Craigslist posting, she felt she had found her purpose—to care for and protect. Good thing she got the job! And a gun that knocks out ghosts.
Gillian Anderson as Wendy Peck
Though herself a skeptic on the subject, several of the Republican politicians who thought they could privatize commercial waste oversight in Wendy Peck's jurisdiction would go on to swear that they'd seen their life flash before their eyes when she'd handed them the warrant from the EPA. Three doctorates in parapsychology against her doctorate in Environmental Science seems almost a fair fight to her.
Rosario Dawson as Dana Barrett
Dana was prepared for other musicians to dismiss her classical chops on account of her race. She was prepared for people to gently suggest that the monsters keeping her up at night were really just the stress of being first chair—she was young, she "wasn't of this world," maybe she should take a step back. She was not prepared for an older woman waiting for her after practice, asking about the ghost in her refrigerator, and offering to talk about it over dinner. No one expects that shit. But maybe that's why this is working?
Ellen Page as Talula Tully
She was a dog and then there was a battle of lights on a rooftop and now the city is flooded with marshmallows. I know, right, it does sound like the lyrics of those milquetoast indie bands she moved to New York to be closer to, but she's lived it, at the intersection of "cosmic horror" and "scruffy architecture major's poetic imagination." It makes up for not being an accountant. Is ectoplasm vegan?