My daughter is almost eight. She likes princesses and Harry Potter and doll houses and making videos to Taylor Swift songs and she has a few very clear influences and/or heroes. Mal from the Descendents. Hermione. My wife. Me. Her great-grandmother Sadie.
And now I want her to be influenced by the Ghostbusters. The new Ghostbusters, not the version with Murray and Aykroyd. I want her to love the version with women.
As an aside, when I started this post I was unaware of this horrible attack on Leslie Jones, the Ghostbuster with an encyclopedic knowledge of New York history. On behalf of — I don’t know, the internet everywhere? — I apologize. We suck. I wish that after 20 years of regular internet use we’d all be better people. We’re not. We are literally the worst.
But back to girls.
When I was a kid I learned to love science from action movies. I built bombs with an old chemistry set so I could be like American Ninja. I learned “survival” — really just running around in the woods — from Predator. Some of my first programs mimicked the onscreen prompts from WarGames.
I made a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher so I could be like Commando. I was not a smart boy.
Girls watched some of the same movies but, as we are fast learning, they didn’t get the same lessons. While I had a funny/smart Matthew Broderick to look up to, my sister had his girlfriend. Boys had Flight of the Navigator and girls had… Splash? Strawberry Shortcake? Jem and the Holograms?
What I’m saying is that boys were told that science was cool and that it was fun to kill people. Girls weren’t.
To a degree we’re reaping that whirlwind now. But this isn’t about that.
What this is about is why the Ghostbusters reboot exists. It exists in order to show that girls can tell fart jokes, that they can say scientific-sounding stuff and be taken seriously and that they can be cool and funny and useful. All of these should be things we take for granted, things that are obvious to us. And to many, they are obvious.
But culture must remind us. It needs to remind us of this through movies like Ghostbusters. I need to know she could grow up to be a big nerd. Or not. But by having female role models across fields, that choice is hers.
The importance of this movie isn’t in that it’s a reboot of a childhood favorite. It’s in the fact that it puts science and technology front and center in a film about women. Argue all you want about the logic of a reboot (I’ll point you to the awful Superman, Spider-Man and Batman reboots as being equally illogical). Argue all you want about the sexism of casting a hot male receptionist who is ditzy for comedic effect (I’ll point you to every single comedy between 1980 and 2016, but in those cases the receptionist was a woman). Argue all you want about the plot (I’ll cede that point. The plot was pretty rough). This movie was important because it shows girls that they can do what boys do.
I made my own proton pack when I was a kid. It was made of cardboard and a vacuum hose. We ran around sucking up ghosts and fighting demons. My sister didn’t.
Now I hope my daughter builds a proton pack. I hope she runs around with a light saber. I hope she learns to program because a cool girl told her she could.
This movie shows girls that they can run science labs and have fun. It shows them the same things that amazing women like Limor Fried try to embody, the idea that talking about technology doesn’t make you less attractive, less friendly or less interesting. It shows girls an example of the kind of women who run the world and gives them pointers on the way to that goal.
So I want more women-only reboots. I want them to remake Star Trek with an all-female cast. I want the hero of Independence Day to be a woman president. I want all of our childhood favorites to be recast. Or, barring that, I want Hollywood to give my daughter more women she can admire. Because she has a few already, but she needs many, many more.
Culture is not yours. It is ours. We all share it. Things are injected into a culture in hopes of shedding light, in hopes of entertaining us, in hopes of inciting revolution. Culture is formed and reformed endlessly. Things change, the center cannot hold. If that angers you, that’s your problem.
So give me more all-girl Ghostbusters. Send me more Zita the Spacegirl. Bring more women like Ladyada and Ayah Bdeir to my daughter’s school and tell their stories at Girl Scouts in the same breath as stories about Tesla and Edison. My daughter needs to see that technology isn’t a man’s world. I can show her, but she doesn’t always believe me. She needs to see it for herself.
My daughter wants to be an actor. I hope she stars in a reboot of WarGames or Predator. Maybe not American Ninja. I hope she is seen on screen hacking into NORAD and meeting Professor Falken. I hope she averts global thermonuclear war.
And I hope that in the next decade, when she is ready to become an actor, we will have grown up about movies and stopped whining so much. I doubt it, but I can dream.
Busting ghosts and fighting aliens and averting thermonuclear war is everyone’s job. And we need to show the littlest, sweetest and most hopeful ones among us that this is unequivocally and absolutely true in all ways, every day.
They deserve it. We owe it to them. The world is theirs, on loan to us only to improve and pass on.