Ghost-busted? How Sony sunk their summer blockbuster in more ways than one

(Published in The Galleon, available to view online here.)

Sorry, everybody. I know you thought that the dust had settled, but I’m dragging up the controversy surrounding the notorious Ghostbusters remake just one more time. Seriously, who would have thought that the most politically divisive film of the year would be a Ghostbusters remake?

Before I talk about the storm that the movie created, I should first give my thoughts on the film itself. Unfortunately, I thought it was awful. Although I don’t consider myself to be a fan of the original, it’s easy to see why anybody who holds the 1984 classic dear to their heart would be appalled with what has been created.

The scripted jokes were cringe-worthy, and the improvised jokes were even worse. All four of the film’s female stars are naturally funny, especially Melissa McCarthy, but you can’t just plonk them in front of the camera and tell them to “do their thing”, because the result is 116 minutes of what feels like an insufferably long Saturday Night Live skit that wouldn’t make the final show.

However, this will go down in the history books as more than just a bad summer comedy, as it was turned into one of the biggest social issues that the movie industry had ever seen. And according to Red Letter Media, that social issue was completely fabricated by Sony.

For those who are unaware, Red Letter Media are a production company who post videos related to current movies on their YouTube channel. More often than not, they’re anything but serious, and it’s therefore somewhat surprising that they offer some of the most interesting insight into the Ghostbusters controversy through their recurring series Scientist Man.

The most eye-catching allegation that Scientist Man makes is that Sony deleted well-thought out negative YouTube comments on the trailer for the Ghostbusters remake, but left the childish, women-hating comments. It is claimed that this was in order to make it seem as if all the negativity towards the film stemmed from raging misogynists, as opposed to people who genuinely disliked the trailer.

The facts and figures that Red Letter Media included to support their theory were correct as of the 2nd August when their video was uploaded. At that time, the trailer had garnered 38,045,852 views and 279,282 comments. A random sample of 1000 comments showed 60 negative comments about women and 59 comments pertaining to feminism. This means that approximately 0.08% of people who watched the trailer for the Ghostbusters remake made a sexist comment, whereas 99.92% of viewers did not. Was this enough for Sony to use feminism as an angle to market their movie?

In the words of Scientist Man himself: “An environment has been artificially created in order to make you look like a sexist for thinking the film is a big piece of s***.” This is, of course, only their interpretation, but it certainly is a conspiracy theory that many people have found completely believable.

The controversy feels even more fabricated when you look at the reaction to Bad Moms, a recent comedy from the directors of The Hangover trilogy. While it could easily have garnered the same misogynistic backlash because of the fact it is essentially a female Hangover movie, it didn’t. And why not? Because its studio didn’t decide to market the film from that angle.

You can decide whether Sony really played us all like social-justice-warrior marionette puppets for yourselves, but one thing is for certain: the hullabaloo that the Ghostbusters remake caused will never be forgotten.


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