Gender norms get slimed in “Ghostbusters”

Hopefully, today’s kids will grow up unsurprised to see women in leading film and TV roles.

Kate McCarthy

It’s no surprise that there’s a paucity of complex, dynamic roles for women in mainstream entertainment. However, after seeing “Ghostbusters” this past weekend, I’ve been flooded with pride and remain hopeful.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to recognize the lack of diversity in female Hollywood roles. I grew up in a progressive California home, raised by a strong, single mother who exposed me to retro women-centric fare like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

In the 1990s, research by Dr. Carol Gilligan — a professor of education at Harvard — confirmed age-old, anecdotal suspicions that adolescent girls have relatively poor self-image. Yet even still, when I emerged from adolescence, my confidence was largely unscathed. Perhaps, however, I never knew I was internalizing any real sexism or misogyny. 

Sure, our generation grew up with a few heroines: Mulan, for example, and Hermione Granger — but even she was always flanked by those two dweebs who got most of the credit. In recent years, there’s even been an uptick in women-repping entertainment, with movies like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and TV shows like “Orange Is the New Black.” But the release of “Ghostbusters” is a game-changer. 

As the film’s familiar musical score began to blare, I glimpsed an old man beside me nod his head, and a little boy dance in his seat. When the camera panned down to reveal Kristen Wiig’s character, I felt an energy shift in the theater. There was no indication from the crowd that the choice to cast women had “desecrated” the classic franchise — there was just pure excitement. 

To see four smart and funny women on screen engrossed in activity not involving romance or catty drama made my heart soar. 

As the movie ended, the theater broke into applause — and incredibly, no men exploded out of anger. 

For little girls and boys alike, the new “Ghostbusters” won’t register as the infamous lady-reboot of a beloved film. Instead, it will be their reality, one where the big screen is beginning to eschew passe, harmful gender stereotypes.

Just one week ago, I went to an improv show at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Los Angeles. As one team ran onstage, I noticed the team was composed of four women and one man. I initially thought that gender ratio was amiss. Then I realized how often I’ve seen men in the majority and thought nothing of it.

My generation is fortunate enough to benefit from the third-wave feminist movement. We’ve won basic battles: Women can vote, and dowries have grown into obsolescence. Yet, disparity still lurks.

There’s an oft-cited quote from minister and abolitionist Theodore Parker that resonates: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Seeing a mainstream movie like “Ghostbusters” challenge gender conventions is a refreshing and hopeful change.