What Ghostbusters Can Teach Us About Writing Female Characters

Posted July 22, 2016 by Briana in characters / 2 Comments

I am a massive Ghostbusters fan, and I have been for quite some time now. When news of the Paul-Feig-directed reboot came up in the world, I had fixed feelings about it. However, when I heard that the reboot would include a star-studded cast of powerful ladies, I got a little more excited. I was optimistic, if not cautiously so.

What Ghostbusters Can Teach Us About Writing Female Characters

You see, for the longest time—and I’m sure you’ve noticed this—women haven’t exactly had the most coveted roles in film and television. Maybe you’ve heard of the Sexy Lamp Test. Basically, what this “test” does is ascertain the strength and depth of the female characters in any given medium. If the character can be replaced by a sexy lamp with no real issues or effects on the plot, then the female character is considerably lacking in depth. Any women who do have some kind of depth are usually relegated to familiar, comfortable roles, such as the shopaholic, the ditz, the slut, the nerd, and the sexy sidekick.

Ghostbusters changes all of that. In the female-led, character-driven reboot, Feig puts Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones in positions of respect. Wiig, McCarthy, and McKinnon all play intelligent, capable scientists, while Jones’s character puts in hours as a long-suffering  MTA employee who works hard to do her job no matter what—even if that means confronting some ghosts. These characters are not only women I could see walking down the street day after day but also most definitely worth looking up to. I kept thinking, I want to be her when I grow up, even though I’m already (technically) grown-up.

Another thing I love about the film is its depiction of female friendship. Throughout the movie, the Ghostbusters develop a close, familial bond built on trust and mutual admiration. There are no love triangles, no catfights, no betrayals or name-calling. Instead, the woman cheer each other on, utilize each other’s strengths to work together as a team, and help each other out in every battle that takes place. I can’t remember the last time I saw female characters in a movie getting along like this. It is such a refreshing change of pace.

Dear @paulfeig, I love you. That movie was everything I wanted and needed as a woman, and more. Thank you. ❤️ #Ghostbusters

— Briana Mae Morgan (@brianawrites) July 19, 2016

What I love most about Ghostbusters is its potential to change popular culture. If the film does as well as I hope it does commercially, it serves as a statement to Hollywood that people want female-led films. We want to be entertained, certainly, but we also want to see strong, capable female characters banding together to save the world. We want to see friendships, teamwork, and heroism. More than anything, we want to see women who are real.

When developing female characters, I hope to keep in mind the way I felt emerging from the theater after watching the new film, and that is triumphant. Ghostbusters succeeds not only at an entertainment level, but also from a cultural-critique perspective as well. It serves as the spark that could ignite the powder keg of traditional, male-driven filmmaking, and more than anything, I want to be around to witness that explosion.

Leave a Reply

2 responses to “What Ghostbusters Can Teach Us About Writing Female Characters

  1. light0a0candle

    I loved it! And I definitely felt the same way about the female cast, I left the theater feeling positively triumphant! I also loved the long over due gender-swap of the ‘pretty but dumb’ secretary and how they elevated the trope by having the women act appreciatively and warmly towards him as a person. I was a little let down by the stereotypes they perpetuated with Patty, it would have been nice to see more than one black actor, or the black actor given a scientist role rather than the ‘street wise’ role. Little black girls need scientist role models too! That said, it was a huge step in the right direction.