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TIFF UNCUT: Ivan Reitman Talks About This Summer's Ghostbusters Backlash

The goal of comedy is to tamp down anger

by
Aug 4, 2016

Last week over at The Review, we published a very funny and very heartbreaking personal essay by Lauren Pincente, titled “I Always Wanted To Be A Ghostbuster.” In her piece, Lauren discusses the influence of the '80s movie franchise on her life spent being the "quintessential Ghostbusters fanboy" and the emotional reaction provoked when she finally got to meet her childhood heroes in Ghostbusters: Answer The Call, directed by Paul Feig.

The rise of Ghostbusters and the awful fanboy backlash the all-female remount has provoked has been a lightning rod this summer. One that’s sparked debate on everything from gender equality, to the current American election, to harassment and hate speech on social media. Which is a shame since everything surrounding the film is supposed to be good - Ivan Reitman calls them “really joyful.” Reitman, a comedy titan, friend of the festival and director of the original Ghostbusters franchise, joined us in studio to discuss the fallout this summer. You can listen to the full podcast below, which also touches on his experiences with the McMaster Film Board, his relationship with his daughter Catherine Reitman and why you can’t expect a Twins sequel from the director anytime soon.

Here's five key takeaways from the interview:

1. He’s Always Worked With Strong Female Characters

“Look - my understanding is that they're at least 50 per cent of the population. So I think one is doing oneself an amazing disservice, both as a creator and a viewer, as a participant of all entertainment, when one doesn't respect and appreciate and work with women. It's so crazy to think anything else.

I've ended up working with very strong women in almost all the films from way back. You know, going to back to Meatballs. Kate Lynch is an amazingly strong woman who stands up to Bill Murray in a very effective way. There’s the women in Stripes, Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters as the strongest person in that movie and the most mature.

I'm trying to think if Liz (Meriwether, the screenwriter of Ivan Reitman’s 2011 film No Strings Attached and now the showrunner and creator behind New Girl) was the first woman writer that I worked with a lot. But on No Strings Attached, I found that relationship very comfortable and very exciting, in terms of the work.”

2. He Can’t Understand The Backlash, Either

“When the trailer came out, there was nothing we could do in 90 seconds that was going to balance the kind of emotionality that 30 years of memory and love of the original (film) could balance.

Then you have, the growth of the internet, which creates an opportunity for comment that is quite different and quite stronger than anything that we're used to. There's a way for people to act quite viciously on it, as well as lovingly if they want to be, but the viciousness seems to outweigh anything. Because people who are angry are the ones that seem to have the largest voices or fingers.”

3. Ghostbusters Anticipated The American Election

“Paul Feig has always had something of a feminist agenda. And instead of merely thinking of the movie as an entertainment opportunity, he saw it as a way of having some kind of feminist empowerment, a way of talking about Ghostbusters. Which I think made portions of the audience even nuttier.

Particularly in America and in this political season, that really has spun this thing out of control. You've got two candidates - one a man, and one a woman, both of whom many people really dislike. And Trump, the guy, just in case you didn't realize, has made it an agenda item. He actually took a shot at Ghostbusters really early on. Clinton decided to take the other side. I'd like to think it’s because she wants to, and that it wasn't just a political opportunity.

I'm not happy with the fact that Ghostbusters somehow has become something of a symbol for that conflict. Because I think that's a really unhappy conflict and I thought a country as remarkable as America is deserves better candidates. I think there were better candidates out there that somehow couldn't get traction. The brutal process of the primaries basically eliminated the very best and left the crassest.”

4. He Sent Ghostbusters’ Star Leslie Jones A Letter After She Was Attacked On Twitter

“I wrote her a letter the night that it happened, it really pissed me off. And I said, ‘God this sounds like the ‘60s in the south in Georgia or Alabama. It was just totally disgusting.

All three movies are, in their own way, really joyful and that's the focus. I mean, there are political issues in the way that every movie has politics embedded into it... The more clever (the film is), the more that happens. But certainly, to go after an actor for what gender they are, or you know, what creed or race they are, is just unconscionable.”

5. The Goal Of Comedy Is To Tamp Down Anger And Hate

“I think there's an enormous amount of cynicism in life right now. And particularly in North America, particularly in the United States. And it's almost like we're losing our ability to laugh purely. There's too much focus on the politics of anger… And I think we need the arts to counteract that. To bring perspective back. To tamp the anger down.

(Ghostbusters: Answer The Call) is a grand entertainment. It's a very funny, it really makes you feel good when you leave the theatre, as a good comedy should. And you know that is its raison d’être."