Tag: opinion

Why the new Ghostbusters movie is the Kobayashi Maru of online debates

Contributed by
May 31, 2016, 4:56 PM EDT

Captain (or Admiral, depending) James T. Kirk does not believe in the no-win scenario. He holds the concept in such contempt that, when forced to face certain doom in the Kobayashi Maru simulator as a Starfleet cadet, he alters the program so he can win.

Me, though? I know a lose-lose proposition when I see one. Or, to be more honest, I EVENTUALLY know a lose-lose proposition when I see one.

And debating the merits and/or flaws of the new Ghostbusters movie, dear reader, has, without question, become the definitive no-win scenario du 2016.

The Ghostbusters "debate" has become so toxic for me that, other than the article you are reading at this moment, I'm done talking about Ghostbusters, at least until the movie is in theaters. I'm abandoning my proton pack and riding off into that containment unit in the sky. And there's a very good chance you ought to pack it in, too.

Can I get anectdotal with you for a minute? Because how I reached this "salt the Earth" point with Ghostbusters involves some things that happened to me personally and to the people around me.

Are we all familiar with James Rolfe, aka the Angry Video Game Nerd? He posted a video on May 16 saying, and this is the short version, that he refuses to review (or even see) the new Ghostbusters. Then he talked for about six more minutes about why specifically he refuses to see the new Ghostbusters. Many people agreed with him, many people found his reasoning questionable.

This is where Twitter, and thus the real problems, begin. Some folks with large followings (like Patton Oswalt, Dane Cook and a virtual who's who of the Internet famous) made fun of James for his video. In the interest of transparency I was one of those people (not Internet famous, just Internet-opinionated). And thus, the digital hate machine churned out its usual questions -- is Rolfe a sexist? Is he an idiot? Is he a hypocrite? Is James, much like the character he plays, just an Angry Nerd?

And if things had both begun and ceased with this one man and this one video, we'd be all right, wouldn't we? I don't know James, but we travel in some of the same circles, so I know that he, despite his online notoriety, has a professional detachment from the Internet. He's not usually a political guy, he doesn't swim too deep in the social media waters -- he just puts out his videos, punches the proverbial clock, and goes upon his merry. Patton Oswalt qualified his tweets saying he liked Rolfe and Dane Cook deleted his negative comments about James altogether. 

I'm not saying the wave of hyper-critical response was water off a duck's back, but James would've (and has) endured with around 20k more subscribers than he had before his Ghostbusters video. In other words, The Angry Video Game Nerd brand, and the man behind it, are doing just fine. 

But this is not where the debate begins or ends. In fact, you could argue that this conversation of the who, the how, and the why of a new Ghostbusters movie has been going on since Ghostbusters II was released on June 16th 1989, long before some of the current debaters were even born. That's not to say the elder statesbusters' opinions are more valuable than the new crew's; just that talk about the possibility of another Ghostbusters movie has been going on for a loooooooong time now.

Back before the relaunch was announced, everyone had their ideas for what should happen and everyone argued, but it was fine. That's nerds for you. But then theory became reality in the form of Paul Feig and his all-new, all-female, sorta-reboot-sorta-not Ghostbusters. And with no more information than that, the Ghostbusters fandom erupted.

Yes, you probably already know this, but for the sake of telling a more complete narrative, it's important to remember that some people were screaming mad before the cast was even announced, let alone a single trailer was released. And, on the flipside, there were a lot of people who suddenly took an interest in the Ghostbusters specifically because of this bold idea of an all-female team which, let's be real, is absolutely a statement move.

The short of it is this -- long before James Rolfe had a Ghostbusters opinion set to video, things were already suuuuuuper intense. James' video and his notoriety just fanned the flames. Here is a guy a lot of people identify with (or conversely dislike) saying, out loud, @#$! the new Ghostbusters movie, and that made everyone's already seemingly unflappable opinions become even more locked in. And even more hostile.

The next part of this story is trickier to tell because it involves harassment that would make an evergreen wither and thus requires anonymity. (NOTE: IF YOU DEFY THIS ANONYMITY BY NAMING NAMES, YOUR COMMENT WILL BE DELETED) Basically, someone I know made a joke on Twitter about James' refusal to see Ghostbusters. People got mad, but, rather than ignoring my friend or just disagreeing, they instead decided to bring up a very personal, very private, very sensitive aspect of their past that has NOTHING TO DO WITH GHOSTBUSTERS and use it to discredit my friend. I don't mean to say these folks were trying to discredit my friend's opinion; I mean they were attempting to discredit my friend's personhood. And, with the help of a popular neo-con pundit, those attacks grew exponentially and continued unabated for about a week. Again, this was no longer about Ghostbusters. This was about viciously attacking another human being for funsies. And, unfortunately, this was being done in the name of the original Ghostbusters, and James Rolfe, himself.

It was during this series of events that I did something incredibly stupid, which I dub #IMustStopTheInjustice. Yes, like so many fools before me, I thought I could shut down this abuse with my super smart words, because did I mention I am very dumb?

Over a string of very self-righteous tweets, I called out the attacks against my friend and I demanded that James Rolfe denounce these attacks being done in his name and take a stand against harassment.

This was #AVeryVeryVeryBadIdea. Two things happened -- one, my friend got more harassment instead of less and, two, I was now also the subject of unrelated-to-Ghostbusters harassment. Do you know what didn't happen? James Rolfe did not take a stand against the harassment being done in his name. Because why would he step into that mess when he had already been harassed himself because of it?

I have no problem talking about the shape my punishment took -- it was anti-Semitism. My last name is Roth, which was enough for these total strangers to refer to me as "a wild jew" and tell me I should "get raped by a Muslim". Tweets of that variety went on for a few days. 

Almost no one mentioned Ghostbusters at all.

And that's the problem. People say the word "Ghostbusters" every day now, but what they mean, more often than not, is, "let me tell you why I am right and you are wrong about this movie that no one has seen yet". It's happening so much that it's virtually impossible to have an opinion divorced of the now aggressively confrontational arguments that occur in the name of this franchise. Almost no one has an opinion about Ghostbusters any more -- just opinions about opinions about Ghostbusters.

But, I bring you good news friends -- Ghostbusters is not politics, no matter how hard many of us have tried to make it so. It really is as simple as, "see the new Ghostbusters movie or don't". The world's fate does not hang in the balance. Whether you consider the original Ghostbusters sacrosanct or if the idea of an all-women team of science heroes fills you with a joy unbridled, we are still only talking about a movie. Downvoting trailers and shouting down others over the new Ghostbusters will not prevent countless future reboots of beloved franchises and, even if this one all-female action flick tanks, that there will be more like it in the future remains certain.

We don't need to change each other's minds. We don't have to remotely like each other. But so many of us have been treating this debate like it's the boxing match of the century that we forgot that even Rocky Balboa needs a break between rounds. But to continue that, metaphor, I think maybe this fight has gone on for so long and everyone has taken such a beating that it's time to call this bout and wait for a rematch.

After having made jokes about James Rolfe (among others), after having had my and my friends' names dragged through the mud, and after looking everywhere for a place to just talk about nothing more or less than the movie's trailers and coming up empty, I say this -- the only winning move is not to play. At least for now.

I loved Ghostbusters growing up. I wore out the tape my dad used to record the movie off of HBO, I owned countless toys, I dressed up like a Ghostbuster on the regular, I played with ecto-plasm even though I'm pretty sure I was mildly allergic, I drank Ecto-cooler daily, and, to this day, I love showing people episodes of The Real Ghostbusters straight out of my limited-edition fire-house-shaped DVD collection. Nearly every ring in the tree of my life has been impacted in one way or another by Ghostbusters and it is a COLOSSAL drag to me that all there is to Ghostbusters now is thinkpieces like this one and digital opinion wailing.

So, I submit to you that maybe, just maybe, until the new Ghostbusters comes out and there is actually something complete to talk about, we all make a concerted effort to stop talking about Ghostbusters at all for a while. Because there's no victory here. Talking about Ghostbusters is the no-win scenario. You say something about Ghostbusters, someone tells you you're wrong, then you tell them they are wrong, then other people want to weigh in, and the whole vicious cycle continues unabated until everyone is annnoyed. Leave abuse aside for a moment -- aren't you tired of allowing yourself to be this annoyed every day? I know I am.

Talking about the new Ghostbusters is the Kobyashi Maru of movie debates.

And I recognize that this is not a simple ask. The Internet algorithms will tempt you to keep being part of this cycle. YouTube will suggest videos of people who say things you don't agree with, Twitter will recommend tweets from semi-famous nerds saying contentious things, and Facebook will fill your feed with friends of friends saying the exact opposite of what you believe. I wouldn't call it a conspiracy, but let's be real -- if the Internet were sentient, its one goal would be to make us all hate each other. And, were that the case, the Internet would be succeeding.

But, by Bill Murray's very grey beard, I aim to fight these temptations. And if we all do, maybe we can reset a little and have a more substantive debate once the movie is, you know, actually a thing we've all seen.

But if you are saying, "Dany, I must opine! My Ghostbusters feelings, they must be heard," then let me remind you that the Kobayashi Maru can, if you are as smart as James Tiberius Kirk, be cheated. And the cheat is deviously simple -- don't be a jerk. If you must talk about Ghostbusters, actually talk about Ghostbusters. And if the Internet serves you up a steamy Ghostbusters-related cultural hot take, say, "No thank you, waiter, this is not what I ordered." Don't try to change someone's mind. When someone says that female Ghostbusters will save society, wait until they are out of earshot before you laugh. Don't tell people why they are automatically wrong or misogynist for not wanting to see this new Ghostbusters movie. If someone says that Hillary Clinton turned the Ghostbusters female to destroy America (that's a real article, btw), maybe leave that person in peace because we both know they've got bigger problems than nostalgia goggles. And, for the love of Gozer, don't take part in a campaign to harass someone in the name of a movie where people shoot lasers at ghosts.

And yes I know lasers are different, I was testing you. GOOD DAY.