We Need To Talk About Kevin

I’ve held off on doing a Ghostbusters blog, because I have a fairly unpopular opinion – I thought it was only kinda okay.

I really wanted to love the reboot of Ghostbusters, especially because of the ridiculous and sexist backlash against *shock horror* A FILM HAVING FOUR WOMEN LEADS. There were some things about the film I liked a lot – the action sequences, the scary bits, and, of course, Holtzmann.


World’s most obvious choice of GIF? Yes, and I don’t even care

But – and I’ll get this part out of the way before I go into the main point of this post – a lot of this film just wasn’t for me. I found the dialogue very clunky – in many scenes, the strategy for writing seemed to go as follows:

  1. One-liner joke
  2. Several other lines pointing to the joke, in case some members of the audience didn’t realise it was a joke
  3. Filler until the next one-liner

The example of this that really leaped out at me was Kristen Wiig’s discussion with Charles Dance, early on in the film, where he tells her something along the lines of “I was disappointed to see that one of your letters of recommendation was from Princeton, I would’ve hoped you could’ve got somewhere more high-profile”, to which KW replied “More high-profile than Princeton?”…as if to make sure that the audience really realises that he has unnecessarily high standards, because Princeton is actually a really good uni, you guys! For me, a line following a joke needs to either extend that joke (she could have replied with a dry “Okay, next time I’ll try to get one from Jesus”), or just move on. If your joke needs explaining, it’s not working as a joke; if your joke is working, trust that the audience will get it. I found a lot of the dialogue did this, and it put me on edge the whole way through the film. Dialogue needs to either further the plot or develop the characters, or, ideally, both; I felt that a lot of the dialogue in Ghostbusters didn’t do either.

But – and I want to stress this – this is a problem that would have existed even if every single person cast in the reboot had been a man. Ghostbusters‘ problems as a film are not to do with the fact that it has a cast of women, and it makes me facepalm like Picard to think that this even needs saying in 2016.

While we’re on sexism and Ghostbusters, though, I want to make a few points on the apparent ‘reverse sexism’ in the film – the treatment of Chris Hemsworth’s character, adorable useless secretary Kevin.


I saw this image doing the rounds on social media, about the ways that Ghostbusters defies many of the trite old tropes around women in films:


I was discussing this image with my boyfriend in a coffee shop one morning (because I live in coffee shops, and if he wants to spend any time with me, he has to partly live there too), and he pointed out that despite all the whining from dudebros about Kevin being “clueless eye candy”, he still passes a genderflipped version of the Sexy Lamp Test. Without spoiling the plot for the ten people who still haven’t seen Ghostbusters, you could not remove Kevin from Ghostbusters without significant changes to the story. He’s important to the plot, and he’s got a personality (adorkable) and a life outside his supporting role to the four main characters (as we see in his explanations about his ambitions and his dog).

WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 27:  Actor Chris Hemsworth arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere "Vacation" at Regency Village Theatre on July 27, 2015 in Westwood, California.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)

Chris Hemsworth – officially Not A Sexy Lamp

This means that a woman-led action film, which has a male character who is a parody of the way women are so often depicted in male-led action films, STILL TREATS THAT MALE CHARACTER A DAMN SIGHT BETTER THAN HIS EARLIER FEMALE COUNTERPARTS WERE TREATED. But, y’know, feminism is totally man-hating, right?

There were a lot of flaws in Ghostbusters (see Janessa E Robinson’s article about the portrayal of Patty), but the representation of Kevin wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t a serious character in the least – but he was a character, and that’s more than a lot of women in film and TV get (looking at you, series 2 of Gotham).

I can’t think of a pithy ending to this post, so instead, here’s a picture of Hemsworth and McCarthy (and doesn’t that sound like a duo of detectives?) goofing around:




About Alice Nuttall

Alice Nuttall is a caffeine-guzzling knitter who divides her time between Oxford and the various worlds in her head. She is the author of a YA fantasy novel, Spider Circus, and three webcomics, Footloose, Cherry, and Black Market Magic, as well as several short stories.
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One Response to We Need To Talk About Kevin

  1. Kitty says:

    Excellent post. I’ve not seen the film yet, looking forward to peeling myself away from MS to finally have some, you know, life, but I was hoping that there was a tongue in cheek nature to the eye-candy portrayal of the secretary. Especially as I’m getting consistently aggrieved at the hypocrisy of male-objectification in the media by women right now *cough* Tarzan, *cough* Tongo flag-carrier.

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